We’re taking time over the following weeks to get to know the members of the GSA’s Early Career Scientist Committees. Join us every week to learn more about our early career scientist advocates.

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Adam J. Ramsey
Liaison Communication and Outreach Subcommittee
University of Memphis

Research Interest:

I study mitochondria, which are very small organelles inside all of our cells. They contain their own genomes and are responsible for making the ATP that fuels everything we do. It is usually assumed (and taught in genetics class) that mitochondria are inherited from one parent. This has given rise to the so-called “Mitochondrial Eve” who is often referenced in news articles. My research focuses on heteroplasmy—the mixture of mitochondrial genomes in an individual. This occurs when mitochondria are inherited from both parents. Not much is known about whether heteroplasmy can help or hurt an individual. Part of my doctoral research is to determine if heteroplasmy benefits fitness, and I use carrots to test my hypotheses.

As a PhD-trained scientist, you have many career options. What career paths interest you the most?

I have a fairly flexible outlook on my career post graduation; PhD-trained scientists have many great career options. I would enjoy a job that blends research and the teaching of others about plants and genetics. Ideally, this would be at a research institution where I can head a lab while teaching courses including botany, ecology, and plant genetics. I want to continue studying mitochondria and their interactions with the nuclear genome while teaching and training the next generation of scientists.

Alternatively, I would love to develop my writing skills further with the goal of becoming a science writer. I would enjoy devoting my attention to writing for magazines and websites with the goal of disseminating information to the public. I love editing and writing grant proposals. Being a science writer would also enable me to be a grant writer for educational, non-profit organizations.

In addition to your research, how else do you want to advance the scientific enterprise?

I am a firm advocate of bringing science and scientific literacy to the public. Asking questions and following a predetermined course of actions to try to answer those questions is the foundation of science, and I enjoy teaching students how to do this process. I have worked with non-profit organizations in Knoxville and Memphis to do just this. Even if a career in science is not a student’s goal, learning how to be objective is a skill everyone should know. I’ve also been involved in bringing inner-city youth to the outdoors through a BioBlitz at Meeman Shelby Forest. There, we were able to bring and tour high schoolers through the forest and introduce them to all things nature. Several students said they had never visited the forest and had no idea that the sorts of plants and animals there existed; they were curious about how they lived. Teaching students how to do science is pointless if they have no idea what they can study.

As a leader within the Genetics Society of America, what do you hope to accomplish?

My goals for being part of the Genetics Society of America in a leadership position are twofold. First off, I get to share science. Along with my fellow subcommittee members, I will build on my own knowledge while highlighting interesting discoveries in the field of genetics which have had the potential to revolutionize other fields. This is a new and exciting opportunity for me, as I’m typically only able to share my general botany knowledge with the public, but here, I am able to share discoveries from the larger field of genetics. Secondly, this is a learning and growing experience for me. I will gain valuable experience by being in this position. I’ve volunteered for several years within my university and city, but this is my first involvement at the national and international level. I will have the opportunity to work with well-known geneticists and make connections in the genetics community that may serve me well for the rest of my career.

Previous Leadership Experience:

  • Founder – University of Memphis Botany Club
  • President – University of Memphis Botany Club
  • Graduate Student Representative – University of Memphis Biology Graduate Student Association
  • President – University of Memphis Biology Graduate Student Association