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Our Ethiopian Visitor Advances Her Skills

By Dave Jones on November 7, 2017 in University News

Sara Gebremeskel made the most of her three-month internship at UC Davis. “She took advantage of every opportunity offered to her here, with grace, poise and quiet enthusiasm,” said Siobhan Brady, associate professor of plant biology, one of her mentors.

It was Gebremeskel’s first visit to the United States — and hopefully not the last, if her graduate education plans come to fruition.


“Late Researcher’s Wish Fulfilled”: Read more about Sara Gebremeskel’s internship and the postdoc, Sharon Gray, who was determined to bring the Ethiopian scientist to UC Davis for training.


Gebremeskel studied molecular biology with Brady, and bioinformatics with graduate students Vince Buffalo and Caryn Johansen.

Woman and man with book
Gebremeskel and Buffalo

Our visitor was particularly excited to be in the Brady lab “where women are more than 75 percent.” Add to that “Professor Siobhan’s strength, good character and amazing science discoveries, (and it) made me realize that one day I can also be where they are. It showed me that women can be leaders in science.”

Dorota Kawa, a postdoc in the Brady lab, said she worked with Gebremeskel on optimizing the protocols for sorghum root system architecture, cellular anatomy and transcriptome studies. “The main aim was to establish protocols that can be applied in a high-throughput manner for the upcoming screens we will perform in Holeta, Ethiopia,” Kawa said.

“Having Sara here was a great experience for me, we shared a lot of fun and work with her was amazing. We exchanged a lot of knowledge, I tried to share my molecular biology skills, while Sara provide me with a lot of information about sorghum grown in Ethiopia. Working together helped me to plan the logistics behind the experiments we will carry out in Holeta in the future.”

Buffalo is good friends with Cody Markelz, Gray’s husband, and had spent a lot of time with the couple as Markelz gave feedback on Buffalo’s book, Bioinformatics Data Skills. Working with Gebremeskel, he said, “was my way of honoring Sharon.”

Two women, side by side
Gebremeskel and Johansen

He described Gebremeskel as “an extremely driven, hard-working scientist determined to advance her skills.”

Johansen said she and Buffalo “threw a lot at her in terms of content. … It was a lot for anyone, much less someone with little to no experience. Sara did extremely well, and it was exciting to watch her progress throughout the months.

“A huge portion of modern biology, especially concerning plant breeding and genomics, is done on a computer analyzing data sets,” Johansen said. “We hoped to give Sara a boost so she could get the type of knowledge and experience that will benefit her for years to come.”

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