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Graduation 2020

Participating in Important Microorganism Research from Provo to Germany

Honored Graduating Student: Rachel Hughes (PWS)

Rachel Hughes, a student graduating in plant and wildlife sciences, has had many opportunities to conduct research at BYU and abroad.
Photo by Lance Good

Plant and Wildlife Sciences graduate, Rachel Hughes, discovered her passion for science at a young age. “I loved learning about genetics in high school. It was such a small unit in sophomore biology, but those Punnett squares drew me in,” she says. Shortly after beginning school at Brigham Young University, Hughes found the genetics, genomics, and biotechnology major.

Hughes joined Dr. John Chaston’s metagenomic lab, where she has worked for the last four years. Under Chaston’s mentorship, she has pursued several large projects, often focused on the impact of microorganisms on their hosts, and developed her skills as a researcher and presenter. Hughes appreciates the time Chaston takes to advise his students on research, graduate studies, career options, and life. Hughes has also participated in research at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, and the University of Pennsylvania. During her time at BYU, Hughes has presented at several conferences and contributed to five publications.

When Hughes isn’t in the lab or studying, she is volunteering at the Utah Valley Hospital, helping with blood drives, or assisting with the BYU genetics club. In her free time, Hughes enjoys hiking, climbing, running, and camping, especially with friends. She also enjoys visiting home when she can, in Elwood, a small town in northern Utah.

Hughes expresses appreciation to everyone who has helped her get to where she is: “I feel so grateful to all of the people—my parents, professors, mentors, and friends that directed me and impacted my experience at BYU. I interacted with so many professors on BYU campus that care tremendously about their students. Professors like Mary Davis, Johnathan Hill, David Jarvis, Steven Johnson, David Busath, and too many others to mention.”

After considering a PhD in genetics or MD PhD, Hughes is currently applying for physician assistant graduate programs. She advises undergraduate students to take a little extra time exploring their options so they can figure out what they really want to study and do.