A Leap of Faith

 

DENNIS' STORY

CELL & MOLECULAR BIOLOGY

CAREERS

Dennis Lozada, a cell and molecular biology doctoral student, is breeding wheat that has a higher grain-yield and is more adaptable in a variety of climates, but that was not what he had in mind when he began his studies. Read Dennis' story.

Students in cell and molecular biology are driven by what they don’t know and are committed to finding answers to diverse questions. They take an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach because they know it leads to more expansive research opportunities. Learn about the cell and molecular biology program and how it’s shaping students to shape the future.

Alumni of the Cell and Molecular Biology program find careers in a variety of fields, including academia, biotechnology, biomedical research, biopharmaceuticals and government laboratories.


 

DENNIS LOZADA: A LEAP OF FAITH

Dennis Lozada wanted to be a medical doctor. But, a leap of faith brought him to Fayetteville to study wheat — a crop he had never even seen until he began graduate school at the University of Arkansas in 2013. With no regrets, Lozada said the decision was one of the best of his life.

Since childhood, Lozada has had a passion for helping others. He spent most his life thinking the best way to channel that passion was to become a medical doctor. However, after working with the International Rice Research Institute as an undergraduate, Lozada's career plans changed.

"When I saw first-hand the importance of agriculture, I knew that was the sector I needed to be in," he said.

Lozada refocused his undergraduate research on rice and intended to pursue that same research focus in graduate school. But, when University of Arkansas professor Esten Mason pitched him the idea of studying wheat breeding in the university's cell and molecular biology program, he took the chance and again changed his course.

"Things have definitely turned out differently than I expected them to, but I'm enjoying it," he said.

Lozada is trying to breed wheat that has a higher grain yield and is adaptable to a wider range of climate environments than current wheat varieties. He works with 240 wheat varieties to identify regions in the wheat genome that affect variation for grain yield and adaptation traits. By doing so, he could potentially identify wheat varieties that have higher yield and productivity in target environments.

The significance of his research earned Lozada a 2015 Monsanto Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program fellowship, which is valued at $100,000. The fellowship will afford him the opportunity to conduct research at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico during the spring 2017 semester.

Lozada is still in the early stages of his research, but is excited for what is ahead and its potential impact.

"Wheat is one of the most important crops in the world," he said. "Knowing that the results of my research could potentially impact farmers and consumers by producing better crops for more people is something that is encouraging for me."

Lozada holds a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. He is on track to complete his doctoral degree in cell and molecular biology at the University of Arkansas in 2018.