Laura grew up on her parents’ farm near Williams, Iowa, where the crops and animals her family raised inspired her interest in biology and genetics. This led Laura to earn a B.A. in Biology from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas in 2017. Later that year, Laura began her Ph.D. at Iowa State University, where she joined Dr. Jianming Yu’s lab studying quantitative genetics and maize breeding. She obtained and brought to Iowa State a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Laura’s research has focused on identifying genetic and environmental factors underlying nutritional and agronomic traits in maize. In her first project, Laura applied Genome- and Transcriptome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS and TWAS) to dissect the genetic basis of B vitamin content in maize, identifying several candidate genes. In her second project, Laura identified environmental indices that strongly influence important agronomic traits in maize. She also used GWAS and QTL mapping to identify loci underlying the plastic response to these environmental indices. Because of the importance of GWAS in her research, Laura wrote a paper in Plant Genome reviewing the history and development of GWAS, as well as current GWAS techniques and opportunities for continued improvement.
Laura has been active with the R.F. Baker Plant Breeding Symposium, serving as an officer for three symposia (2019 Speaker Committee, 2020 Speaker Chair, and 2022 Poster Chair). Among other awards, she received Brown Graduate Fellowship and Teaching Excellence Award in 2020. Laura enjoys hiking and kayaking with her husband, reading, playing the flute, and playing with their two cats.