Briante Najev

Briante Najev, PhD student, biology

Links nutrients to evolution

“Briante has single-handedly revived a fascinating and important angle of research in our lab, learning a host of new skills and training a suite of undergraduates to support a set of experiments. She has also taken the lead in several different science engagement programs, providing inspiration and education to people in Iowa and beyond.” -Maurine Neiman, professor, Department of Biology and Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies

Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana

Faculty mentor/advisor: I am co-mentored by Maurine Neiman, University of Iowa, professor, Department of Biology and Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, and Amy Krist, University of Wyoming, associate professor, Department of Zoology and Physiology and Program in Ecology and Evolution.

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Biology PhD – 2025

Please describe your research: I study ecological constraints on genome size evolution. Organisms with relatively high nuclear DNA content (e.g., large genomes) need more of the nutrients that comprise DNA to grow and reproduce than organisms with small genomes. I am focusing on demand for the nutrient phosphorus because phosphorus is a major component of DNA and organisms are often limited in how much they can grow and reproduce by the availability of phosphorus. How demand for phosphorus influences the evolution of DNA and genomes, and why genome size and copy number is so variable, are key unanswered questions in biology.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? Every organism has a genome, and all organisms need nutrients to thrive. Thus, discovering fundamental links between genome properties and nutrient availability is generalizable across many other species. We still know very little about the primary forces driving the evolution of genome structure, which vary widely across living organisms. From an enironmental perspective, phosphorus pollution from agriculture and animal feces is a widespread and growing problem in many ecosystems.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? Immediately.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? A core part of being a PhD student in biology is performing your own research under your advisor’s supervision. Running my own research program is providing me excellent training for the future by giving me hands-on examples of how to design a research program, manage teams of undergraduate assistants and collaborators, think critically, troubleshoot challenges, and analyze, interpret, and visualize data.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I am open to many opportunities. I would like to work at an institution that is focused on research so I can explore intriguing scientific questions. At this institution, I would be interested in science engagement at a college-level and/or with the community. I am also open to working as a wildlife biologist with the state or federal government to help conserve our natural world.

Banner location: not on display—