In the Spotlight: Jaya Joshi

Jaya Joshi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Wood Science at UBC. Her research focuses on improving the yield and nutritional values of crops, guided by the aim of successful implementation of carbon farming by 2050. Metabolic engineering of microbes with tailor-made catalysts that could convert biomass-derived feedstocks into fuels, valuable commodities, or pharmaceutical products will pave the way for sustainable chemistry.

Tell us about yourself!

I define myself as a synthetic biologist. I grew up in India, where I did my masters in plant biochemistry. Recently, I finished a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Andrew Hanson at the University of Florida. After that, I moved to Dr. Vincent Martin’s lab at the Centre for Structural and Functional Genomics in Montreal. During my time there, I explored the enormous power of bio foundries in the field of synthetic biology.

Throughout the last few years, I have worked with a number of different companies and organizations, including Agriculture and Agri Food Canada, to look at how to help people in terms of hunger and in respect to yield and nutrition. Thirty percent of the world’s food is going to waste, so I really focus on finding ways to reduce that percentage by looking into ways to use that waste efficiently.

What drew you to your work?

I was very interested in the climate change crisis and what’s happening with malnutrition. With people around the world dying with empty stomachs, I wanted to do what I could to contribute to saving the world. I have a three-year-old son and I worry about the world we are leaving behind, so I want to be a part of the solution which I felt like I could do here at UBC.

What attracted you to working at UBC?

People here in the Faculty of Forestry are very collaborative, everyone works together to think outside of the box. I’m looking forward to jumping in to be a part of the climate change solution along with my fellow faculty members. One of the biggest attractions for me was when I saw the crisis here in British Columbia in 2021. Seeing the floods and the forest fires, and the impacts of climate change on the food industry. I felt that this is the place where I can start and grow my theory of reduced waste and produce something out of it. I saw a good cluster here and they were looking for a synthetic biologist who can work on the biotechnology. They wanted to take forward is how to use the feedstock, so this was a perfect place for me to start.

In addition to your research, what are you looking forward to working on in the Faculty of Forestry?

I am very much an advocate of women in science, I want to create space for other women to come forward and say, I want to study science. I’m passionate and I’m happy that there are a lot of women scientists here, especially in this department. I come from a very small town of India, which were girls’ education was not a big deal. Working in STEM, there is still a stigma in a lot of countries, and I have seen it firsthand. My teaching will focus on developing a programming course, with women in mind. Programming is dominated by men, so this will offer platforms for women to learn in a more welcoming setting.

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