Seed World

Mary-Francis LaPorte is all About the Data


For Mary-Francis LaPorte, the world of computers is like a playground.

LaPorte is a third-year Ph.D Candidate at the University of California Davis. She works in Dr. Christine Diepenbrock’s lab, studying genomic prediction of carotenoid traits in tropical and subtropical maize grain. Prior to graduate school, she studied plant biology at the University of Oklahoma. Throughout her studies, she has been interested in computational science, specifically how high-performance computing can be used to answer questions relating to plants and plant breeding. 

She down with Marc Zienkiewicz last month in Ames, Iowa, to chat about why she’s so fascinated by all things data and how her work can make a difference.

“High performance computing allows you to answer so many bigger and new types of questions that we weren’t able to answer before. When you look at the history of computer science and modeling, it’s really hand in hand with the history of modeling in agriculture, because agriculture is one of the first things that people wanted to model both economically and biologically. Or in the case of the climate, people were modeling climate for applications in agriculture,” she says.

“Personal computers have allowed us to have all these gains of advancement and knowledge. When we think about high performance computing, we’re going beyond the capabilities of our personal computers to even larger computational systems. Through that, we’ll be able to answer just bigger and better questions that we could never even have imagined before.”