Growing up in Egypt, Hagar Soliman had access to a limited number of TV channels, but Discovery Science was among her favorites. Intrigued by what she saw, Soliman developed a love for science and research.
“What I would do, and I thought it was research, is to Google the terms that I hear on TV,” Soliman said. “And when I did that, the first result that you will get is Wikipedia. So I’d get into Wikipedia, and I got a small notebook. … And I would copy and paste, write down definitions.”
Soliman, a Fulbright scholar and graduate student in biological sciences at Binghamton, has been a researcher ever since. An evolutionary biologist interested in the formation of new and distinct species in Mimulus plants, Soliman studied biotechnology and molecular biology as an undergraduate at Cairo University.
Also known as monkeyflowers because some of its species have flowers resembling a monkey’s face, plants from the genus Mimulus are one of the model organisms used to study evolution.
In trying to answer how different Mimulus plant species are formed, Soliman and her colleagues complete basic plant care such as watering, repotting and fertilizing. Next, they conduct artificial crosses, where they move pollen from one plant to the female parts of another plant. This enables them to explore the reproductive isolation of the two plant species. They also study how much the hybrid seeds produced from those crosses suffer from reduction in fitness compared to their parents. This can help in understanding how