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Faculty Spotlight: Ashrafi’s Fruitful Career

Dr. Ashrafi, blueberry breeder and genomicist
Dr. Hudson Ashrafi, blueberry breeder, emasculating a blueberry flower for pollination in Fox Labs.

In his three years with NC State, Dr. Hudson Ashrafi has made significant progress in advancing the Department of Horticultural Science’s research, education and extension programs for blueberry and other small fruits. In recognition of his accomplishments, Ashrafi won the American Society of Horticultural Science’s 2018 Early Career Competition. He was honored at the ASHS’s conference in Washington, D.C.

Give me some background on your areas of expertise.

I received my PhD from Penn State in 2007 and moved to UC Davis for a post-doctorate and a couple of years later as a senior scientist in bioinformatics. I joined the Department of Horticultural Science as an assistant professor in April 2015. I am a breeder and geneticist by education and a bioinformatician by training.  

Why did you come to work at NC State?

NC State has a great reputation of being one of the leading institutes in the nation for plant breeding. NC State has provided me a great opportunity to realize my dreams. At NC State we have a wealth of blueberry germplasm and great blueberry and muscadine grape breeding programs.

What are you doing now in research, teaching or Extension?

We are incorporating genomics and bioinformatics tools to our traditional blueberry and muscadine breeding programs.  We are using genome and transcriptome sequencing to study genes involved in different biological processes including flowering, fruit ripening biotic and abiotic stresses. I teach an undergraduate course in small fruit production and as well as graduate level course in breeding with genomics.

How does your work transform challenges into opportunities?

Breeding woody perennial plants is a challenging task that requires a lot of patience, field and greenhouse space, money as well as human resources. However, there are tremendous amount of opportunities in using genomics tools as these tools have not been applied to blueberry and muscadine breeding as they have with other crops. There are funding opportunities with specialty crop block grants through federal and local governments.  

What stands out about CALS students?

They are all great people from different backgrounds with different interests. You just need to get to know them more and work with them based on mutual interests. If they do not like what you are doing, do not push them. Let them come to you.

The best advice I ever received was?

There are things that your boss knows and you do not know.