I’m Plant Scientist Elizabeth Haswell and this is how I work

Bio: I am an Associate Professor of Biology at Washington University in Saint Louis. I grew up in eastern Washington State, did a BS in Biochemistry at University of Washington with Luca Comai and Ted Young. I receive a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California San Francisco, working on yeast chromatin remodeling in the lab of Erin O’Shea. I moved full time to plant research as a postdoc with Elliot Meyerowitz at Caltech, and started my position at WUSTL in 2007. I am now on sabbatical, currently on the South Island of New Zealand.

Location: Washington University in Saint Louis, Saint Louis, MO, USA
Current job/title: Associate Professor of BiologyElizabeth haswell
One word that describes how you work: Enthusiastically
Favorite thing you do at work: Talk with lab members about their data
Favorite plant: At the moment, Utricularia gibba
One interesting project you have been working on: We are interested to understand how pollen can withstand the many and varied osmotic challenges it undergoes during the normal process of development (including desiccation and dispersal, rehydration, germination, tube growth, and fertilization). We think that a family of ion channels that open in response to membrane tension play an important role in many of these steps.

1. What is your workspace setup like?

I do all of my work on a MacBook Air. Right now, I am working out of a one-room cabin outside of Queenstown, NZ. I am set up in one corner of a large table that serves as the kitchen counter, dining room table, and desks for our three-member family! Or I work out on the patio with the computer in my lap.

In my real life back in Saint Louis, I have an office with a desk, a Thunderbolt display, a standing desk, and a couch. I probably work in all of those locations in the course of a normal day.

2. *What are some tools, apps, or websites that you use or visit every day? Do you have a favorite resource?

3. *If you could eliminate one thing that you spend a lot of time doing, what would it be?

Approving people’s hours, vacation time and purchases.

4. *What have been the biggest productivity tools you’ve been using either for a long time or recently adopted?

For whatever Luddite reason, I prefer to use a paper planner, usually one that allows me to set 3 major goals for the day. (I’ve used the GetToWorkBook (http://www.gettoworkbook.com), and the Emergent Task Planner (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C7ZKELG?psc=1&redirect=true&ref_=oh_aui_search_detailpage). It helps me stay focused on what I’ve decided are the important things, rather than letting my email inbox serve as a to-do list (not that I am always successful at this!).

My other productivity tip is to get up early and get a few hours of writing in before the day starts for my family or my lab group.

5. *What’s some of the best advice you’ve ever received?

From my undergraduate advisor Luca Comai: It’s much better to do one experiment slowly and carefully than to cram in several experiments but do them sloppily. He was referring to labwork, but I think this advice also applies to the many opportunities and tasks that come to you as a PI.

6. How do you learn new things?

I learn best by listening, so seminars and meetings are always a great way for me to learn about a new field or get good ideas for my own work.

7. *Music, silence, white noise – what works for you?

Quiet, please.

8. *What do you spend time thinking about that’s not your next proposal, publication, or project deadline?

Right now, I am thinking a lot about teaching and mentoring. I’m planning to re-organize and possibly “flip” my main course next year, and am developing a peer-mentoring program for WUSTL graduate students and postdocs. I’m also invested in improving diversity among STEM researchers, at the moment by addressing my own implicit biases.

9. Plant biology has long been a field of pioneering discoveries with broad impacts. What’s the next pioneering discovery in plant biology?

I suspect that long-distance signaling in plants is about to become an area of new breakthroughs. Plants clearly coordinate massive amounts of information in a systemic manner. While peptide and hormone signals are important, turgor and electrical signals are likely to play equally important roles. I would imagine that among the many impacts of these discoveries would be new context and even new tools to use in the field of animal neurobiology.

10. *If you’re OK sharing, what’s one way readers can get in touch or follow along with your work (email, blog, twitter, etc.)?

Email: ehaswell@wustl.edu
Blog: Force of Nature blog at http://pages.wustl.edu/haswell/blog
Twitter: @ehaswell
Instagram:  lizhaswell

I’d like to see Ivan Baxter Answer these questions next.

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