ASPB Member Spotlight – Craig Schenck

Craig Schenck

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Treasurer ASPB Early Career Plant Scientist Section, Early Career Representative ASPB Publications Committee

How or why did you get into plant science? 

Growing up, we always had a garden and I liked to be outside getting my hands dirty. I loved the manual aspect of working outside and also the observational aspect of seeing seeds germinate and grow into edible plants. I went to college at Ohio University where I thought I would combine my interests in plants with being outside. Well, this turned into a research project in Sarah Wyatt’s lab doing fundamental research understanding how plants perceive and respond to their surroundings. I have continued to work on plants ever since stepping foot in her lab, although now I work on fundamental aspects of how metabolic pathways evolve, This was all spurred by my early interest in the garden and great mentors early in my scientific development. 

What is your favorite thing about being a plant biologist? 

Being able to observe nature, ask questions, and pursue them in the lab. I work on various aspects of plant metabolism, particularly sticky defensive compounds. I love to walk around new environments interacting with plants to see if they produce sticky compounds or not. These provide me opportunities to analyze in the lab and ask interesting biological questions about how similar metabolic pathways have evolved in divergent plants. As a kid my favorite activity on family vacations was going to botanical gardens to see the diversity of species, now I like to do the same thing, with an ‘eye’ for the diversity of plant metabolites.

How do you gather scientific information? What are your sources? 

I use keywords in google scholar to identify papers to read within my field. I also scan a handful of journals to identify papers just outside my interests that I miss with google scholar notifications. Then I use twitter. I like to scroll through my feed at night when I don’t have much energy and pick out papers to read when I do have more energy. Aside from interesting scientific papers, there is a lot of other scientific discussions that one would miss from just reading the literature. Of course, scientific meetings are another great way I gather information and meet people. Additionally, I’m also involved in a few virtual meetings with more specific interests, for example, the Physaloid seminar series is a group of researchers interested in the taxonomy, systematics, and chemical diversity of Physalis species. 

What would you tell colleagues to encourage them to join ASPB/ECPS? 

There are countless opportunities for involvement in ASPB that will enhance your experience, skillset, and your career. There are opportunities to present work and gain experience at regional meetings, which are less expensive and just as useful as larger meetings. There are opportunities to gain an understanding of the mechanics of The Society and higher education by serving on various committees. Participation in ASPB enables our society to publish three journals (Plant Physiology, The Plant Cell, and Plant Direct) social media and teaching content and webinars. They advocate for science research and policy. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that you can take a part in if you so choose. Most importantly the society gives you access to an amazing network of plant scientists that can help you in all aspects of science and your career. 

ECPS is a section of ASPB, which aims to enhance the presence and careers of early career researchers by promoting their involvement in ASPB. It is run by early career researchers and we tailor our content and mission to the needs of the early career ASPB members. We provide our own amazing peer network, with opportunities for peer mentoring at all levels of early career, but also provide opportunities for engagement in the society, and to allow your voice to be heard.

Was someone instrumental in getting you to join ASPB? 

Sarah Wyatt. If it weren’t for her I would not be in plant science.

Have you enhanced your career, lab, research, or education using ASPB, the Plant Biology meeting, section meetings,, The Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, or Plant Direct

Yes, I got my start in science by going to ASPB Midwest sectional meetings. This is where, as an undergrad, I discovered my interests in scientific research. Meeting with enthusiastic people and getting feedback on my project was an amazing opportunity and I enthusiastically looked forward to the next year when I could do it all over again. This has blossomed into various roles within ASPB, including attending regional and national ASPB meetings, serving as a graduate student ambassador and now as the treasurer of the ECPS section and the early career representative on the publications committee. 

What advice would you give to a plant scientist just starting out? 

Try to gain experience in as many areas as possible to figure out what you like and just as importantly, what you don’t like. Identify a good mentor and use them. There are opportunities at your institution, but also with ASPB and within the ECPS section, reach out, we are happy to help. Scientists love to talk about themselves and give input. Always continue to build your network.

What do you still have to learn? 

So much! I would love to develop computational biology and analytical chemistry skills. Aside from that, thinking and framing research to reach different audiences, and learning how to communicate with diverse groups. 

What do you see as the most important role for scientific societies such as ASPB? 

Advocating for their members and providing a venue for connections. This could come in many flavors, but promoting basic science research, so that grant funding opportunities continue to be available to plant scientists to keep our field strong. ASPB also provides a venue, both physically at meetings, and virtually to continue to build connections with your colleagues.

What are your hobbies? 

Running, biking, cooking, brewing beer, and my family

ASPB members share a common goal of promoting the growth, development, and outreach of plant biology as a pure and applied science. This series features some of the dedicated and innovative members of ASPB who believe that membership in our Society is crucial to the future of plant biology. If you are interested in contributing to this feature, please contact ASPB Membership at




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