- Title: PhD Candidate, Vice Chair of the ASPB Ambassador Alliance, and NSF Graduate Research Fellow
- Place of Work or School: Colorado State University
- Member Since: 2016
- Research Area: Molecular Plant Pathology
What would you tell colleagues to encourage them to join ASPB?
- ASPB is one of the only scientific societies for plant biologists that provides a platform for highlevel scientific research while being inclusive of the many areas of plant biology research. Also, ASPB has so many opportunities to get involved in a scientific society, whether through joining the Ambassador Program, applying to fellowship programs, or becoming involved in all its various committees. These opportunities can advance your professional career while increasing your exposure to networking opportunities.
Was someone instrumental in getting you to join ASPB?
- I first heard about ASPB in my first year as a graduate student, when I was telling one of my committee members, Dan Bush, about my interest in science communication. At the time, I was unaware that Dr. Bush is a Legacy Society Founding Member and a former secretary and president of ASPB. He encouraged me to look into the Ambassador Program, and that was why I applied. Even after I became an ambassador, it wasn’t until I met Rishi Masalia at my first Plant Biology conference that I became really involved in the Society. Not only did he introduce me to many members of the Membership Committee and other ambassadors, but he also made me feel welcome and gave me confidence that my ideas could be of value to the future of ASPB.
Have you enhanced your career, lab, research, or education using ASPB, the Plant Biology meeting, section meetings, Plantae. org, The Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, or Plant Direct?
- As a graduate student, I have no doubt that The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology have had a large role in broadening my knowledge of my own field of research, but also other areas of plant biology that I had little knowledge of. Being an ambassador, I do a lot of outreach in my community here in Colorado, and I’ve used the education information provided on ASPB’s website along with interesting plant facts I’ve found from reading blog posts on Plantae. Further, I cannot give the Plant Biology conference enough credit for providing me with so many networking opportunities through attending workshops, talking to industry representatives, and hearing about new research findings at the poster sessions. I believe ASPB has provided me with more resources for my own knowledge, research, and career than other societies.
How or why did you get into plant science?
- I actually have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, which was based around bacteria and mammalian classwork, so I never was on a path toward doing anything with plants. However, in my junior year, I looked for a lab to join in order to get some real research experience, and I happened to receive a position in Cris Argueso’s lab at a time when she was starting her own lab in plant pathology. Because I had no experience in research and no knowledge of plants, I was trained by and worked with her directly for two years. It was through her mentoring that I found a love for research and a curiosity about the molecular mechanisms of plant immunity, so I decided to stay in her lab and pursue a graduate degree. Honestly, being mentored by such a strong, talented, and incredibly smart woman is the reason I am where I am today.
What is your favorite thing about being a plant biologist?
- I really enjoy the friendliness of plant biologists. Although science is competitive, every plant biologist I have met, whether beginning their career or having studied plants for 40 years, was always friendly and welcoming. I have friends in various scientific disciplines, such as cancer or pharmaceutical research, who tell me how difficult it is to either get help or create connections with other scientists because of the fear that someone could scoop their research. I’m grateful that I work in a scientific discipline that is so welcoming and helpful because I am able to reach out for help with unfamiliar protocols and develop relationships with well known scientists I admire. As a plant biologist, I want to always make sure I maintain a high level of friendliness to help ensure this great culture isn’t lost.
How do you gather scientific information? What are your sources?
- For my research, if it’s a new topic I’m not familiar with, I find the most recent review article on the topic in the Web of Science database. While reading that article, I dig deeper into interesting or relevant information in its sources. I also participate in journal clubs in my own lab and with other plant scientists at my university. These force me to read articles that are outside my own research and that I normally wouldn’t read on my own.
What advice would you give to a plant scientist just starting out?
- Have patience. I still struggle with this almost daily, but patience is the key to not losing your drive and confidence. In the world of scientific research, working with plants is more of a long game. Unlike bacteria or yeast, plants take time and space to grow. Experiments have to be planned out weeks in advance, and sometimes getting a homozygous line seems to take forever. Growth chambers die, bugs invade, and bad batches of soil ruin weeks’ or months’ worth of experiments. It happens. For me, learning to have patience with time and failures that were out of my control was extremely frustrating, and that mental anguish can be detrimental.
What do you still have to learn?
- I’m in the middle of my fourth year of a PhD, so some would say I must be done with learning, but the more I continue my education, the more I feel I know nothing! Even within my own research niche, I feel I have so much more to learn before I will consider myself an expert in plant immunity. I believe the largest area of plant biology I am lacking in is that of basic global agricultural practices. Because I love and research molecular biology, it’s sometimes hard for me to take time to learn about the broader areas of plant biology, which really are vital for me to know in order to be the most effective at using new molecular techniques or discoveries.
What do you see as the most important role for scientific societies such as ASPB?
- I think there are two important roles for scientific societies: being a platform for the spread of new scientific discoveries and providing professional development opportunities for early career scientists. It is vital that scientific societies provide highlevel, sound science through peer-reviewed publications, because without this, valid scientific discoveries are not shared throughout the community to propel research forward. Also, when societies hold conferences that allow communication of new science, scientists have the opportunity to learn and discuss the research being presented. Therefore, conferences create an environment that ensures the validity of the science and provides new ideas for other research projects. When scientific societies provide opportunities for early career scientists, they’re contributing to the advancement of the future of science. Workshops and networking events allow young scientists to communicate their science, creating new experiences that allow them to progress as professionals. Without these opportunities, early career scientists might only receive training in a lab environment, which will not properly prepare them for their future career and will ultimately be detrimental to future members and leaders of science.
What are your hobbies?
- I live in Colorado, so I have some of the best mountains in my backyard. Whether hiking in the summer or snowboarding in the winter, I try my best to be in the mountains as much as I can. I’ve also been riding horses since I was little and am fortunate to still have my old show competition horse, so I also ride my horse as often as I can.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.