ASPB Webinar April 24: What I Wish I Had Known When I Started Grad School (2024 Edition)

A Panel Discussion by the ASPB Early Career Plant Scientists (ECPS) Section

April 24, 2024

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The ASPB Early Career Plant Scientists (ECPS) Section wants to help you succeed in graduate school. As you prepare for the next step in your professional career, ECPS will help guide you with our annual panel discussion webinar, “What I Wish I Had Known When I Started Grad School.”

In this webinar, a panel of postdocs and research scientists who have recently finished graduate school will share their experiences and give students a chance to get their questions asked. Panelists will go over topics including picking a lab, mental health, organizing work-life balance, lessons they’ve learned, and tips and advice on how to navigate graduate school successfully. This panel targets those thinking about graduate school, those about to start, and those already in it! Come prepared with questions for our panelists!

Sponsored by The Early Career Plant Scientists (ECPS) Section


Shirsa Palit
Postdoc at Cold Spring Harbor Labs

Shirsa Palit is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Cold Spring Harbor Labs, where she explores the intricate crosstalk between plants and their environment. Her fascination with plants stems from her upbringing, where she was surrounded by lush greenery and developed an inherent connection with nature from an early age. Growing up in an environment where she always had a green thumb, she witnessed firsthand the resilience and adaptability of plants. Despite her background in nanotechnology during her master’s studies, this deep-seated connection with nature ultimately drew her towards studying the complex interactions between plants and their surroundings.

This fascination led her to pursue her doctoral studies, where she delved into understanding the roles of secretory peptides in plant development. Her academic journey has taken her on a transformative path from the bustling streets of Kolkata to the tranquil landscapes of Pune, with enriching experiences in Bangalore and Allahabad along the way. It’s been a journey filled with diverse perspectives and invaluable learning opportunities, shaping her understanding and passion for scientific inquiry.

Outside the realm of academia, she cherishes moments of quiet reflection and creativity. Writing, reading, and immersing myself in the beauty of nature through photography are her sanctuaries, offering balance and inspiration amidst the rigors of scientific inquiry.

Meredith Sigman
Scientist at Bayer Crop Sciences

Meredith Sigman (she/her) is a molecular genetics plant scientist with a passion for innovation, mentorship, and communication. She started her career as a PhD student at Ohio State University studying epigenetic silencing pathways in the laboratory of R. Keith Slotkin. After 4 years at Ohio State, Meredith moved with the Slotkin Lab to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, where she competed in the Big Ideas 2.0 DDPSC competition and interned at Bayer Crop Science. After completing her PhD in 2021, Meredith returned to Bayer as an industry Postdoc, moved to a Scientist I role in 2022, and has since transitioned to her present, Scientist II role, acting as a Gene Expression Liaison to Bayer’s product-focused Project Teams.

Al Meyers
Postdoc at NASA Kennedy Space Center

Dr. Al Meyers is a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow at Kennedy Space Center. Al received his BS in Biochemistry in 2013 and his PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology 2020. His research interests include plant molecular responses to spaceflight and space environment simulation strategies. Al is an active member of ASPB and currently serves as the Early Career representative on ASPB Council.

Patrick Thomas
PostDoc at Penn State University

Patrick Thomas is a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State University where he works under Drs. Mark Guiltinan and Siela Maximova on functional genomics of cacao specifically looking at chromatin accessibility and tissue-specific gene expression. A native of Long Island, New York, he earned his BS in agricultural science from Penn State in 2014 and went on to earn his PhD in plant biology in April 2022 from UC-Riverside where he was advised by Dr. Linda Walling exploring the genetic mechanism behind whitefly resistance in alfalfa.

Aleksandra Beric
Postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis

Aleksandra Beric joined the Ibáñez lab in June 2022 following the completion of her PhD degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia with Dr. Blake Meyers. During her doctoral studies, she gained expertise in sRNA and computational biology, which she is now leveraging to identify sRNAs that are involved in the pathobiology of neurodegenerative diseases, or that have the potential to be used as biomarkers for early detection of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. In her free time, she likes to bake, travel, and enjoy time with her family.


Taylor Scroggs
PhD Candidate at University of Georgia Athens

Taylor Scroggs is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia in the lab of Dr. Brad Nelms. Taylor is vice chair of the early career plant scientists’ section at ASPB. Her research uses a workflow to systematically explore transcription factor function with a focus understanding transcription factor induced reprogramming in maize. Beyond science, Taylor likes to run, garden, and sit in the sunshine.



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