Your year and major?
I am a senior in CBS studying Plant and Microbial Biology.
What made you want to study Plant and Microbial Biology?
I chose this major because of my interest in botany and my deep curiosity about the ways in which plants interact with their environment. This major has allowed me to see plants as much more active and engaged members of our outside world than they may appear at first glance.
You completed a UROP on urban vegetation. What did you find in your research and what about that made you want to pursue that project?
As someone who has been excited about botany whilst living in the city, I wanted to work on a project that tested whether plants have been adapting to these metropolitan environments that are becoming more ubiquitous worldwide. Fortunately, I was awarded a UROP, during which I set up growth chamber and greenhouse experiments to see whether the differences between urban and rural populations of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) that my graduate mentor, Amanda Gorton, had found in Minneapolis, were replicable in populations from St. Louis, MO. My study found that urban and rural plant populations in St. Louis have diverged in their traits, with greater trait diversity among urban populations than among rural populations. However, the direction of this urban-rural divergence for plants from St. Louis was in the opposite direction than that which was found for plants from Minneapolis. This suggests that A) the heterogeneous environment of cities leads to greater diversity among plant populations in urban areas than in rural areas, but that B) the evidence in this study fails to support convergence in the urban environment.
You also completed a summer research project in California. What did that entail and what intrigued you about that opportunity?
In the summer of 2018, I was given the opportunity to be part of the Moeller Lab's field research in the southern Sierra Nevada. I spent a month setting up experiments to test the influence of pollinators on the dispersal limitation of Clarkia xantiana, an annual flowering plant endemic to California. Taking part in putting together an experiment in the field was both eye-opening and exciting. It led me to think about research in new contexts and helped put into perspective the creativity and resourcefulness that researchers oftentimes use when setting up experiments in the field.
How else have you been involved on campus?
Outside of my coursework, I have worked at the CBS Conservatory for three years, engaged in undergraduate research with two labs for two years, served as the co-coordinator of the West Bank Community Garden student group for two years, and have gone on numerous trips with the Ski & Snowboard club. The U of M seemed like a huge university up until I found ways to get involved. Now, I'm a part of several tight-knit communities and I couldn't be happier!
What are your career goals and why do you want to pursue that career?
After graduation, I hope to land a job as a field technician or as an intern at a biological station. In either case, I’d like to work on a project that requires a mix of field work and in-lab analyses. In that same year after graduating, I plan on applying to graduate schools to continue my study of plant biology. I hope that I may pair my leadership skills and research experience in an academic career that allows me to share my passion for the botanical world with others, while pushing the boundaries of knowledge in the field.