Beginner’s luck?

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve accepted a tenure-track position as an assistant professor of biology at Berry College! I’ll start in August 2019, and my research will be student-centered and will focus on parasitic plants. Berry is situated on 27,000 acres – including extensive forest – and local parasitic plants can be found right there on campus. I’m excited to learn more about identifying, collecting, and experimenting on local plants from some of my amazing soon-to-be colleagues.

I’ve studied the DNA of parasitic weeds in the past, but almost all the research I’ve done to date (on any system) has been in a lab or behind a computer screen. That’s not at all a complaint; my experiments and bioinformatics analyses have taught me so much about my study systems, genetics & evolution, and what it means to be a scientist. But no matter how much I love my career, I know that burnout is normal from time to time, and as a biologist, nothing cures me like spending time outdoors. That’s why I’m so excited about my career at Berry, and also why I try to get outdoors on a regular basis. I’ve been working on plant identification lately, so on a hike this past weekend, I was photographing lots of wildflowers. At one point, I said to no one in particular, “All right, show me some parasites!” And in the next few seconds, a population of Conopholis americana caught my eye! This is the first parasitic plant from the Orobanchaceae (the family I study) that I’ve ever seen in the wild. I could barely contain my excitement, and ended up describing the day as one of the best in my life. Even the most thrilling experimental results can’t give me the joy that seeing one of my favorite organisms in the wild can. Maybe finding this Conopholis population was just beginner’s luck, but as I start my career as a professor who specializes in local parasitic plants, I hope I find a lot more of them throughout the future!



Dobby is the world’s best field assistant.

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