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April 8, 2021

Student view: Making a difference in the food we eat

Samantha Thompson graduated in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in crop and soil sciences through the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences. She is currently working toward a postdoctoral degree in plant pathology and molecular plant sciences at MSU. The following student view is repurposed from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

When I was 12, I attended MSU’s soccer camp and immediately fell in love with the campus, the people and the community. Having that experience helped, but I chose to study at MSU because of the variety of programs and the diversity of research topics conducted.

Growing up, my grandma’s garden inspired my love for plants, and my mother always encouraged me to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. I didn’t have any prior experience with agriculture before coming to MSU, but my professors and peers included me as a valued contributor to their teams.

Samantha Thompson in a field of crops

Science related to agriculture interests me because it’s challenging and is a gateway to understanding all of the processes involved in growing the food that we eat. Crop and soil sciences became my main interest because of the captivating topics from past and present studies. These include soil fertility and health, management practices in both large and small production systems, soil biota and the importance of microbial communities in nutrient acquisition, and the importance of the soil as a biological, chemical and physical structure. The list goes on and on.

Working in STEM makes me a more critical thinker and teaches me to accept failure as part of the process. You build confidence as a decision maker when finding innovative solutions that may not always work out. I find that working in science has changed my perspective on academics. I’ve gained a focus on the scientific process without attachment to the results.

In the summer of 2019, I joined AgroLiquid’s team as a research intern at their North Central Research Station in St. Johns, Michigan. The team at AgroLiquid was extremely welcoming, and I was able to conduct one of my first research assignments measuring soil respiration in varying experimental plots. This project helped expand my skills in gathering and organizing data in research.

My overall future plans are to continue my research in fungicide resistance of grape and blueberry crops with Dr. Timothy Miles and to work alongside my fellow researchers.

Resistance to fungicides limits growers’ abilities to control certain pathogens in their fields. Developing new management strategies based on plant-pathogen interactions, developing efficient diagnostic tools and using current molecular and genetic technology to make fungicide resistance screening easier are some of our main goals.

In the first few months of my Ph.D., I’ve learned that keeping an obligate pathogen [powdery mildew of grape and strawberry] alive isn’t always a walk in the park, and that I can’t learn everything overnight.

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