Pine City, N.Y.
What are you doing now?
I work as a Program Aide with the Cornell Vegetable Program.
What does that involve?
During the summer, I assist with field trials, scout for pests, gather information for case studies and coordinate on-farm research projects with cooperating growers. During the winter, I crunch data from the summer trials, write reports about the results, conduct literature reviews and organize educational meetings for growers.
What kind of field trials?
It’s wide-ranging applied research to help address concerns of commercial vegetable growers – fertility, disease control, best plant spacing, etc. We also do work with high tunnels to extend the growing season. And last year, we had some fun ethnic vegetable variety trials – fava beans, peppers from South America and India, Italian greens.
How did your time at Cornell prepare you for this kind of work?
I learned early on that I wanted to work on the applied side of plant science, not the molecular side. I knew I wanted to work on research that could help people immediately.
I like the abstract and theoretical knowledge, but I like to be able to apply it to the practical. My courses taught me critical thinking, but they also taught me to think like a grower – to see how growers understand plants -- and I combine those two skill sets every day in my current position.
Were you able to get any practical experience while you were an undergrad?
I had two summer internships. One was for an Extension high tunnel project in northern New York. The other was for a cover crop research project at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, where I developed my skills as a field technician. The reward I felt working with growers in both positions was tremendous.
I was also able to make great connections with faculty in Ithaca and Geneva and those relationships continue. I’m able to call on people to help answer questions or to borrow equipment or use their lab.
You were a dual major, Plant Science and Agricultural Sciences.
Most people start out in Agricultural Sciences major because they want breadth and then major or minor in another area for depth. I started out in Plant Science and went for Agricultural Sciences as a second major to round out my experience. It let me get experience in business and agronomy and meet other students with different agricultural interests.
I don’t think there’s anywhere else I could have gotten the blend of experiences that I got at Cornell.