Ambassador Program takes on virtual format

ISRR 2021 ambassadors

Ambassador Program takes on virtual format

By Abby Werner

A special aspect of the 11th Symposium of the International Society of Root Research is the graduate student and postdoc Ambassador Program. The program is in its third conference cycle, and like the symposium, is fully virtual – but still with an emphasis on root research.

The ambassador program originated from a student idea in Bob Sharp’s lab to give graduate students and postdocs the opportunity to develop skills for leadership roles and build a network amongst each other. The program started in 2015 with the conference held in Australia. Because of the virtual circumstances of the program, they accepted all applicants this year.

“We hope our ambassadors get three things out of this program,” said Laura Greeley, the University of Missouri postdoctoral representative for the program. “One is more confidence when interacting with somebody who is a senior scientist to them. The second is becoming better at communicating, especially with the general public. And third, we hope that they’ve gained some skills that will serve them down the line, like reading through other people’s work and being selective with it.”

Leading up to the symposium, the 21 program participants met virtually to get to know each other and hear from several guest speakers who work within the root field. The guest speakers included:

  • Ronald Vargas, the secretary of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
  • Dr. Genevieve Croft, an agricultural policy analyst working for the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C.,
  • Dr. Michelle Watt, the Adrienne Clarke Chair of Botany at the University of Melbourne, and
  • Dr. Charlie Messina, Distinguished Fellow for Corteva Agriscience.

“Our speakers were really interesting and focused on their career experience and how they got to where they are,” Gus Thies, the University of Missouri graduate student representative for the program, said. “The ambassadors are so focused on their research, that it’s good for them to hear another side of things.”

The program also included two opportunities for ambassadors to practice communicating in plain language about their research and receive feedback. First, at the start of the program, ambassadors did a “3-minute thesis” talk to explain their research in a way the general public would understand. The second opportunity was a mini-symposium where students did five- or 10-minute research talks about their research meant for a root sciences audience. These talks were selected from those students that didn’t get a chance to present in the main symposium.

In place of in-person visits to locations like the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis and Mizzou facilities in Columbia, there were video tours and opportunities to ask questions. And while there weren’t as many hands-on opportunities as there would be in a normal year with an in-person meeting, the ambassadors were able to follow through with the plans to create and run a Twitter feed to share information about the research presented at the symposium for those researchers who weren’t able to attend the conference.

“I’m proud of our ambassadors and their research,” Greeley said. “They have really taken the initiative to make the most out of this years’ experience.”

No Comments

Post a Comment