NSU student wins grant to attend Botanical Society of America conference

ABERDEEN, S.D. – A Northern State University student with a passion for plants has been awarded a grant to travel to the national Botanical Society of America meeting this summer.

Sienna Wessel will attend the Botany 2017 conference in Fort Worth, Texas, June 24-28, which will include field trips to study local flora, symposia about cutting-edge research techniques and professional skill workshops. As a recipient of the PLANTS travel grant, Wessel will also receive an individual mentor who shares similar career goals.

Wessel, a native of Champaign, Ill., said she is excited and thankful to receive the grant.

“To me, this is the best opportunity possible to learn about career options for botanists and to hone in on my special research interests before graduate school,” she said.

Wessel is a junior who plans to graduate in spring 2018 with an A.S. in biotechnology and a B.S. in biology and environmental science (wildlife management). She intends to apply for a master's program in botany for fall 2018, and she said she’s hoping to make some connections with potential graduate school advisors at the conference.

Another benefit of the conference: Wessel will be able to network with other undergraduate students who share her love of plants.

“The plant-obsessed can sometimes be few and far between, so it will be very nice to have such a large gathering of like-minded scientists to mingle with,” she said.

Wessel’s plant obsession also won her NSU’s 2015 Undergraduate Competitive Research Grant. She conducted research that aimed to create an affordable, sustainable, agricultural-grade fungicide for the organic grower.

Wessel’s ultimate goal is to pursue a career in plant conservation and restoration of native North American plants, with a focus on endangered species management. Her advice to other students is to find an area of deep interest and turn it into a lifestyle.

“It is possible to make what you love into a career with the right amount of passion and dedication,” she said. “What is really important is networking and continuous learning.”

Wessel’s passion is botany, so she spends a lot of time reading about plants, attending conferences, emailing botanists, exploring the great outdoors and volunteering for botanical projects.

“Getting yourself out of the classroom and into the world is the only way to make real-world connections,” she said. “Internships and research experiences are also a major leg up into a job after graduation and can be impressive for a graduate school application. If you are excited enough about a field, the extra time spent will feel less like work and more like a new hobby.”

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