“So, why is what you do important?”

Telling others that what we do matters.

Guest post by Alyssa Preiser

Every holiday season, at least one relative may ask you the question “What do you do?”. Your response – “I study plants” –  is immediately followed by an awkward pause and either an unsure nod, as if they immediately understand all the intricacies of your work or the follow-up: “Why?”. There are several answers that quickly rise to the surface. We could dig into the significance and innovations detailed in our recently submitted proposal, but that won’t help much when talking to Grandma. We could explain why we enjoy our work, but with this answer, we are missing a bigger opportunity to engage those around us. As scientists, we have an opportunity and obligation to help others understand the importance of what we do. It can be extremely difficult as your accountant uncle, store clerk friend, and scientific self all speak very different languages. So, in order to help explain why we get excited about studying plants, here’s an infographic that walks through the highlights of plant research applications. Next time you’re asked why you study plants, you will be ready to say, “because you need me to.”

Alyssa Preiser is a graduate student at Michigan State University in the Sharkey lab studying alternative carbon flow pathways around the Calvin-Benson cycle. Connect with her on LinkedIn or through the Sharkey lab’s Twitter.

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