Taproot S4E1: Identifying the Principle Components: Gender Dimorphism in Flowers and Consciously Building a Happy and Rewarding Career in Science

In this episode, we talk with Dr. Ambika Kamath, a behavioral ecologist and a postdoctoral fellow at UC Berkeley, about her undergraduate research and how to make value-based career decisions. 

Ambika is originally from India and gained her B.A. in Biology at Amherst College in 2011. She received the Schupf Scholarship at Amherst which provided unlimited funding for her independent research on the evolution of flower morphology. She completed her Ph.D. at Harvard University studying the behavioral ecology of lizards. As a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, she received a Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. Earlier this year she was awarded the 2019 American Society of Naturalists’ Young Investigator Award. 

In this episode, we discuss her publication, “Floral size and shape evolution following the transition to gender dimorphism” which was the outcome of her undergraduate research. She shares how her interest in mathematics led her to ecology, how much she enjoyed the fieldwork, and statistics behind the paper. 

Picking her graduate school was not a ‘no brainer decision’ so she talked to her supervisors, and made a list of things that she wanted before even having opportunities. This proactive decision system – instead of a reactive one – helped her choosing her graduate school and deciding to continue in academia as a postdoc. 

Ambika also talks about how helpful therapy was in her last year of graduate school and she shares some of the values she used when deciding to pursue a postdoc. We discuss how ‘sitting with your feelings’ is probably the best advice to everyone deciding on their career choices – it is hard to formulate general advice for everyone but list making is a great first step! Finally, Ambika shares some advice for established researchers who want to encourage trainees to stay in science.

We leave you with the best advice she has ever received:

“You are really good at being you, and you’ve gotten to where you are by being you. Just keep being you, there’s no reason to stop now.”

How to listen, download and subscribe to The Taproot podcast

A transcript of this episode, generously provided by Joe Stormer, can be found here.


Paper: Kamath, A., Levin, R.A. and Miller, J.S., 2017. Floral size and shape evolution following the transition to gender dimorphism. American Journal of Botany, 104(3), pp.451-460.


Ambika’s blog: https://ambikamath.wordpress.com/blog/





The Taproot is the podcast that digs beneath the surface to understand how scientific publications in plant biology are created. In each episode, co-hosts Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter take a paper from the literature and talk about the story behind the science with one of its authors.

Subscribe to The Taproot podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Questions, feedback, suggestions?  Contact us at taproot@plantae.org.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *