In this episode, we talk with Laura Klasek who is a Plant Biology Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, Davis about her research and experiences as a graduate student.
Laura received her undergraduate degree from Hendrix College, where she double-majored in Biology and English with a creative writing focus. She was a 2018-2019 ASPB Conviron Scholar, is currently serving as a Plantae Community Network Leader for the Student Space Network, and is an Early Career Representative for the ASPB Plant Biology Program committee.
For her dissertation, Laura is examining how the photosynthetic apparatus of the chloroplast develops. She is specifically interested in how proteins are targeted and folded within the chloroplast to facilitate improvements in how efficiently plants use light, water, and nutrients.
Laura began her graduate studies in 2014 with Dr. Kentaro Inoue. In August 2016 – two weeks before Laura’s qualifying exams – Dr. Inoue tragically died in a traffic accident. The sudden loss of her advisor at a time when many graduate students already question whether to continue forced Laura to actively make difficult decisions about her career in a stressful and unexpected environment.
In this episode, Laura shares how she navigated her situation with honesty. We discuss graduate student agency and how options are not unlimited. We talk about how it is important to work through the panic when our experiments and careers do not go as planned and how to decide if something is salvageable or if it is time to walk away. Finally, Laura suggests ways in which graduate programs and universities might help students by having systems already in place that provide support when faculty are sick, moving, or otherwise suddenly unavailable to mentor and to provide financial stability.
View From the Trenches – Advice if your PhD Advisor Unexpectedly Dies by Laura Klasek
Hope is not a Strategy – Designing an IDP for a graduate program by Laura Klasek
All aboard the mentor-ship: making and using an Individual Development Plan – Plantae Webinar with Katie Murphy and Laura Klasek
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.
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