Home Biological science Allegheny alumna returns for undergraduate seminars – The Campus

Allegheny alumna returns for undergraduate seminars – The Campus


Allegheny, ’08 alumnus Emily Pfeufer, Ph.D. in Plant Pathology, returned to campus last Thursday, November 10, to share her experiences and wisdom about the world after her undergraduate studies.
Pfeufer originally returned to Allegheny in September for the blue and gold weekend when she was inducted into the Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame for her success on the track and field team in the long jump and triple jump.
“She reached out and asked if we could have a coffee,” said biology professor Catharina Coenen. “And I said, ‘You’re a plant pathologist and I’m teaching two classes this semester that should meet you. I would like you to come and talk to these classes.
Plant pathology is the study of diseases that affect plants, which may be caused by pathogens or environmental conditions, according to Science Direct.
Pfeufer was unable to conduct his interviews in September due to the nature of his research, Coenen said.
“We had to work with certain clearances at the USDA to get him for class visits and to give a public seminar on his research,” Coenen said.
Pfeufer works with the Alien Diseases and Weeds Scientific Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, according to the published flyer detailing his seminar. Given her nature of federal employment, she could not comment privately on The Campus without authorizing the interview with her agency.
Pfeufer’s research examines potential threats to US food security that may arise in response to climate change — specifically plant diseases caused by “oomycetes.” According to the American Phytopathological Society, oomycetes are small, fungus-like parasitic aquatic molds.
“Plant pathologists tend to be completely under-recognized in their contribution to global food security,” Coenen said. “In my mind, they are major contributors to world peace because agricultural failures lead to hunger, which tends to lead to violence.”
Pfeufer’s evening research seminar detailed his recent findings on the oomycete genus Phytopythium and its relevant species. According to the flyer, his team found that higher temperatures and increased irrigation in response to climate change can increase phytopythium-induced diseases in citrus grown in the United States. His seminar summarized this ongoing research that spanned years.
In addition to giving a public seminar about his research, Pfeufer also attended several mentorship meetings with Coenen students to discuss bioscience options after completing his undergraduate studies.
“I was really excited about the opportunity to give students an idea of ​​what a career in plant pathology might look like,” Coenen said. “(But), I wanted (these events) to attract students who didn’t see themselves doing agriculture at all. I wanted them to be able to get something out of it even if their main interest was medicine or completely different areas of scientific research.
While the evening seminar focused on Pfeufer’s scientific research, class visits focused more on advising individual students, answering questions, and offering advice.
“(Pfeufer) focused a lot on (the explanation) that it’s important to do what you love and to try different things because even if you don’t like what you’re trying, it always helps you to find what you love,” Kaylee Sadowski said. , ’24.
Classroom presentations focused primarily on understanding graduate school application processes and the workforce, Sadowski said. Pfeufer offered advice on how best to present yourself in these situations.
“We talked about interviewing nerves, how scary they are,” Sadowski said. “And she told me to think that you were interrogating them too, and that they chose you.” So be yourself.
In addition to class discussions, Coenen also worked with Liam Jones, 23, co-chair of the newly reformed Allegheny Chapter of the Beta Beta Biology Honor Society – commonly referred to as “Tri-Beta” – to organize an informal luncheon. with Pfeufer.
“Liam was very excited to have a guest speaker visit as part of the Tri-Beta program,” Coenen said. “And so we arranged a pizza lunch as part of the tour.”
Tri-Beta, a national biology honor society, briefly disbanded its Allegheny chapter during the COVID-19 pandemic because officers were then unable to pass on leadership. The club was re-established last fall by Jones and co-president Hanah Simmons, ’23.
“I’ve been trying to get him to restart since last year as a junior in the first half,” Jones said. “(It) took a lot of work. Eventually we had people on board and everything fell into place, and we were able to start it this year.
Jones heard about the research seminar Pfeufer was about to give through Coenen. They decided to host the lunch with funding from the Darling Distinguished Speaker Fund, which was established to facilitate experiences with educational speakers for students.
Jones said one of his goals in hosting the lunch was to give students an opportunity to learn about areas of science that aren’t really present in Allegheny’s curriculum.
“I know there aren’t too many people interested in botany,” Jones said. “It’s kind of an area that we don’t have in Allegheny. One of my main goals when rebooting Tri-Beta was to try to do a lot of interests like zoology, microbiology, genetics, and when an opportunity to have someone from the field of botany s is presented, I jumped at the idea.
Emma Ruhl, 23, a student in Coenen’s microbiology class and lunch attendee, echoed the sentiment.
“I thought it was really interesting,” Ruhl said. “I think it’s a really interesting opportunity to get to know other careers in the organic department because sometimes I feel like we’re limited.”
The lunch setting also aimed to provide a more relaxed environment for students to have more conversation with Pfeufer.
“It was very relaxing,” Ruhl said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so nervous. What should I say?’ But everyone seemed very cool. So that was nice.”
The students expressed mixed feelings about how the advice they received from Pfeufer affected their ideas about their future projects. Some, like Sadowski, came out of the talks feeling more confident about their career paths.
“I just thought (Pfeufer’s advice) was a nice little interview boost,” Sadowski said.
Others felt a little less clear about what their future career path might look like.
“It was helpful, but it also made me a little more confused, in a way,” Ruhl said. “It was just a lot of information to take in. I think it was beneficial to hear about it, especially from an elder, but it was also still uncertain for me because I’m still thinking. what I want to do after graduation.
Regardless, both students have always expressed an interest in attending more organized conferences like this in the future.
“Hopefully they can sponsor more,” Ruhl said. “I was very happy to hear that Tri-Beta had sponsored them as well.”
Tri-Beta meets every two weeks at Steffee B102. Students of all majors are invited to join in and share their love for science.
“We’re looking to grow our club because it’s a true honor society,” Jones said. “It’s not just a club. It’s a national honor society.