10. Professional Development and Your Career

10. Professional Development and Your Career

10.1 Careers in Plant Pathology

The Department of Plant Pathology has a long and distinguished history of training highly talented and motivated professionals who, through innovations and discoveries, have had and will continue to have a significant positive impact on the future of the world. The expanding interest in the quality of our global environment and increasing global demand for high-quality food, fiber, trees, and ornamental plants provides many opportunities for plant pathologists. These professionals often are sought by government and nonprofit organizations and corporations to participate in teams of specialists addressing international agricultural development. Such employment may be on a continuing or a consulting basis. Our graduates can be employed in any of the following institutions, organizations, or companies in addition to several others:

  • Agricultural consulting companies
  • Agrochemical companies
  • Biological control companies
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Botanical gardens and arboreta
  • Colleges and universities (research, teaching, and extension)
  • Diagnostic laboratories
  • Environmental, agricultural, and patent law firms
  • EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • International agricultural research centers
  • Lawn and landscape maintenance firms
  • Nurseries and garden centers
  • Private practice
  • Public policy organizations
  • Seed and plant production companies
  • State departments of agriculture
  • Tissue culture laboratories
  • USDA-Agricultural Research Service
  • USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service
  • USDA-Forest Service

It will be important to communicate your employment interests with your Faculty Advisor soon after you have entered the program. For some of you, there may be uncertainty about what you want to do. The first half of your graduate program is a good time to explore the various career tracks by pursuing volunteer opportunities in teaching, assisting others in their research, writing grant proposals, conducting informational interviews with established scientists, investigating internship opportunities, and looking up current job descriptions to see what sparks your interest.

10.2 Professional Skill Development

Teaching StyleAll components of the student’s program come together to build a strong and confident professional that can be a contributor to our world’s future needs. Just like the disease triangle used in plant pathology, each component has several pieces that may or may not be critical for each student. Below are a selection of opportunities that may be of interest to students developing their abilities in teaching, industry, extension, or public policy. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list and students are encouraged to consult with their Faculty Advisor to identify opportunities that are most relevant to their interests, abilities, knowledge, and skills.

Teaching Opportunities

All on-campus graduate students in the Department of Plant Pathology are encouraged to incorporate meaningful teaching experiences in their programs. Examples include: teaching or assisting in lab or lecture; organizing seminars; giving presentations; and contributing to extension and other educational outreach efforts. The student's advisor should assist in contacting faculty with teaching appointments to arrange for appropriate teaching opportunities.

SCIL 101 Learning Assistant

Formal opportunities at UNL exist to gain experience in teaching. One such opportunity is to serve as Learning Assistants in SCIL 101: Science and Decision-making for a Complex World. The course focuses on big questions about socio-scientific issues related to food, fuel, land and water systems in Nebraska, and on helping students engage in science-informed decision-making, evaluate popular and scientific media, and engage in systems-thinking. If selected for the program, the graduate student would be required to meet with 30 students 15 times during the semester to lead discussions about food, fuel, land and water issues, assess student learning, give students key feedback on their final project, and meet weekly with instructors. This program provides significant leadership and professional development in teaching and communication, as well as the opportunity to experience active learning in large lectures, the opportunity to lead active learning discussions with smaller recitation groups, and opportunity to hone your scientific argumentation and critical thinking skills. In the 2019–2020 academic year, a stipend of $1500 was offered for 10 hours a week (for graduate students, in addition to a regular assistantship). For more information, contact Dr. Jenny Dauer at jenny.dauer@unl.edu.

Publish Teaching Materials

Several organizations allow publication of case studies, instructional resources, and assessments of learning, for example, the APS Plant Health Instructor (apsnet.org/edcenter/resources/Pages/authorinfo.aspx) and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal (nactateachers.org). Both are outlets for publishing peer-reviewed articles.

UNL Teaching and Learning Symposia

These one-day workshops are offered typically in the middle of the Fall and Spring semesters. This symposium provides an opportunity to engage in conversations about teaching and learning, to hear from experts on emerging issues in improving student outcomes, and to network with others seeking to improve teaching at UNL. More information about the symposia can be found here:

Internship Opportunities

NUtech Commercialization Analyst Internship Program

NUtech’s Commercialization Analyst Internship Program is open to UNL students with backgrounds in life sciences, engineering, chemistry, physical sciences, or other STEM fields, and preferably pursuing an advanced degree (Ph.D., J.D., M.B.A.). Commercialization analysts have excellent communication and analytical skills, with the ability to quickly learn about new technologies. Over the course of the one-year program, NUtech Ventures provides training in intellectual property rights and protection methods, technology commercialization, industry knowledge, and market analysis. NUtech also provides professional development workshops taught by staff members. Topics include resume and cover letter writing, career exploration, and more.

Commercialization analysts assist technology managers in the Technology Screening Evaluation process. They are involved in inventor interviews and perform intellectual property prior art searches and market analysis using advanced database resources. After conducting research, analysts work with the responsible technology manager to help recommend a potential IP protection and commercialization strategy. The final decision to move forward with a technology into the intellectual property protection and commercialization stage is made by the NUtech Ventures team. However, the research conducted by commercialization analysts provides critical data in the decision-making process. For more information about this program, contact Dr. Jeewan Jyot at jjyot@nutechventures.org.

Industry Internships

Internship opportunities in industry are often advertised via online job websites (linkedin.com, indeed.com, monster.com, ziprecruiter.com, etc.). However, it is essential that students form professional relationships with people in industry and reach out to those people when they are seeking an internship opportunity. It is recommended that students communicate their interest in an industry internship early on with their advisor; such arrangements often require investment from the advisor in terms of time and/or financial resources, and may not always be possible to facilitate.

APS Public Policy Early Career Internship

This is a competitive program and is open to all APS early career members (current graduate students or postdoctoral associates and junior professionals; U.S. citizenship not required). It provides an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in public policy at the national level that relates generally to agricultural science and specifically to matters of interest to APS. By working with the APS Public Policy Board, the intern will learn how scientific societies, non-governmental organizations, executive branch agencies (e.g., USDA, NSF, EPA, etc.), and the legislative branch interact in crafting public policy. The internship also provides opportunities to build connections and collaborations with renowned scientists and administrators from academia, industry, and government. Applications are typically due May 15. For more information, check the APS website:

Extension/Outreach Experience

There are regular opportunities for graduate students to gain experience in Extension / Outreach, both through presentations at local and regional events, such as the field days (typically scheduled May through September), crop production clinics (held in January), and ad hoc Extension meetings that are not regularly programmed. Another opportunity for Extension/outreach is in co-authoring Extension newsletter articles or Extension publications, such as NebGuides, case studies in the APS Plant Health Instructor, review articles in APS Plant Health Progress, and APS Feature Stories. The best strategy for identifying appropriate opportunities for Extension/outreach experience is to contact faculty with Extension appointments, including Dr. Tamra Jackson-Ziems, Dr. Stephen Wegulo, and Mr. Kyle Broderick.

Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic Experience

The Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic (PPDC) provides plant diagnostic support for Nebraska farmers and stakeholders, and to the county and area Extension faculty. The diagnostic clinic is operated by Extension and offers skilled and objective diagnostic services by professionals collaborating between the Departments of Plant Pathology, Entomology, Agronomy (Weed Science), and Horticulture. It is recommended that students interested in this experience first enroll in the plant disease diagnosis course by Dr. Gerard Adams. There are informal opportunities for students to work in the diagnostic clinic, which can be arranged on a case-by-case basis. Interested students would need to be able to commit at least 6 hours each week during the months of May to August, when the number of samples submitted to the clinic is high. Opportunities for students to work on greenhouse-based diagnostic projects may occasionally arise that would allow a student to conduct their internship during times from September through April, when samples submitted to the clinic are typically low. For information about how to get involved, contact Mr. Kyle Broderick, Coordinator of the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic.

10.3 Professional Societies, Clubs, and Leadership Opportunities

Faculty, postdocs, and students in our department are members of several scientific and professional societies and clubs. These include but are not limited to: The American Phytopathological Society, APS North Central Division, Virology, Mycological Society of America, Tri-Societies, Society of Nematologists, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, Entomological Society of America, Missouri Mycological Society, and Toastmasters International East Campus (EC) Speakers.

American Phytopathological Society

APS Subject Matter and General Policy Committees

If you would like to get involved in APS at the national level, one of the best ways is to attend one of the Subject Matter and General Policy Committee meetings at the annual APS meeting. Joining a committee is an effective way to network with people that have interests relevant to your own and are at different institutions. At the meeting, there are usually opportunities for graduate students to get immediately involved in leadership, from working with others to co-organize an APS Special Session or workshop or volunteering to lead the group as vice-chair / chair of the committee.

General Policy Committees: Collections and Germplasm, Early Career Professionals, Extension, Graduate Student, Industry, Committee for Diversity and Equality, Regulatory Plant Pathology, and Teaching.

Subject Matter Committees: Bacteriology, Biological Control, Biotechnology, Chemical Control, Crop Loss Assessment and Risk Evaluation (CLARE), Diagnostics, Diseases of Ornamental Plants, Emerging Diseases and Pathogens, Epidemiology, Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics, Forest Pathology, Host Resistance, Integrated Plant Disease Management, Molecular and Cellular Phytopathology, Mycology, Mycotoxicology, Nematology, Pathogen Resistance, Phyllosphere Microbiology, Plant Pathogen and Disease Detection, Postharvest Pathology, Seed Pathology, Soil Microbiology and Root Diseases, Tropical Plant Pathology, Turfgrass Pathology, Vector-Pathogen Complexes, and Virology.

PPGSA: Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association

Graduate students are encouraged to be involved in the PPGSA. This student organization provides educational and social activities for the students interested in plant pathology.

Objectives and Purpose

Provides educational, leadership, and extension opportunities and training outside of the classroom.

  • To serve as the representative body for graduate students in the Department of Plant Pathology
  • To promote interaction and a closer relationship among graduate students
  • To serve as a channel of communication between graduate students to faculty and staff
  • To investigate problems and issues unique to graduate students and propose solutions to them as well as provide an outlet for implementing these solutions when possible

Positions and Roles within PPGSA

Officers of the Executive Committee include the following: President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Graduate Student Association (GSA) Representative. Duties and responsibilities of specific officers are described within the PPGSA bylaws available by request from the current president.

Plant Pathology Graduate Student Members
Plant Pathology Graduate Student members in the 2019-2020 academic year.
Shown from left-to-right are: Rosalba Rodriguez Pena, Natalie Holste, Sourav Pal, and Gabriela Martens.

  1. President (Michael Richter) – schedule and preside over the meetings of the PPGSA and communicate club activities to the department
  2. Vice President (Mahnoor Asif) – Assume responsibility of the President in case of their absence; coordinate and direct the activities of all Special Committees of PPGSA
  3. Treasurer (Chikoti Mukuma) – Maintain and report on financial records, transactions, expenses, and income for the PPGSA
  4. Secretary (Nawaraj Dulal) – Record and file records, report minutes, maintain correspondence, and chair committees involving document revisions and amendments for the PPGSA
  5. GSA Representative (Chris Termunde) – Attend a GSA meeting monthly, practice governing procedures involving graduate students at UNL and collaborate with the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska Senate, officers, and committees on issues affecting the entirety of the University’s student body
  6. Faculty Advisor to PPGSA (Dr. Loren Giesler) – Nominated by the department head, this person serves as an advisor to the graduate student organization

Student Representatives in the Department

Occasionally there are opportunities for graduate students to serve on special committees within the department, including search committees and ad hoc committees involving student-related topics. Opportunities for graduate student participation will be solicited from the department head with prior permission obtained from the student’s Faculty Advisor.

Association of Students of the University of Nebraska

The Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN) is the student government at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Its primary goal is to serve as the representative voice of UNL’s student body. ASUN Student Government derives its authority from the Board of Regents. ASUN Student Government elected officials represent the student body in a variety of ways. The ASUN President, Internal Vice President, and External Vice President serve as liaisons to the Board of Regents, University administration, and a variety of other stakeholders in the University system. Forty senators are elected to represent students from every college, and membership of the Senate is organized proportionally by college population. Elections occur every March. See http://asun.unl.edu for more information.

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