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Graduate Student Spotlight: Sam Humphrey

Sam Humphrey
Sam Humphrey (he/him), is a graduate student with the Department of Horticultural Science.

1. Tell us what you love about horticulture.

I love the diversity of interests. I love seeing how everyone’s interests interconnect, and how those connections help bring people together.

2. Why and when did you get into horticulture?

I got into horticulture by accident. Through high school and undergrad, I was deeply involved in forestry, ecology, and crop science, but in my third year of undergrad, I learned about indoor agriculture. I dropped everything to pursue a career in a controlled environment agriculture. Essentially I got into horticulture and never looked back.

3. What inspired you to go into graduate school?

I wrote a research paper for a writing contest. My topic proposed an idea about the evolution of the American Tuliptree. I was in love with my topic, and I poured y soul into it. I ended up with 3rd place, it didn’t make a big splash, and ultimately my life moved on. But about two months later, an old mentor sent me something incredible–a similar research paper. As it turns out, a PhD candidate wrote their entire dissertation on my topic. Their evidence backed up the claims I made in my own paper, and I was very deeply moved by their work. I just sat there on that Sunday morning, reading the paper from beginning to end, crying happy tears. I already loved research and science writing, but it was that moment that I realized I wanted to go to graduate school and pursue a career in research.

4. What is your goal after school?

I want to become a researcher, studying crop production in space and on Earth. I love academia and I’m planning for an academic career, but I would find it difficult to turn down a job offer from a space agency, if I ever get one.

5. What is your favorite plant?

The Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)

6. What would you research if you had unlimited funds?

I would research large-scale bioregenerative life support systems. They’re very difficult, expensive, and bioregenerative life support research on a large scale is rare, however, these systems have taught us so much about plant physiology, crop production strategies, and more. Also, these systems are pretty much the coolest out there, so that’s another perk. Let it be known that in my case, with bioregenerative life support research, money CAN buy happiness.

7. What has been the highlight of your graduate school experience so far? On the other hand, have you had any major research mishaps?

My highlight has been the excitement of designing and running my own experiments. There have been an incredible number of mishaps, with lighting and plant timing and building hardware, but I’ve been preparing to do this work for years. It’s gratifying to feel deep down that I’m prepared for these challenges, even though they’re hard. I’m also thrilled to work every day with people I look up to, that has been another big highlight of my experience.

8. Do you have any advice for incoming graduate students regarding their academic and/or personal life?

Let yourself enjoy it! This will likely be the only Masters or PhD you ever do, so adjust your pacing to allow yourself to enjoy the journey.

Original post Graduate Student Spotlight: Sam Humphrey. (2022, June 1). American Society for Horticultural Science. Retrieved June 20, 2022

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