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Alumni and Friends

Alumni Spotlight: Ali Touloupas

Picture of Ali with NCSU wolf backdrop - says "Alumni Spotlight" and "Department of Plant and Microbial Biology"

Ali Touloupas, a North Carolina native, graduated from NC State in 2018 with a B.S. in Plant Biology. After her time at NC State, she started a Masters program at Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden. We reached out to Ali to find out about her experiences since graduating.

Do you have any news to share about your career or life?

“I began graduate school in the joint Plant Biology and Conservation program at Northwestern University and Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) in fall of 2020. I am also a research assistant for the Plants of Concern program at CBG.”

Are you enjoying your graduate program?

“Yes! Despite the challenges of pandemic graduate school, I am grateful to be a part of this program. I have learned so much and have met so many brilliant, passionate scientists! 

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in your career?

“This year, I received grants from the Illinois Native Plant Society, Northwestern Plant Biology and Conservation Department, and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Fellowship. These grants are funding my first season of field work, as I travel throughout Northeastern Illinois to verify rare plant occurrences in bogs, fens and wetlands. The purpose of this field work is to collect preliminary presence/absence data in order to model the distribution of Illinois rare species and their habitat. Some highlights from this field season include successfully locating plants that haven’t been seen since 1978, as well as finding a totally new population of a rare Rhynchospora species!”

What do you enjoy most about your career path?

“Learning about and advocating for native plants and their habitats.”

What do you miss most about NCSU?

“Working in the herbarium!”

What do you do when you’re not studying plants?

“In addition to studying plants, I am also working with plants as a research assistant for Plants of Concern program. This position allows me to visit and explore the forest preserves of Chicago and Cook County, which is most likely what I would be doing in my free time anyhow! I also enjoy going into the city for museums, or spending the day at the (lake) beach.”

What is your favorite plant and why?

“Tough question! I am definitely partial to native plants, especially North American orchids, milkweed, and carnivorous plants. I suppose my favorite right now would have to be a Spiranthes, or ladies’-tresses orchid. They are a sweet consolation for the end of summer!”

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