I am so stoked to have received the American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) Grady L. Webster Award for my first first author paper, ‘Spiraling into history: A molecular phylogeny and investigation of biogeographic origins and floral evolution for the genus Costus‘!! I couldn’t be happier. I was so very fortunate to have found the Specht lab at UC Berkeley where I did this work as an undergraduate for so many reasons. Chelsea Specht is an incredible advisor because she gives you such a perfect balance of guidance and leaving you alone to create your own path. She doesn’t hold your hand and she sets the bar for you just above what you think is your capability, pushing you to keep raising the bar for yourself (out of fear of looking bad at a lab meeting, but even so 😉 ). I also found some of my greatest friends in the Specht lab, so she definitely brings the cool kids to the table. I made a deep and lasting friendship with Tanya Renner (who another undergrad once said must be the only example of genius he’s ever meet – and she great for pizza and a beer). She’s now an assistant professor at San Diego State University, with what I hear is a great offer from Penn State. I’m selfishly hoping she moves there just because it will be closer to me! I also count Thiago André as one of my best friends and was super lucky to work on a few more projects with him that you can see on my publications tab. I also spent about two months visiting him in Brazil where he selflessly took me all over the country ‘hunting for Zamia‘ cycads, which we later learned is a euphemism for wasting time. Although, due to his magic as a naturalist, we did find every species we were looking for and had some great adventures on the way. He is now a professor at the Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará and I’ve said many times that I wish he could be my phd co-advisor because I can’t imagine doing a paper with out his incredible ability to bring the big picture to any study (and make me laugh).
Anyway, it is truly wonderful to have capped my time at the Specht lab with such an honor. And even better, UC Berkeley’s department of Plant & Microbial Biology did a little write up on the award, you can see it here.