Alumni Spotlight: Kasia Duellman

August 12, 2019

Kasia Duellman

Kasia Duellman is an assistant professor with University of Idaho Extension and a Seed Potato Specialist. Duellman’s research focuses on all aspects of seed potato production, with the overall goal of improving quality. Specific emphasis is on pathogens important to seed potato production and seed health and to seed-related aspects of commercial potato production. Her extension program focuses on providing relevant, timely, science-based, and non-biased information to growers and the industry. Duellman received her B.S. from Arizona State University in 1989, an M.S. in Plant Pathology from the University of Minnesota in 1993 (working with Professor Richard Meronuck), and a Ph.D. from North Dakota State University in 2015. 

There is always unique information to learn from every alum of the department. I sat down with Kasia do get a little more background on her experiences.

Tell me a bit a little bit about yourself and about your position.

I am the seed potatoes specialist for the University of Idaho; it's an extension research position. And I never to million years thought I'd be in eastern Idaho working on potatoes but it's been an incredible gift so I'm very grateful for where I am and for what I'm doing. I love the potato industry. Starting out with potatoes at the University of Minnesota indirectly because of my co-adviser and then coming full circle and ending up in a position where I'm working with potatoes that always amazes me. 

Is your current position Plant Pathology based?

It was primarily a plant pathology position. Being the seed potato specialist means I could also branch out into variety optimization in terms of production for seed. 

What is the most rewarding part of working in Extension at the University of Idaho? 

I love getting out into the field and interacting with people who work in the field, field growers and agriculture professionals. I like hearing their stories and finding out what they experienced, what they have seen, and what works and doesn't work for them. It's something new every day. To me, it's very selfish, but it brings me joy learning something new and this position allows me to do that. 

What is an important piece of information you learned here in the Department of Plant Pathology that has followed you throughout your career?  

Everything I have done is connected and everything that I have learned is connected. When I started here I didn't even understand a basidiomycete’s life cycle, specifically, the rust fungi. It wasn't until I started spending time thinking about the rust pathogens that the light bulb turned on. Lots of seeds were planted here. I learned a lot of lessons at the U of M., To be honest, I would say one of the biggest influences for me (I had many) were so many faculty members, adjunct faculty. There were so many people that were giving me encouragement and confidence to keep going. Having that kind of support and mentorship is probably the biggest kernel I took from here. That is something that I want to be able to do for people. I really love being able to get people inspired about plant pathology to think about it and to possibly consider it as a field. Now my joy has been trying to promote Extension and trying to get people to think about Extension. Many research faculty at universities have that Extension role whether they have it as a formal role or written into their job description. They are expected to interact with their commodity groups, growers, and agriculture professionals. It is kind of an unwritten expectation. I really love that marriage of extension and research. I think it is a great way for people to tell their stories. 

Was there a specific “ah-ha” moment while you were a grad student here? 

I was having a lot of fun as a grad student here. I was having fun learning concepts that I was introduced to here at the university and a lot of those concepts paved the way for what I am still learning today.        

How did funding from donors, fellowships, and travel grants impact you as a student and eventually your personal development? 

I did get a fellowship that helped me with some of my summer lodging expenses when I worked off station. My summer research took place at a research extension center that was not located on campus. I also received a departmental assistantship that helped fund a lot of my research.