My Plant Path: Kristi Ledman
It can be a long an unpredictable road to find the thing one is most passionate about and something that one can call their calling. After deciding that an undergraduate degree in clothing design was not for her and then spending ten years in the workforce, Plant Pathology graduate student Kristi Ledman finally discovered her passion for plant pathology when she returned to the University of Minnesota to pursue an undergraduate degree in Plant Science.
Always intrigued by plants, something more sparked her interest during her undergraduate studies when Ledman got a job at the USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Lab where she worked with rust diseases and also took PLPA 2001: Introductory Plant Pathology.
“I took Introductory Plant Pathology and by the end of that course, I was just so interested in the interaction of microbes and plants and how they respond to one another that I went to Professor Ruth Dill-Macky and said I need to know more about this field, what's the next step,” says Ledman.
Dill-Macky encouraged Ledman to enroll in graduate studies with the department and soon after, Ledman decided to take the leap and apply to graduate school. While this was something she never previously considered, the opportunity to continue to learn about these diseases, and the creativity involved in the process of studying disease responses, was an offer she could not refuse.
“When it came to making the decision I just said to myself that I'm having so much fun in school right now I better just keep going. The further I kept going, I just kept having more and more fun and so I definitely wanted to continue on this journey of research, science and plant pathology,” says Ledman.
Ledman’s journey in plant pathology continues as she is now a graduate student advised by Dill-Macky and Professor Carol Ishimaru. Ledman’s research focuses on identifying weedy grasses as a potential reservoir for bacterial leaf streak of wheat in order to inform management decisions for growers and to help reduce the amount of pathogen inoculum in the field.
Ledman wants to make the most of her time in graduate school, where she continues to expand her knowledge and skills to prepare for a position in academia where she will be engaged in agricultural plant pathology research and teaching what she has learned to the next generation.
“These past few years have been the most enjoyable years of my whole life. I’m continually pushing myself to enhance my research knowledge and techniques by learning from others. It is fulfilling to know that my efforts can impact the broader goal of sustainable plant health, and expressing the information and skills I’ve learned to future plant pathologists is really important to me moving forward.”