Alumna Ann Impullitti is Driven to Inspire Students
While looking out the window of the pharmacy she once worked at, Ann Impullitti (Ph.D. 2010) noticed a disconnect.
“I happened to be looking out the window at a corn field and realized there is a disconnect between people, plants and where their food comes from,” says Impullitti. It really was that moment when I decided to go back to school, get my Ph.D. in plant pathology and then try to get a teaching position at a small college where I could help share the importance of plants in terms of food production and in everyone’s daily lives.”
Having already received a M.S. degree in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Impullitti decided to enroll in the University of Minnesota’s Plant Pathology Graduate Program under advisor Dean Malvick. During her time in the program, serving as a teaching assistant for courses and learning from many of the faculty members, Impullitti grew and expanded her teaching skills.
“Faculty in the department were very encouraging and supportive of my desire to go down the teaching path, letting me explore and providing essential guidance along the way,” says Impullitti.
Fast forward six years to the present and Impullitti is able to share her message about the importance of plants in daily life to the next generation of leaders as an associate professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. Considered the plant biologist at the college, Impullitti leverages her interdisciplinary plant pathology knowledge to teach a diverse range of courses, from introductory biology to upper-level plant physiology.
“My interdisciplinary background in plant pathology has really helped me in terms of my teaching, and I think it really helps the students think about biology in many different ways,” says Impullitti
Teaching at Augsburg, a liberal arts college with an enrollment of more than 3,600 students, Impullitti values the opportunity to interact with students in small classes.
“It’s just a really enjoyable experience to be able to work in a small setting where I get to know my students really well, and to see them develop over the course of the semester is really rewarding,” says Impullitti.
While Impullitti also conducts research on how fungi that colonize soybeans can help control disease and maintain yield in a sustainable manner, she sees research as an opportunity to mentor students. Throughout the year, Impullitti heavily involves students in her research program. She believes giving students in-depth and hands-on lab experience pays dividends for students interested in plant science as a career.
“For the students it’s a very rare opportunity to get to work one-on-one with a faculty member in this capacity and for me it’s a fantastic experience as well. When I was a student, the lab is where I ended up learning so much, and now when I interact with my research students, seeing the moment when concepts finally click in their head is something that really drives me as a teacher,” says Impullitti.
When the semester is over or her students are no longer working in her lab, Impullitti hopes they have gained a continued curiosity about plants and the natural world, and that the research experience inspires them to engage with different communities and educate others around them.
“There is this disconnect between scientists and the general public, so I hope after taking my courses students will continue to share with others the importance of plants and biotechnology, and how they could impact the future.”