My Plant Path: Becca Hall

Becca Hall

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I’m originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, I have also lived in Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, and I now get to add Minnesota to the list. Before starting the University of Minnesota, I was the Assistant Director of the Green Mountain Conservation Camp in Vermont. In this position, I helped run a summer camp that taught adolescents about forest and water ecology, as well as how to be a safe and ethical sportsman
(or sportswoman).

Q: How did you get involved with plant pathology as a discipline?
A: I took a mycology course as an undergrad at Clarion University of Pennsylvania and fell in love with the world of fungi. After this class, I worked as an undergraduate researcher with my professor studying the affects of acid mine drainage on the diversity of mushrooms and their ability to absorb heavy metals. My professor then suggested I apply for an REU at Cornell University to experience a new realm of fungal work: plant pathology. At Cornell, I worked with David Gadoury on fungicide resistance in grape powdery mildew. I instantly fell in love with the field and could not imagine studying anything.

Q: Was there a specific moment in your life that made you decide to pursue a career in Plant Pathology?
A: I would say I was unsure about the field of Plant Pathology before I started at Cornell. I don’t have an agricultural background and wasn’t that interested in working with crops. However, the more I’ve learned about how much of a direct impact my work can have on the livelihoods of others, the more I fell in love with the field.

Q: What has it been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
A: My first discovery as a plant pathologist. I’m currently working on developing an updated map of Sudden Death Syndrome distribution in Minnesota. After completing a survey last summer, I found the disease in at least three new counties and am going to be continuing to scout this summer. At one point, I was the only person who knew about these new counties. Having a little “science secret” made me feel like I am finally a scientist.

Q: What do you enjoy most about our department?
A: The people. In other departments, you hear about drama or clashing of personalities. In our department, everyone gets along and as a student, I’m not intimidated to ask anyone for help. I feel very fortunate to have made not only great friends here, but also connections with the faculty and staff that I hope will last after my time here.

Q: Can you describe how being part of this department has helped your mission as a scientist?
A: After only being here a little over a year, I have learned so many valuable skills in and out of the classroom. I feel very confident that after my time at the UMN, I will be able to successfully diagnose and help with the management of diseases when given the task.

Q: Can you tell us about your exciting research/scientific plans for next 2020?
A: In the next year, I will be wrapping up my thesis and defending!