Margot Becktell

Profile

  • Time Zone
    Mountain

  • Organization
    Colorado Mesa University

  • Role
    Scientist Mentor: I will mentor teams of students online

  • Research Interests (300 words)
    My research focuses on the plant disease known as late blight - this is the disease that killed the potato crops during the Irish potato famine in the mid 1800s. The two most common and susceptible hosts of the pathogen (Phytophthora infestans) that causes late blight include potatoes and tomatoes. However, petunias, which are in the same plant family as potatoes and tomatoes, are also hosts, but they are much less susceptible to late blight. So, my work focuses on learning more about petunias and petunia late blight and why petunias are able to fight off late blight better than potatoes and tomatoes can.

  • Profile Question 1
    When and why did you decide to go into a science career?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 1 here (300 words):
    I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. My grandparents had a big influence on my path to science - one grandfather was a physician and another was involved in the veterinary science field. I started out wanting to be a veterinarian (this lasted through high school), then I shifted to wanting to be a marine biologist (early college) and finally settled on plant pathology (the study of plant diseases). I chose plant pathology after hearing my college botany professor state that "plants get sick". I didn't believe him at first and then thought, "well, what the heck can plants do to get better....anything?!". That led me to begin exploring the field of plant pathology, which started with me purchasing and reading my first plant pathology textbook from cover to cover! It was like reading the best novel ever...I couldn't wait to see what I would learn on the next page. I love plant pathology because it's a field where you get to learn about a lot of different components of biology, including plants, insect, microbes and the environment.

  • Profile Question 2
    What is the coolest thing you have discovered or learned about plants?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 2 here (300 words):
    There are SO MANY cool things about plants! I will list the top three that come to mind. 1. Some plants make sperm!! How wild is that?! Plants like mosses and ferns produce swimming sperm, just like animals do! 2. Nearly all land plants have a symbiotic relationship (both partners benefit) with fungi called mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi inhabit the roots of plant and produce tiny threads called hyphae that can grow further and into small spaces than roots can. So, they help plants gather nutrients and water, can help the plants fight off diseases and pests, and can even help plants communicate with each other (yep, plants talk to each other - another cool fact about plants)! 3. Plants are smarter than humans. It's true! Think about what a plant has to do and understand in order to get food and water and defend itself when it is stuck in one place (it can't walk to the store, it can't ask for a drink, it can't run away from a caterpillar that is chowing down on its leaves). Plants are doing a lot of things while they "just sit there".

  • Profile Question 3
    What is best about being a scientist?

  • Answer the question you selected for profile question 3 here (300 words):
    I would have to say that the best thing about being a scientist is being able to satiate my curiosity. I think that most scientists are naturally curious people who like to ask that question that often annoys parents, "but, why?". The journey to answering the why questions is really fun! But, it can be frustrating sometimes because figuring out how to answer your questions isn't always easy and experiments don't always work. One important thing to remember is that "no results" are sometimes the best results because they help you design a better experiment or they help you figure out that you need to ask a slightly different question to get to the answer. Science is a process and scientists are constantly learning - that's what I love about being a scientist!

  • Availability
    I am NOT available, please temporarily remove me from the available mentor list

  • Capacity: How many teams at a time are you comfortable working with?
    2

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