Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Speaking of stories, why did you decide to study cacti in the first place?
It would be nice to say that after carefully considering the aspects of botany that needed to be studied, and contemplating how to best approach the pressing issues in the field, I came up with cacti as a model organism. It wasn’t that. I went to graduate school in Seattle at the University of Washington, where it rains all the time. During my first spring break, I went on a field trip to Arizona, and really noticed cacti for the first time. I became intrigued by them. They’re so different from other plants.
My advisor was good enough to say, “Well, go ahead and investigate them. See if something important comes up. If it turns out that there’s nothing interesting or tractable then move on to something else, but go and look.” Fortunately, a really interesting problem did come up. And that led to another problem, and then another, and here I am, still studying cacti. But it started because I just liked the plants.