Rachel Ann Bomberger
As early career professionals and graduate students, we are often given the advice to become members of the American Phytopathological Society but less often are we told why becoming members can be crucial. The American Phytopathological Society formed in 1908 to promote “the future development of this important and rapidly growing subject” and it is clear when talking to current and past members that APS is still working hard to promote and develop our science, including the promotion of the new scientists.
Dr. Lindsey du Toit, the Vegetable Seed Pathologist for Washington State University, and APS Councilor-at-Large participated in a question and answer session about her experience and advice about being a member of APS.
What are the benefits of being a member of professional organizations like APS?
There are numerous benefits to being a member of an organization like APS. Membership provides you with a very extensive national and international network of colleagues in your area of study, and access to these experts in diverse specialties within your field of study. The division and annual meetings provide medium and larger-sized professional meetings at which to present your work, receive feedback from people interested in your research, hear about the latest research being done all over the USA and internationally on a wide range of topics, and establish incredibly valuable collaborations with people working on related topics. The numerous paper sessions and posters presented are a fantastic way to get a “reader’s digest” view of all kinds of research in your profession. The committees provide great additional networking opportunities on specific areas of interest, and for you to contribute your expertise to the greater good of the association as well as regional, national, and international stakeholders. There is a lot of opportunity to contribute to the direction of your profession and society, and help provide resources and training to students who will be your future colleagues. The society publications (journals, books, educational videos, teaching tools, etc.) are invaluable resources for research, teaching, and extension.
How has it helped your career or getting through school?
Membership in APS has helped in many more ways than I anticipated. Being able to present my research as a graduate student and as a faculty member helped develop my presentation skills (paper and poster), and how to engage with diverse scientists. Being able to attend many presentations and skim over thousands of posters over the years helped provide a broad perspective on the array of research in plant pathology. Participating in committees helped me establish key networks with specialists in areas of plant pathology for which I had responsibility, which was particularly critical when I started a new job. Serving as an ad hoc reviewer, associate editor and senior editor has been invaluable for improving my editing and writing skills.
How involved should an early career professional become in the organization?
As much as you can afford time-wise and resource-wise. There are many, many opportunities within APS to get involved, all of which should be rewarding. Serving alongside enthusiastic volunteers is infectious and helps motivate you in terms of valuable contributions you can make through the society.
Have there been times when you’ve gotten additional funding through APS?
I received a student travel award from APS (Melhus) while a graduate student, which helped cover expenses for attending one of the national meetings. I received funding to attend one of the APS Leadership Institute’s workshops, which was particularly valuable at that stage of my career.
What advice can you give graduate students and early career professionals on being involved with other organizations?
Get involved! Identify areas of interest to you and seek out people who are enthusiastic, professional, and demonstrate integrity in their efforts. No matter what the stage of your career, there are many opportunities within APS. Your involvement will be rewarding professionally and personally. Don’t wait for people to invite you. Seek out the many volunteer opportunities based on what motivates you.
What is the biggest impact being a member of APS has had on your career?
Getting to work alongside so many motivated, professional colleagues who believe in the value of plant pathologyand science to society. Awareness of rapid advancements in plant pathology and the amazing expertise within our society, as well opportunities to contribute to society through this profession.
As an early career professional, I can echo what Dr. Lindsey du Toit talked about. Becoming involved with APS has given me exposure to human resources, enthusiasm, and guidance. Working as one of two plant pathologists in my state I felt very isolated from the discipline before my first trip to the APS annual meeting in 2014. I was nervous my first time to APS because I had never gone as a student and assumed that I would be shooed to the sidelines as an early career professional. On multiple occasions when participating in committee meetings, scientists I revered came up and introduced themselves to me because they recognized I was a new face. My first APS meeting solidified my commitment to this society because I immediately felt a connection and common goal with my fellow members. It is hard to feel isolated when you know that invaluable human resources are just a quick email or phone call away.