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My Manchester Story

Dr. Jennifer Robison

by Marie Fisher | Jun 20, 2022

What brought you to Manchester University?

 

I grew up at Manchester University in a way. My grandfather taught here from 1970 to 2004. My parents are alumni of the University, so without Manchester, I would not be here! To say that Manchester is a part of my life is an understatement. I have childhood memories here, playing in my grandfather’s office and walking around on campus. 

My grandfather was one of the reasons I wanted to become a professor, so when I saw the opening for my position, I was so excited when they offered me the job!

 


How does your doctorate in philosophy complement your career as a biologist?

 

A doctorate in philosophy means we’re studying and we’re always learners. The best thing about getting a Ph.D. is that it taught me how to do research and summarize things succinctly. So as a professor, having that ability to read 10-15-page articles and summarize the biological concepts into a single slide for my undergraduate students has been extremely helpful.

 


What research or projects are you and your students currently working on?

 

By training, I am a plant biologist. Currently, I am interested how abiotic or environmental conditions affect plants. The lab is focusing on soybeans because they are important here in Indiana! We are looking at how increasing climate change will impact seed yield. We study how the first wounded leaf sends a signal to the second leaf. Eventually, we will try to understand how a certain amount of damage will affect fruiting. We are also working on cold stress. Soybeans do not like anything under 45 degrees, so we’re trying to see how we can change that so that we can grow soybeans earlier to get two crops during the year.

 


How are students participating in these studies?

 

They are doing the heavy lifting. I have three students collaborating with me, and they are doing the research. They are mimicking the “wounding” by hole punching the plants, literally! Then they do enzymatic assays to see how long the signal takes, around the wound, to be expressed on the leaf. They will report those results to me to see where we go from there.

 

Are you involved with any organizations outside of the University?

 

I am a mentor for Planting Science where I work with middle school and high school students to provide mentorship through their independent research in the classroom. I am also involved with Letters to a Pre-Scientist, where you are paired with a middle school student and send them four letters throughout the year talking about STEM as a career, hardships and helping them navigate the journey of becoming a scientist.

 

What is one fun fact about you that others might not know?

 

I blow glass! I go to a studio in Fort Wayne and rent torch time. I have made pendants and plants!

 


Is there any advice you have for someone wanting to go into STEM?

 

Think broad! Learn as much as the field as you can and specialize later in your education. My undergrad is in liberal arts and I can’t tell you how many times I use those skills in my career and when I was in graduate school.