Shandrea Stallworth

1st Year PhD Student
Weed Science/Genetics
Mississippi State University

About Me

My undergraduate major was in Plant Sciences/Biotechnology and I graduated from Fort Valley State University. When I was younger I was pretty confident that I would be a medical doctor. I still plan to be a doctor; just not the medical kind. Plants are more my speed.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

In middle school and high school I was lucky to have the opportunity be placed on an advanced math and science track for my diploma. In these programs I had the chance to participate in AP Biology and English classes, take advantage of dual enrollment and receive a jumpstart to my freshman year of college.

After grad school, what’s next?

After completing my degree in 2019 (speaking it into existence), I hope to pursue a post-doctoral program to gain experience in the care of horticulture plants. My hope is to maintain my own lab and greenhouse in the future.

What do you do to unwind?

To unwind I hit the gym a few times a week. It really helps me take my mind off of everything else going on around me and simply focus on me.

My Research

My research consists of evaluating numerous weedy rice lines for their performance in specific stress environments such as drought or drastic temperatures. The purpose of the research is to locate genes that can assist in the improvement of cultivated rice for consumption. These genes, once identified, can be used as sources of genetic material for the identification of equally competitive rice lines to increase survival and production.

My research is motivated by my desire to assist underdeveloped countries with improving their local economy. I find it ridiculous and disappointing that large corporations are selling technology and seeds to countries that cannot afford them instead of teaching the natives of these countries how to produce their own agricultural products.

The coolest thing about my research would have to be the numerous opportunities that I have received to understand my crops from start to finish and see how my advances can improve life for so many people.

The hardest part of my research is the constant reliability on chance. Research is a never-ending loop of trial and error. One rarely finds the answer on the first try and you are constantly tweaking your failures with hopes that they lead to something amazing. Your fate is truly tied to probability.

My Grad School Experience

I chose to attend graduate school after attempting to leave my mark in the retail world and feeling unsatisfied. I knew that a degree would assist me in procuring a job but I constantly asked myself, “What would really make me happy?” I loved the work I did with plants in school and after exploring available jobs I felt like graduate school was the perfect place to start feeding my passion—plants!

I remember starting graduate school and being told that something was wrong if I did not cry at least once during the semester. I am in the 1st year of my second round of graduate school and it still holds true. I almost feel like discouragement is a precursor to success. To overcome those feelings I surround myself with people who have seen my dreams from the beginning. I lean on them to remind me of where I am going whenever I lose sight of my goal.

My family (which includes more than my biological relatives) supports me the most. They have been part of my journey from the beginning, supporting me both physically and mentally. My mother and father are the foundation and they have given me the tools I need to surround myself with some strong walls (people).

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

To my upcoming melaningeniuses, I hope you see the same strength in yourself that so many see in you. I look forward to seeing an influx of us and I hope to help in anyway that I can.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

The most useful life advice that I have received is to be myself confidently and unapologetically. I was taught at a young age that it would be slightly more difficult to achieve my goals, but if I allowed my passion to show, those around me would feel it and have no choice but to see it as well.


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