Plant Science Student Profile
Name: Eric Branch
Graduation Year: 2018
Hometown: Alexandria, MN
How and why did you choose your major?
I grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm in the west central part of the state. My brother and I took over a portion of the farm and built a high tunnel. We grew tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beets, cut flowers, and more. There's nothing I like more than bringing quality produce to the farmers' market. Getting involved with horticulture and majoring in Plant Science was a smooth transition for me. I also wanted to be a part of research that applies directly to today's agricultural challenges.
Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.
Plant Science is a very broad major, covering everything from plant breeding to agronomy to organic production. Students may choose a track that best fits their interests, which also allows for more choices when selecting classes each semester. I really liked classes that were relevant to my horticulture production background--courses like plant pathology, plant physiology, and soil science. Once people know you are studying plants, they'll ask all sorts of questions--as if one semester makes you an expert on every plant problem!
What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)
I am involved in the UMN Horticulture Club and Gopher Crops and Soils. It's always helpful to get to know students with similar interests. I work in the UMN Horticultural Pathology Lab. As an undergraduate research assistant, I have learned a variety of processes essential to laboratory work. Last summer, I received a UROP to investigate tomato leaf mold on Minnesota farms--a direct connection to my previous work.
In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?
Students in this major should be aware of graduation requirements and course offerings. While there are many choices, certain classes are only offered once per year, or even once every two years. Completing the required internship course is best done early in college. Meeting with an advisor is a good way to keep on track.