Forestry Graduate Student Spotlight - Mitchell Calvin

Mitchell Calvin seeks his masters focused in finding genetic variations in American beech trees that contribute to resistance against beech bark disease.

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Degree in Progress: Master’s degree, expected graduation Spring 2025

Research Focus

My research is concerned with finding genetic variations in American beech trees that contribute to resistance against beech bark disease. Beech bark disease is caused by an invasive insect and has been severely harmful to the forests of eastern North American for the last 130 years.

What inspired your interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in Forestry?

My first job after college was in forestry research and involved a lot of field work. Spending time observing forests showed me the devastation that insects and disease can inflict on forest health. This, combined with an interest in genetics developed during my undergraduate education, made me curious about genetic resistance to forest pests and pathogens, and how we can harness it to support forest health.

Why did you choose to study at MSU?

MSU is well known for both its forestry department and plant genetics in general, which makes it an ideal place to study forest genetics. I was specifically very interested in the work of my advisor, Jeremy Johnson, and wanted the opportunity to study the genetics of disease resistance under him.

What has been one of your best experiences within graduate school so far?

My favorite thing about my time here so far has been the people I’ve had the privilege of getting to know. Everyone I’ve met is doing interesting work they’re passionate about, but more importantly, the members of this community are friendly and welcoming. I always look forward to classes, meetings, and social events put on by the department due to the warm atmosphere.

What do you want others to know about this program?

Forestry is a very interdisciplinary field, and the graduate program at MSU embraces this. There are faculty advisors here doing research in every aspect of forest science and graduate students are given immense freedom in selecting projects and courses that suit their interests and inform their research. This provides students the guidance and freedom to explore their unique research interests within forestry.

What are some of the best things about being an MSU student?

MSU is a large and diverse community that creates a vibrant environment for students. Not only are there vast academic resources available, but the clubs, museums, shows, and other groups or events make life outside of school exciting.

Any thoughts or advice for current students?

Now is the time to explore your interests, so don’t be worried if you don’t have it all figured out. Take classes that excite you and try to have experiences in areas you’d like to explore. If you’re thinking about graduate school, get involved in research to see what it’s all about.

What are your future plans?

I am planning to pursue a Ph.D. and continue my studies in forest genetics.


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