Songwen Zhang plans to use her Ph.D. degree to continue solving fruit production problems

Songwen chose an advanced degree in horticulture because horticulture is a field where researchers can help feed the world with their scientific findings

Songwen Zhang is working on her Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. Steve van Nocker. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in China.

Her Ph.D. research focus is using the regulation of GA2ox as a model to understand the roles of gibberellin signaling in flowering and response to abiotic stress. 

Why did you choose Horticulture as your advanced degree?

I decided to pursue an advanced degree in Horticulture because Horticulture is a place where researchers can help feed the world with their scientific findings. I am an enthusiastic nature lover, and I am especially fascinated by plants. I am always curious about how phytohormone gibberellins are deployed by plants.

Horticulture allows me to study the fundamental aspect of this interesting topic in an economically important crop, apple, as I try to use my findings to help solve one of the problems in apple production—biennial bearing.

What has been the best experience in grad school so far?

My best experience in grad school has been getting to pursue my research interests independently but also with strong supports in a very diverse and inclusive environment.

What is the best selling point about horticulture and your choice to study it at MSU that you would like others to know?

I think the best selling point about Horticulture is that Horticulture offers the widest range of research options, from basic to applied, from floriculture to genetics, from plant physiology to molecular biology.

More importantly, the scientific communication across different research areas is very dynamic, and researchers here are supportive and can offer valuable feedback from different perspectives.

What are your future plans?

I am expected to graduate this summer, and I am currently looking for a postdoc position in the field of epigenetics. In the future, I hope to earn a faculty position and use the knowledge, approaches, and techniques that I have learned to solve problems in fruit production, such as biennial bearing and abiotic stress resistance.

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