When Stephanie Hollingsworth started writing the manuscript about her undergraduate research, she had to keep a mental balance between scientist and writer.
“This was my first time writing such a large piece,” said Hollingsworth, “and I learned a lot about myself as a writer in the process. I had to analyze my writing from a scientific viewpoint. I was writing for a specialized community, so I had to keep my context in mind.”
Hollingsworth graduated from Grand Valley in 2009 with a degree in biology. During her final year at Grand Valley, Hollingsworth teamed up with Gary Greer, associate professor of biology, to complete research on gender systems of a particular species of fern. Three years later, Hollingsworth is now the lead author on a soon-to-be published article detailing their findings.
Hollingsworth’s article is expected to appear in the March 2012 issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences, a journal that she follows closely. “I submitted to the journals that I read on a regular basis,” said Hollingsworth. “The International Journal of Plant Sciences is a diverse publication, and it’s always an interesting read.”
Also represented in this article is work done by Eric Andres, a 2010 biology/cellular molecular biology major who was killed in a motorcycle accident while an undergraduate. Andres and Hollingsworth worked together for a majority of the project, and he continued to be an inspiration for Hollingsworth after his death. “I felt more motivated by his memory — he was so driven,” said Hollingsworth. “I felt like this research really needed to get done.”
In the field of plant sciences, Hollingsworth said that their findings are of good use to other researchers. “Our research looked at gender expression in ferns, and how the system of gender expression evolves,” he said. “The species of fern we used isn’t as evolved as other types of ferns. This places it in an important position to help us learn about systems of mating in these kinds of plants, and how these systems have developed over time”
Hollingsworth also said that Greer was an invaluable asset to have as a research mentor. “Dr. Greer is a smart person and a great scientist,” she said. “He passed on a lot of skills to me that I’m still using. I took his plant morphology course during my undergraduate work, and it was my favorite class by far. I liked the topics, and he can teach abstract concepts in ways that make sense.”
Now in the second year of pursuing a doctoral degree in plant biology at North Carolina State University, Hollingsworth has shifted her focus to the effects of fire on plant physiology. After completing her program, Hollingsworth said that she eventually hopes to teach at the college level. “I’ve taught some introductory biology courses and I enjoyed them,” she said. “It’s rewarding to have students respond positively to the information you give them, and to see them get excited about science.”
As for publishing further research, Hollingsworth said that her experience at Grand Valley gave her a firm understanding of the process as well as a strong sense of motivation. “Most importantly, don’t give up,” she said. “If your work isn’t accepted, you just move on to the next journal. This was a long project that I dedicated a lot of time to, but I wanted to see it all the way through so I could be proud of the time I committed.”