Monday, December 21, 2015

Fernald Club Alum Profile: Anna Soper

2015.12.19
The blog returns with another profile of a Fernald club alum
This month we catch up with Anna Soper, former Fernald Club president and outreach director.

Welcome! Please tell us a bit about your background, from pre-Fernald days through the present.
1.       What have you been doing since leaving the Fernald Club?
Since leaving the Fernald club, I took a post-doc position at UC-Riverside to work on Tamarixia radiata a biological control agent of the Asian Citrus psyllid. Through that position, I met my current boss Valerie Mellano. She and I wrote a grant together to fund my current position as research director for the plant sciences department at Cal Poly Pomona. I also lecture as needed and mentor graduate students.
2.      
    When did you develop an interest in insects? 
I developed an interest in insects late in life. It was my junior year of college and I started working in an entomology lab at the University of Wisconsin Madison.  We worked on conservation biological control in potato fields. I liked the work and Claudio Gratton (the PI of the lab in which I was working) helped me out in applying to graduate school. 

3.  What are the most critical skills for the work you are doing now? How do you make it work given your strengths and weaknesses? 

The most critical skills for the work that I do requires that you are always on your toes. The students ask a lot of questions and I need to be thinking critically all the time.
Creativity is by far my biggest weakness when it comes to my job.  When you are designing experiments, you need a lot of creativity. I spend a lot of time in the literature adapting ideas from other people’s work. My students also have a lot of good ideas too so that helps.    

How about any key personality traits?
 I get along well with others and especially my students. I think that a lot of my students find it really easy to relate to me and I hope that I am able to inspire them to pursue a career in entomology!

 Do you have any long-term plans? Any entomology in them?
My long-term plans are to move into a faculty position (hopefully at Cal Poly Pomona!). I do plan on continuing my research program in entomology.  My research focus is on invasive species in California agriculture.

 Anything else on your mind that you'd like to share with our hypothetical readers?

If I could tell my graduate student self any advice it would be to network as much as possible while you are still in graduate school. I recommend developing long term relationships with your graduate student colleagues as these are the people that you will be relying upon in your future endeavors!