Link honored as unsung hero of plant biology

Samantha Link
April 13, 2020

Lincoln, Neb. —Samantha Link, research manager for plant science in the Agricultural Research Division in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was recently recognized as an unsung hero of plant biology by the American Society of Plant Biologists.

The program recognizes important members of the science community who are the non-tenure track scientists. Link, the greenhouse manager at the Beadle Center greenhouse, was chosen for the critical role she plays in scientific breakthroughs and discoveries every single day.

The state-of-the-art greenhouse complex at the Beadle Center one of many plant growth facilities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which also includes the Nebraska Innovation Campus greenhouse and multiple greenhouse clusters on East Campus. Link manages the Beadle Center greenhouses with the help of a full-time assistant, a part-time technician, and three student workers.

Link grew up in Ravenna, Neb., and obtained her bachelor’s degree in horticulture–landscape design from Nebraska in 1996. During her undergraduate years, she was a student worker for the horticulture greenhouses at the East Campus. Link started working at the Beadle Center greenhouses in 1998 and became the greenhouse manager in 2015.

The Beadle Center greenhouses encompass 14,500 square feet of floor space and provide and care for plants for nearly 25 labs from multiple departments. The greenhouses also maintain plants for many of the teaching labs for introductory biology, botany and life science classes that emphasize plants in their coursework. The Beadle Center Greenhouses also have an extensive collection of preserved plant material used for taxonomy, systematics and plant diversity classes.

Link is passionate about plants and enjoys seeing plants begin from a seed and grow to maturity. She i strives to predict issues related to plant growth and to plan ahead to avoid plant loss. As she noted, “Plants are not always predictable. In many ways, you can count on them to not be predictable; they don’t always do what you want them to.” Being consistent with protocols for soil type, planting procedures, and sanitization helps Link stay ahead of the game.

Link’s efforts are often acknowledged in students’ graduate seminars, and her greatest satisfaction is when graduating students stop by her office or leave heartfelt notes conveying their gratitude. “It’s an awesome feeling. I have kept many of those notes as they remind me that I am appreciated for my work!”

Rebecca Roston, associate professor of biochemistry at the Beadle Center, acknowledged Samantha’s assistance with her lab’s plant growth needs.

“Every time we have a lab-planting crisis (e.g., everyone decides Friday is a good day to plant, we suddenly need a chamber that can have an eight-hour day, we need a reverse-cycling chamber to avoid being in the lab at 2 a.m.), Sam is there. She is calm and practical and often helps us with temporary growth space,” Roston said. “Even when that is impossible, she helps talk people through their options and makes sure they know their academic life isn’t over.. She’s on all the researchers’ sides, and it is very appreciated. Finally, on a personal note, I enjoy having conversations with her and nerding out about plants!”

Outside of work, Link has many hobbies, including caring for plants. She has houseplants, and quite a bit of her yard is dedicated to gardening. “I do enjoy growing plants—even off the clock!”