Student Spotlight: Katherine LaTourrette

Katherine LaTourrette
Meet Katherine LaTourrette, doctorate student from Loveland, Colorado graduating in May 2023 in complex biosystems: integrative plant biology.
November 1, 2021

Hometown: Loveland, Colorado

Major: Complex Biosystems: Integrative Plant Biology, Doctorate Degree

Anticipated Date of Graduation: May 2023

Why did you decide to come to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

I participated in UNL's summer research program as an undergraduate, and I spent the summer working with my future graduate advisor, Garcia-Ruiz. He let me lead a project using CRISPR to knock out linked genes in Arabidopsis thaliana and taught me molecular and greenhouse techniquesThis was my first real experience with the plant pathology, and I fell in love with the field!  When I was looking for graduate programs, I found complex biosystems at UNL, which aims to have students engage in both laboratory and computational techniques. This type of interdisciplinary program was exactly what I was looking for, and I was lucky enough that Garcia-Ruiz had room in his lab for me! Looking back, it was definitely one of the best choices I have made.

What is your favorite thing about University of Nebraska-Lincoln?

My favorite thing about UNL is all the amazing people I've gotten to meet during my time here. Everyone is so passionate about their work and wants to make a difference in the world. It really pushes me to try and be the best person and scientist I can be. 

How has diversity and inclusive excellence played a role in your CASNR experience?

At the start of my second year, I created and taught a workshop series called Computational Biology for Beginners. I wanted to use the workshop to bring in groups that were underrepresented in computer science and computational biology by providing workshops designed for those without a background in coding. The workshop series has been well attended by students within the CASNR community as well as other disciplines. Recently, I've even expanded the series to agricultural programs at other institutions. It's been great learning experience for me, and I'm thrilled to take an active part in creating an inclusive and diverse environment within CASNR and UNL. Follow me at @KathyLaTourr for information on the sessions!

What is your favorite class you have taken so far and why?

My favorite class I have taken is the basics of scientific discovery, PLPT 892. Garcia-Ruiz has been teaching us to think about research questions in a systematic, scientific manner. I really enjoy all the ways Garcia-Ruiz has been making us think outside of the box - even having us make jigsaw puzzles as metaphors for gaps in our scientific understanding. 

What are your plans post-graduation?

I am hoping to pursue an agricultural job in industry. I hope to help design strategies for better crop protection and thus give back to the community. 

What’s life like outside of school?

I have been using my COVID time to practice my baking skills and learn some new dessert recipes. I have also been growing some truly monstrous tomato plants on my patio and defending them from all manner of caterpillars and plant pathogens.   

Katherine has received the following scholarships: Honorable Mention for NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the Heuermann UNL Plant Science Fellowship, the Grace Hopper Celebration 2020 Student Scholarship, the American Phytopathological Society Named Student Travel Award 2020, the Dr. and Mrs. Robert Goss Memorial Scholarship and the Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association Professional Development Award.