Q&A With Emma Critchfield

Critchfield is a junior in plant sciences.

girl with short blonde hair and glasses in a blue and white gingham shirt standing in a field of sunflowers

Why did you decide to come to the University of Missouri and major in plant sciences? What do you enjoy about the program itself? The field of study?

I have always wanted to study entomology! I love bugs and insects so much, especially spiders, millipedes and isopods (pill-bugs). I’ve been interested in invertebrates since I was in middle school — at a summer camp I attended they showed us a counselor’s pet tarantula. I fell in love! Eventually I broke down my parents into letting me get one of my own. She still lives at home and her name is Arlette. After that, I knew that I had to go study bugs. Mizzou has many great research labs that hire students as well as a lot of opportunities for undergraduate research. There are some really great entomologists working and teaching here; meeting them and getting to ask questions about the field has been really helpful.

Freshman year I was majoring in biology before I switched to plant sciences. CAFNR has so many scholarships and hands-on learning opportunities. And even though I don’t plan on doing anything directly with plants, CAFNR classes are very useful to my field of study. I love the field of entomology because there is so much we don’t know about bugs. This means we can do a lot of basic research! Entomologists research things that other people haven’t thought to look at, finding things out that no one else knows yet. I think that’s really cool!

How have you used resources in the CAFNR Academic Programs Office (student services, career services, advising, study abroad)? What was your experience like?

Dr. Mary Ann Gowdy (assistant teaching professor in the Division of Plant Science and Technology) is my advisor and she’s very helpful in guiding me to what classes I should take. The Division of Plant Science and Technology also sends out weekly emails with new jobs and seminars to look at. Most of them are jobs in entomology, which is nice.

CAFNR’s RISE Initiative encourages students to have a variety of extracurricular experiences during their time at Mizzou (Research, International, Service Learning, Experiential Learning). What parts of the RISE initiative have you taken advantage of so far, and which do you plan to? What have you enjoyed about these experiences?

I have recently started working at Dr. Debbie Finke’s (director of undergraduate studies and professor in the Division of Plant Science and Technology) insect ecology laboratory. It’s too late in the season for me to start my own research project, as most entomology research is done in the spring and summer when the bugs are out. However, come warm weather, I should be able to start a project of my own. The hardest part will be picking what I want to research, but I am beyond excited! Additionally, I work at the Soil Health Assessment Center (SHAC) at South Farm and have learned a ton. At the SHAC, we run tests on soil samples sent in by farmers or other labs. Recently I got Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) trained under the SHAC’s permit. Working at both of these labs has already taught me so much that I wouldn’t learn in a classroom.

What has been your favorite activity or experience of being a CAFNR student?

My favorite part so far has been meeting entomologists who work here. I love listening to them talk about their research! They’re asking questions I wouldn’t think to ask and the answers are ones that no one else knows yet! I’m certain I want to be an entomologist but that’s a broad statement. The researchers at Mizzou make it more difficult for me to decide want I want to specifically study, because everything they’re looking into looks so amazing it’s hard to pick an area.