As a graduate student in the Department of Plant Science (PSLA), Zoe Esponda is working toward her master’s degree with a concentration in agronomy. What attracted her to UConn was the diversity of available majors. She’s hasn’t chosen a career as yet but enjoys interacting with people and working outdoors. As an undergraduate, she was involved in the residence hall association, where she could advocate for students as a student liaison and be involved in the student community. Here’s what she said in an interview.
Where did you study as an undergraduate? What was your major? I went to UConn for my undergraduate degree and majored in environmental science. My concentration was in soil science.
Why did you decide to go to graduate school? I knew I always wanted to go to graduate school, I just didn’t know what I wanted to study or if I wanted to work for a while after my undergraduate degree. I was introduced to turfgrass science as an undergraduate researcher working in the plant pathology lab. My experience at the plant science research facility over the summer inspired me to take more classes in PSLA and become more involved in laboratory work the following school year. I was lucky that the lab was looking for a graduate student and I applied. The project I’m working on is perfect since it blends a lot of my interests such as sustainability and plant science.
Who is your advisor? What is your field of research? I work with Dr. John Inguagiato, who is the plant pathologist and often works with golf turf. My specific research is focused on best management practices for replacing old, mature golf course fairways with new sustainable turfgrass species.
Name one aspect of your work that you like. I honestly really like taking care of turf. I enjoy the morning rituals of mowing and walking the fields to decide what maintenance is needed. It’s also a great feeling at the end of the day when you can look over the fields and all of the various study treatments stand out. It’s a really impressive and rewarding way of doing research.
In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment so far? I am really proud of the progress I have made so far academically. Just within the last year, I feel like I have learned so much not only about the discipline I am studying, but have greatly improved my public speaking, writing, researching and time management skills. I have presented my own research several times both to professionals in turf management and academics. I am also very excited to be attending and presenting at my first national conference next November.
When do you expect to get your degree? What then? I will finish in August 2019 and am still exploring my career options. I have experience working in education and would like to incorporate some aspect of that with research and plant science.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I like searching for big trees, rock walls and historical parks and often make day trips in different parts of the state for day hikes. Connecticut is underrated when it comes to state parks; they are full of history and great trails. My favorite season to hike in is the wintertime, it’s especially beautiful and I love the lack of crowds and mosquitoes. I also have been trying to visit or climb the tallest peaks in each state. I have visited the six in New England and have climbed all but Mt. Washington and Mt. Katahdin.