Kathryn Vanden Hoek
University of Missouri - Columbia
Division of Biochemistry
Twitter - ;@kap0929
My current research focuses on Cakile maritima, a halophytic plant that can tolerate high levels of salt and is closely related to Brassica crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and canola. By 2050, it is estimated that more than 50% of arable land will be affected by salt, while global agricultural production will need to increase by 60–70% to meet the growing demand for food. Our goal is to uncover the mechanisms and genes behind stress tolerance in Cakile maritima as an avenue for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies. In general, my research interests lie in understanding how plants respond to and influence their environment, particularly in the context of global change.
How Kathryn got interested in the botanical sciences:
When I started college, my only goal was to help the environment. Initially, I considered studying chemical engineering to investigate pollutants, but I soon got an opportunity to work in a plant lab, and I decided to give it a shot. I loved every aspect of it—especially spending time surrounded by plants in the greenhouse. I was having fun but wasn’t sure how far this path would take me. Then a graduate student in my lab proposed a research project that would study a plant capable of extracting pollutants from the soil, a process called phytoremediation. I jumped on it and have been developing the project with him ever since. I am inspired to continue learning from plants, which are much more capable of preserving a harmonious balance with nature than we are, and I am excited to see where my research can go.
Kathryn's advice for those just starting their botanical journey:
My advice would be to never underestimate yourself! Seize every opportunity that comes your way and pursue your passions with determination.
Kathryn's other passions:
To make a significant impact on the environment, we need to have a deeper understanding of the planet we live on. That's why I founded Green Earth Education, a hands-on environmental education program designed to teach children about the beauty of our planet and the importance of preserving it. Through my program, I have taught at schools and participated in local youth science programs, and I hope to continue growing my organization and reaching as many people as I can.
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