Spring 2017| Posse New York Quarterly


Posse Alumnus Studies Plant Science at Stanford

UW-Madison Posse Alumnus Dirk Spencer.

Dirk Spencer thought he disliked plant science, until his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), when a botany professor at the university showed him a video of a plant responding to physical damage. Dirk found the experience so inspiring that today he studies plant science as a biology Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University.

Dirk graduated from UW-Madison in 2016 with a bachelor’s in molecular genetics. As an undergraduate student, he excelled in the McNair Scholarship Program, a national initiative “designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies.”

In addition to thriving academically at UW-Madison, Dirk was also an active member of the campus community. Together with a fellow Posse Scholar, he co-founded STEM Outreach, a mentoring program to serve minority students in the surrounding community.

“Starting that organization was one of my proudest moments,” Dirk says. “It was about identifying an issue and then trying to help solve that issue in the community.”

At Stanford, Dirk concentrates on plant science but is also interested in broader biological issues. Of particular interest is understanding the processes by which organisms use information from the environment to produce observable responses—such as the way plants respond to changes in seasons or stressful conditions.

Dirk hopes to become a professor at a research university where he can teach and contribute to the field of botany.

“Stanford is a great academic environment,” he says. “The number of seminars I’ve attended and the amount I’ve already learned in just two quarters is amazing. I’ve already found a supportive community.”

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