Lisa Knolhoff works for the Biotechnology Risk Analysis Program of the APHIS at the USDA. APHIS is the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and their mission is to protect the health of US agriculture and natural resources of the country from invasive pests and diseases. The program Lisa works for is responsible for preparing protocols, risk assessments, environmental impact reports and provide guidance for researchers to make sure they are aware of regulations.
Lisa definitely did not know she was going to work here, but her education journey certainly prepared her for the responsibilities that her job at APHIS entails. She credits her first research experience as what inspired her to pursue a career in STEM. She received a scholarship to conduct research as an undergrad at Truman State University. There she studied the underwater respiration abilities of ticks. After graduating, she got her PhD at the University of Illinois where her research focused on corn rootworm. Afterward she had the opportunity to do her post doc in Germany!
When Lisa entered the workforce, she started off in industry and worked at Dupont Pioneer. Industry life was fast paced and she had the opportunity to work on many projects. Within the last two years, she left Dupont and started her current job at APHIS. Government work was different as it leaned away from research, but because of her expertise as a researcher, she is able to work with USDA scientists and guide them in their projects. At the USDA, she has the opportunity to solve problems that impact agriculture nationwide. She believes that both industry and government work provided exciting projects and teamwork, and she thoroughly enjoyed working in each.
When asked to give advice to students, she encouraged us to make sure we like what we are working on and that we work in a good environment. She also emphasizes honing our writing skills as it is a valuable skill that you will need anywhere you work. As for grad school, she advises students to gain teaching experience as a TA because you can get paid while you improve your communication skills. It is very important for a scientist to be able to communicate their subject effectively to people who don't have the same background knowledge. She also suggests that we talk to faculty and ask advice based on their experience.
Authors: Joyce Silva, Julia Zavala