The overarching goal of the NSF RCN project is to change the culture of plant sciences so that barriers that preclude inclusion and a sense of belonging are identified and eliminated. One of our strategies is to build alliances with organizations that support early career scientists with marginalized identities, e.g., SACNAS and MANRRS

Toward this end, the ROOT & SHOOT grant includes funds for a limited number of travel awards that are specifically designated for student/mentor pairs in which at least one is a member of SACNAS or MANRRS. The awards provide funds for the pair to attend one of the plant science conferences represented by the ROOT & SHOOT RCN.

This year we were able to award funds for seventeen mentor/mentee pairs to attend one of five plant science conferences, as listed below.

Congratulations to the 2024 MANRRS/SACNAS Travel Award recipients!

Maize Genetics Meeting: Feb. 29 – March 3, 2024  || Raleigh, NC

  • Ty Cryan & Susana Wadgymar
  • Rafaela Graciano & Mariana Vianna
  • Sinead Cahill & Andrea Sama

Botany 2024: June 15-19, 2024 || Grand Rapids, MI

  • Rachel Havok & Kathryn Turner
  • Malu Ore Rengifo & Lucas Majure
  • Hashel Orquiz & Michael Moody

Plant Biology 2024: June 22-25, 2024 || Honolulu, HI

  • Evan Sandoval & Alisa Huffaker
  • Maryam Rashidzade & Ana L. Caicedo
  • Audrey Harvey & Erika LaPlante
  • Guillian Hernandez Casanova & Courtney Leisner
  • Andrea Ramirez & Jose Dinneny

The International Conference on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR2024): July 15-19, 2024 || San Diego, CA

  • Jade Lyons & Anna Stepanova
  • Mya Mackowski & Miguel Angel Rosas
  • Gabriela Salazar Doriano & Dawn Nagel
  • Samantha Cordingley & Dawn Nagel

Plant Health 2024: July 27-31, 2024 || Memphis, TN

  • Kaitlin Diggins & Sarah Pethybridge
  • Inty Omar Hernandez de Lire & Vagner Augusto Benedito

We will offer these travel awards again later in 2024 for the 2025 conference season.


The selection process

We received 51 outstanding applications, and were able to fund 17. We awarded 5 for Plant Biology, 3 for Botany, 3 for the Maize Meeting, 2 for Plant Health, and 4 for ICAR. 

We used the same evaluation process and selection criteria as last year, with the addition of a question on applicant’s engagement and involvement with MANRRS and/or SACNAS. Applicants who were more engaged with these organizations typically scored higher. 

Each application was read by at least three of the four members of the selection committee and the essays were numerically ranked using a predefined metric. Each evaluator ranked the applicants by score and the rankings combined. We collectively discussed these highest ranking applicants until we were satisfied with the selected candidates. It was a difficult decision, and we wished that we were able to award more applicants!

The applicants

Of the 51 applications received, 34 had an applicant affiliated with SACNAS, 10 with MANRRS, and 5 affiliated with each organization (two were disqualified due to no involvement with those societies). The higher number of applicants coming from SACNAS members might arise due to the close timing of the SACNAS conference (at which ROOT & SHOOT provided information about the travel awards) and the travel award application period. We will renew our efforts to engage more effectively with students affiliated with MANRRS in March at the annual conference. 

In the applicant pool, the mentors were mainly faculty members (33) with 2 postdocs, 11 PhD students, and 5 in other roles. In the selected pool, there were 13 faculty mentors, and 4 PhD student mentors. As noted previously, in the applicant pool more people identified as white (40%) in the mentor group than in the student group (12%) and more students identified as women (72%) than in the mentor group (60%). 

The applications came from R1 institutions [41 total, 10 minority-serving institutions (MSIs)], with the remainder being international, R2, and PUIs. Fourteen of the selected awardees were at R1 institutions, four of which are MSIs. Institutional data were not a factor in the selection process, but we were somewhat encouraged to see MSIs represented in the accepted pool, as none were in the 2023 successful applicant pool. 


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