UMD chemistry graduate student, Mady Larson, is researching drought-tolerant plants.
A mix of blue and red light spills from a small, otherwise dark room in the Heikkila Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science (HCAMS) building on the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) campus. Inside, colored lights hang above small petri dishes containing sections of sorghum bicolor, a drought-tolerant plant that’s closely related to corn.
Mady Larson, a first-year chemistry master’s student at UMD, is researching what causes the plant to produce a waxy coating that makes it more tolerant to drought. The ultimate goal, Larson says, is to transfer those traits into agricultural crops to reduce the amount of water needed for irrigation.
Larson began doing research during his sophomore year as a chemistry and biochemistry undergraduate student at UMD, an experience that he said solidified his career path and helped him earn scholarships to continue his education.
While transferring sorghum bicolor’s drought-tolerant traits is still a ways off, Larson recognizes the potential of his project.
“Getting the opportunity to make true discoveries and uncover information that has not been known before has been a really unique feeling and has brought me more satisfaction than anything I’ve ever done,” Larson said.
Larson’s research experience at UMD, he said, “really transformed my confidence as a scientist.”
After completing the Master of Science degree in chemistry at UMD, he hopes to pursue a Ph.D. and someday run a lab of his own, continuing to work on climate-related research.