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A Conversation with Dr. April Agee Carroll: Celebrating 20 Years of Beckman Scholars

Then: 1999 Beckman Scholars Program Award Recipient, California State University, Fullerton

Now: Vice President of Research and Development for AeroFarms®

AMBF: Prior to college, were you curious about a career in science?

AC: I always enjoyed science and had a natural curiosity, but never considered a career in research until the Beckman Scholars program. I never expected to find my calling in conducting research, but as soon as I joined a lab and became a part of the research community, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in science.

April Agee Carroll med-res.jpg

AMBF: What exposure did you have to knowing what research in a laboratory would be like?

AC: I never knew about lab research and was a little bit intimidated by it. I never would've sought an undergraduate research position if it weren't for the Beckman Scholars Program.

AMBF: When you heard about the Beckman Scholar opportunity, what inspired you to apply?

AC: Initially I was inspired to apply by excellent professors who were mentors in the Beckman and MARC Scholars program at my school. I was pre-med, and they encouraged me to conduct lab research to help me realize my ambitions at the time, which was to be accepted into a strong medical school program.

AMBF: What was your research focused on? What were the results?

AC: My mentors helped me to see the value of learning the basics of biology, and also of the fit with a mentor. Although I initially was disappointed that I couldn't do work on applied human health topics, I chose to work on cell and molecular biology of environmental stress in plants as an opportunity to increase my skills in the fundamentals of biology. The result was that although I had no previous interest in plant science, in a few short years I changed my career plans and pursued a PhD in Plant Biology.

AMBF: What was the most memorable part about working with your mentor or working in the laboratory?

AC: I remember the camaraderie of working in the lab with other students who were motivated to learn science and succeed. Journal clubs, speaking opportunities, and poster presentations at conferences were great learning experiences. I will never forget one mentor's mantra to students travelling to the American Society of Cell Biology meeting, "I am a cell biologist... {repeat}... I am a cell biologist". I use this advice still when working with students and mentees.

AMBF: How did the experience change your thinking about science and conducting research?

AC: Conducting independent research and presenting at conferences gave me the confidence I was lacking, to see myself as a scientist and to realize that I could go as far as I wanted to in my career.

AMBF: Where did you go after graduation and where are you now?

AC: I went to graduate school, earned my PhD in Plant Science from UC Riverside under Distinguished Professor and Director of the UCR Center for Plant Cell Biology, Natasha Raikhel. After positions in industry and academia over the last ten years, I'm now Vice President of Research and Development for AeroFarms®, where we use novel technology and plant biology to grow plants indoors in the heart of cities.

AMBF: What effect did the Beckman Scholar experience have on your career?

AC: The Beckman Scholar experience was the single biggest influencer in my career to date. I would not be where I am without the program and the mentors who helped me through.

AMBF: Do you have any advice for undergraduates considering a research career?

AC: Don't be afraid to ask for advice, and have confidence to try new things.

AMBF: Any final thoughts?

AC: I'm eternally grateful to the Beckman Scholar program for giving me the start I needed in my career. It's a truly impactful opportunity to guide promising young students toward careers in research when they might not have other opportunities to get there.