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Student Outreach

ARS is committed to supporting scientists throughout their careers. As part of that effort, we collaborate with partners like the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) to help early-career scientists learn firsthand about the opportunities for research and professional growth that ARS and the federal government offer.

Sarah Kezar and Steven Kappes, ARS Associate Administrator, Office of National Programs.

This year, as part of the WSSA’s Travel Enrichment Experience program, ARS hosted WSSA’s 2022 Scholar, Sarah Kezar, at our headquarters in Beltsville, MD, just outside Washington, D.C. Kezar is a PhD Student at Texas A&M, where she focuses on drought tolerance; global climate change; plant reproductivity; agronomic production practices; animal husbandry; and agriculture policy and regulation. She chose to visit the ARS Office of National Programs and Dr. Steve Young, who was her host, to learn about weed science research, policy and programmatic operations both within ARS and through the many partnerships it has with other federal departments that are addressing weeds and invasive plants.

Sarah Kezar and Steve Young, her host, who heads the ARS program on Weeds and Invasive Pests.

Kezar’s week-long visit included meetings with senior leaders from all ARS program areas, researchers from the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lab and Adaptive Cropping Systems Lab, and representatives of USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL), Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). She also met leaders from agencies with overlapping mission areas, like the Department of Defense, and EPA; inter-agency groups like the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) and partner organizations like the Society for Range Management (SRM), Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), CropLife America, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Sarah Kezar and LaKisha Odom, Scientific Program Director, Foundation for Food and Agricultura Research FFAR.

Sarah Kezar and Mat Ngouajio, National Program Leader, National Institute of Food and Agriculture NIFA.

Among the highlights of her visit was “walking the fields and greenhouses with scientists while sharing our thoughts about ongoing agronomic research and theories and collaborations that could merit impactful future research,” said Kezar. Ultimately, she said, the visit left her inspired about what’s possible in a career as a scientist in the federal government. “As graduate students, oftentimes there is little understanding about what federal careers have to offer, let alone where a student can find a ‘fit.’ I’ve been apprehensive about the upcoming job search, but after this visit, I feel like many doors have been open that I did not even know existed.”