Elizabeth McCarthy ’06 has been fascinated with plants since she was a child on walks in the woods with her parents. When she started at Smith as a STRIDE scholar, she was excited to delve into research with plants under the mentorship of Carolyn Wetzel in the Biological Sciences Department. She also gained a mentor in Bob Merritt in the Biological Sciences Department through working with him in the Smith Summer Science and Engineering Program.
He encouraged her to apply for the Kew Internship through the Botanic Garden of Smith College, which set the trajectory of her career. It was here that she fell in love with Nicotiana (tobacco) and where she decided that a career in research was for her. She has been working with Nicotiana (nearly) ever since!
After graduating from Smith, she went back to London to do her PhD joint with Queen Mary University of London, Kew Gardens, and the Natural History Museum, examining flower evolution in Nicotiana. She took a hiatus from Nicotiana during her first postdoc at the New York Botanical Garden, but went back to it in her second postdoc at the University of California, Riverside. She continues to ask questions about flower evolution in Nicotiana as an Assistant Professor at the State University of New York, Cortland, where she also aims to inspire students to love plants. Elizabeth is very excited to be a member of the Botanic Garden of Smith College Friends Leadership Council and is inspired by the vision of the future that they are pursuing.