The concept of a botanical garden—a garden with an underlying scientific basis—has its roots in research. Early collections of plants were largely compiled for their use as a source of medicine. The roles of botanic gardens have expanded over the centuries, yet research remains an important component.

The first director of the Smith College Botanic Garden, William Ganong, was a leader in plant research in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He clearly established the utility of research as a teaching tool, and for expanding botanical knowlege. Through the decades the Botanic Garden at Smith College has performed important research, most recently with a focus on student engagement.

The Lyman Conservatory collection is available to researchers domestically and internationally. The collection has supplied plant material to those working on cures for cancer and AIDS, researchers doing broad-scale screening of plants for new pharmaceuticals, and geneticists seeking to unravel the patterns of evolution in plants.

Historical Research

Beginning with the hiring of William Francis Ganong in 1894 as Professor of Botany and Director of the Botanic Garden, Smith College was in the forefront of botanical research and education.
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Student Research

Smith College student have to opportunity to engage in botanical/horticultural research projects through Smith's STRIDE program, summer internships, academic year internships. and a variety of classes that use the Botanic Garden as a living laboratory.
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Student collecting samples from Welwitschia plant

The diverse resources of the Botanic Garden brought me into contact with botanists and biologists at universities around the world. Email back and forth on protocols, setbacks, and successes allowed me to glimpse the world of research.  . . . More importantly, I was able to assist research studying the evolutionary history of living organisms. With my appetite whetted, I look forward to the experiences I will gain during my education at Smith College. 


Kalani Williams, Smith Class of 2018