Marin Talbot Brewer, assistant professor of plant pathology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, uses her research on fungi to solve problems affecting our foods, fibers and forests.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my doctorate in plant pathology and plant-microbe biology from Cornell University, my master’s in plant, soil and environmental sciences from the University of Maine, and my bachelor’s in biology from the University of Cincinnati. As an assistant professor at UGA, I teach two courses on fungi, conduct research on the diversity of fungi that cause plant diseases and train students in the lab.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to Athens in July of 2011. I was attracted to UGA because I would be encouraged to integrate my enthusiasm for fungi with research, teaching and service efforts. I appreciate that my research and teaching focuses on the biology of fungi, but that as part of a department of plant pathology I work to solve practical problems affecting agriculture in the state of Georgia.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite course is “Fungi: Friends and Foes” because it provides me the opportunity to introduce a large number of students to an amazing and bizarre group of organisms and the impact these organisms have made on civilization.
What interests you about your field?
Fungi are so amazing and diverse. They include species that provide us with life-saving pharmaceuticals such as penicillin and species that cause massive extinctions, such as the amphibian-killing chytrid and the fungus that causes chestnut blight. Being able to study the emergence and diversity of fungi that cause plant diseases is fascinating, especially because I get to solve real problems affecting our foods, fibers and forests.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Seeing my students win awards and receive recognition for their hard work and achievements.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I am constantly learning new information, both through my teaching and research, about fungal diversity and how fungi interact with plants. I communicate new research findings through my teaching and get new ideas for my research when I teach the latest discoveries about fungi. I integrate research and teaching by conducting fungal diversity research projects within my upper-level course on fungi, “Mycology.”
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
An appreciation for fungi and an understanding that science is not static, but can change as we acquire new knowledge.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal student is enthusiastic, inquisitive, sincere and independent.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
One of my favorite things to do on campus is to foray for fungi—even if it results in me receiving weird looks from other members of the UGA community. I find fungi all across campus, but most often in the mulch.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I enjoy hiking, camping and spending time outdoors in nature with my family.
Community/civic involvement includes….
Introducing children, families and lifelong learners to fungi through outreach programs at state parks, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia and elsewhere.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
There are so many books that I have enjoyed reading that it’s difficult to pick one. I recently finished “Lab Girl,” a memoir by Hope Jahren that is a beautifully written book about plants and the early career of an academic research scientist. It is very entertaining and highly recommended for anyone interested in someday running a research lab.
Proudest moment at UGA?
Attending Commencement, where I get to see my students graduate.
(Originally published Oct. 16, 2016)