Mauricio Tejera Nieves
I’m a plant lover. I live in Lansing, MI, with my 25+ plants, and work as plant researcher at the University. I love running outdoors and seeing new places as I go.
I study how plants age and how they respond to the environment. I measure plant photosynthesis under very different conditions.
I am interested in how plants adjust growth and photosynthesis to the different environmental conditions. I focus on the the effects of drought. To do this we place large shelters in the field, that block the rain, and compare plants inside and outside the shelters.
My Typical Day:
My days are very different depending on what I need to do for my research. Sometimes I get up very early and go to the field, others I measure plants in the greenhouse or do work in the lab, and others I work from home with my computer, making sense of the data I’ve collected. Regardless of the activity, all my days start with Peanut butter and Jelly 🙂
I am done with work around 5:30pm. I usually go for a run, talk with friends and family, and do some crafts before it’s dinner time.
My days are pretty different during the year, but they all have two things in common; PB&J for breakfast and plants! During the summer months I go to the field almost every day and measure my field experiments. Despite waking up super early, I really enjoy these days. Then, late fall through early spring, when it’s too cold for plants to grow outside, I run experiments in the greenhouse and the lab. Usually during winter, I take time to process data, look at my results and reflect on what I’ve learnt from my experiments.
What I'd do with the prize money:
I would organize an event with local running groups to discuss how runner’s strategies to deal with fatigue are very similar to how plants deal with stress. Believe or not, plants and runners have very similar strategies, and we could learn a lot from plants 🙂
I’m a very interested in bringing plant functioning closer to people. I feel plants are rather overlook and are just considered part of the landscape. If I win the prize money, I will organize an event with local running groups, to showcase the similarities between runners dealing with fatigue and plants dealing with stress.
Probably each runner has it own strategy to deal with fatigue while s/he is running. After talking with several fellow runners, I come to realize all those strategies are well represented in the plant kingdom. For example, some runners try to outrun fatigue, by finishing the race before they feel tired, others power through the pain. Similarly, some plants complete their growth cycle before the winter month (think of an annual crop, such as wheat or corn), while other withstand the winter months (think of evergreen trees, such as pine trees).
I think it would be a great opportunity to help people emphasize with plants at a deeper level, and make connections that they did not thought they had.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Optimistic, detail-oriented, funny
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Help students graduate and be accepted at grad school programs
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My mom shared her love for plants with me; she tought me to respect them and to observe them.
What was your favorite subject at school?
The break, just kidding :) I loved biology.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I think I was pretty set on being a Scientist
Were you ever in trouble at school?
We used to play soccer during breaks, teachers didn't like how tired we were afterwards :)
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would run my own ice cream shop.
Who is your favorite singer or band?
What's your favorite food?
Eggplant Parm :P