two young women, emily taylor and jordan ferguson, stand next to each other in a soil and water sciences laboratory.

Women in Ag: Emily Taylor and Jordan Ferguson

By Teresa Suits, agricultural education and communication master’s student (BS ’17)

During Women’s History Month, the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) will be sharing stories of how graduate students support undergraduate students in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.  

Graduate student, Emily Taylor, and undergraduate student, Jordan “Hallie” Ferguson, are currently researching urban water quality. They have learned just as much from each other as they have through their combined research.

Working with undergraduates provides graduate students like Taylor an opportunity to see science come to life in a different and unique perspective. Taylor enjoys her teaching assistant position, as she is gaining classroom experience, but finds great enjoyment in working with Ferguson one-on-one because it allows for a direct, personal relationship. Taylor says these experiences have helped her grow as an educator.

two young women, emily taylor and jordan ferguson, stand next to each other in a soil and water sciences laboratory.“By teaching something you learn it better, so it will help me grow as a scientist and strengthen my research,” Taylor said.

Working with graduate students provides undergraduates with lab and field skills essential to individual career development. Most importantly, these partnerships afford undergraduates an opportunity to form professional relationships and network with peers, a critical component to career success.

Through sharing experiences in the lab as well as obstacles faced as a woman in science, Taylor has built a support system for Ferguson where she can ask Taylor questions ranging from technical skills to social dynamics in the scientific world.

“A lot of harder sciences tend to be male-dominated, and it’s really difficult to feel comfortable as the only woman on a team,” Ferguson said. Through her mentor’s coaching, Ferguson has learned tips on how to successfully navigate her undergraduage program, graduate school and her future career as a female scientist.

Through this mentorship pairing, Ferguson solidified her career goals by learning the many career opportunities for soil and water science students. Before this mentorship, Ferguson was unsure of what she wanted to do with her degree. Ferguson realized that soil and water sciences combines two of Ferguson’s passions during their research: lab work and field work. “It allows for a wide variety of interests,” Ferguson said.

“As an older scientist, it is really important to mentor the younger generation,” Taylor said. “In order to honor the person who taught me, it is my duty to teach the people coming after me, and I want to do it in a way that would make my mentor proud.”

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