Rebecca Shay is a PhD student at Michigan State University and is originally from Grand Haven, Michigan. She is currently working in the lab of Dr. Frances Trail. Her primary project focuses on understanding early infection responses of Fusarium graminearum in barley. Specifically, one of her projects looks at a natural defense response in barley trichomes where the barley produces a burst of cellulose and lignin in response to fungal penetration, and she has found a locus in the barley that’s significant in this response and can be used in future plant breeding efforts to help protect plants against Fusarium Head Blight.

What awards have you received during your graduate career?

I’m thankful MSU has such a strong mycology interest, and I’ve been fortunate enough to receive both the A.L. Rogers Fellowship and the Beneke Fellowship which are both mycology-specific! 

What are your career goals?

I’d like to work in industry when I’m done my PhD. I love being able to work in a lab and industry has real-world applications that definitely helps motivate me. 

What is your favorite fungus and why?

I love puffballs. They’re so much fun to puff, and such a good introduction for the public to mushrooms and mycology since they’re easy to identify and entertaining for all ages! 

What is your favorite thing about fungi?

I just love the diversity of fungi, and it’s always fun to talk to non-mycologists about how strange fungi are as a group of organisms. I do a lot of outreach, and it’s always fun to talk about how fungi are more closely related to animals than  plants, and show the vast diversity in morphologies of fungi. 

Who is your mycology role model?

Ruth Allen is one of my role models. She did her PhD at my alma mater (UW-Madison) and was a pioneer for women in botany and plant pathology.

What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?

I like to hike, bake, knit, and watch TV. I also spend a lot of time making silly hats for my cat Peanut to wear because he tolerates them and is adorably goofy. 

Anything else we should know about you?

Outreach is a great way to make the public less intimidated by scientists! It’s often easy to get involved with already established groups, and mycology is always a good thing to talk about! If you need inspiration, the Student Section has some resources (!