Jennifer Noble: PhD Candidate

Jennifer Noble is a PhD candidate living in Tucson, Arizona. She studies plant biology to help equip us with techniques to ensure food security in the future. 

What do you do?

I study flowering plant reproduction and use it as a model to study intercellular communication between the male gametes and the female gametes. Like animals, flowering plants have sperm cells that need to fertilize egg cells, and cell to cell communication between the male and female components are essential for successful seed production. Specifically I use molecular genetic approaches and different kinds of microscopy to understand how these processes occur.

women scientist using microscope

Why is your scientific work important?

Over 80% of the food that we eat comes from seeds! Imagine what the world would be like if we did not have seeds. We would not have many of the foods we consume but we would also not have many of our textiles or animal feed. As the climate continues to change and the global population increases, we are going to see an increase in demand for food. By studying plant reproduction, we can better understand fertilization and how seeds are made, and apply our knowledge towards food security in the future.

What's the coolest thing about being a researcher? 

The coolest thing I have experienced so far is the feeling you get when you discover something brand new that no one else in the world knows about except for you, and then sharing that with other people and seeing the reactions on their faces. It is so exciting when the scientific method that you learned about in school actually happens. You spend time carefully planning experiments, make a new discovery and then after collecting and analyzing data, share it with the world. It is an exciting feeling, and an amazing experience.

What's your favorite STEM fact?

Unlike animals, flowering plants have immotile sperm cells and rely on a structure called a pollen tube to carry the sperm cells to the female gamete for fertilization to occur. The pollen tube is just a single cell, and is one of the fastest growing plant cells. Depending on the species, single-cell pollen tubes can grow several inches in less than two days!

What do you wish others knew about you?

As a first generation Mexican American woman and the first in my family to pursue a degree in science, I struggled to find role models until I became a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences.

What is a misconception about STEM?

The biggest misconception about my field is that each scientist is on their own island, or lives in their own bubble. We are not alone and we must communicate with each other about our science. I have had some great opportunities to share my experiences and my research by attending different conferences. This year I am going to Hawaii to present my research, and next year I will be going to Japan!

Thanks for your contributions to biology! If you’d like to nominate a STEM friend (or yourself), fill out the AweSTEM people form. You’ll also receive jewelry from Circuit Breaker Labs.