PhD Spotlight: Patrick Thomas

By Alexis Smith |

We're closing out our annual Summer PhD Spotlight series with Dr. Patrick Thomas. Patrick has just completed his PhD in Plant Biology.

What did you get your degree in, and what are you doing now?

I received my PhD in Plant Biology and focused on understanding alfalfa’s resistance to whiteflies. A significant chunk of my dissertation also focused on alfalfa’s response to defense phytohormones. I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State where I am focused on functional genomics in the chocolate tree.

What are the top 2-3 things you did while at UCR that helped you finish your degree (and get a position in your field, if you have)? What was most helpful to you as a student here?

I think two of the most helpful things I did while at UCR were attending symposiums, networking with future colleagues my department presented to me, and working at GradSuccess. My interactions with CHASS graduate students gave me insights into their research, the idiosyncrasies of social science research, and the challenges those graduate students face. The networking kept me open to employment ideas, and my work at GradSuccess gave me a number of skills helpful to me in and out of the lab.

What did you like best about your graduate work? What did you like least?

I most enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of my research, which provided a new venue for me to work nearly daily (from insectary quarantine, to the greenhouse, or at home coding). I least enjoyed all of the moving parts that you have to juggle while doing interdisciplinary plant science research.

Is there anything you wish you had done, or regret doing/not doing, while you were a UCR graduate student?

I regret not being involved in more opportunities with students from other colleges earlier in my career. While I did it later, doing so earlier would’ve helped my friend base and gave me more perspective into the workings of the university.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position/post-graduate life?

Not having a dissertation hanging over my head every night (you would be surprised how liberating submitting is!).

What advice do you have for other graduate students at UCR about finishing their degrees, going on the job market, or life in general?

Network, network, network! It was told to me by a panelist for a workshop who was running for political office. When folks offer to help, you should accept because oftentimes they’ve been where you are and are offering to help to streamline your process. Folks wouldn’t offer their energy if they didn’t have it. I would also encourage you to write every night. Even if it is a figure legend, something is better than nothing and you need something to get the PhD.