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Community Building and Outreach Committee

The PRL Community Building and Outreach Committee (CBOC), formed in Fall 2021, is dedicated to engaging the community in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) efforts within the College of Natural Science, MSU, and beyond. We endeavor to bring opportunities to all by seeking volunteer opportunities within the greater Michigan area and bringing plant science to diverse communities. 

Vision Statement 

We foresee CBOC to be a committee of rotating members, participating in pre-existing programs and working to build new ones. We plan to bring PRL research to underrepresented communities in STEM, with the goal of inspiring new generations of plant scientists. We will work with current and future members of the PRL community to create a space where all can feel welcome to advance their research and share their ideas. We aim to build a space where people of all backgrounds can thrive. 

In the News

More news:


Objective 1: Recruit and provide support for scientists from diverse backgrounds. We aim to create a friendly, nurturing, and inclusive environment that fosters creative discovery, collaboration, and scientific excellence. 


  • Increase visibility of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers through news articles, videos, and social media posts. 
  • Started the PRL Introductory Seminars, where new members of the community can introduce themselves and their work, including grad students rotating through PRL labs. These seminars have so far been met with enthusiasm and have been handed off to Research Assistant Professor Stefan Schmollinger. 
  • Take yearly demographics data to track where we are succeeding and failing to recruit people from diverse backgrounds. 

Objective 2: Bring PRL science to the MSU and wider Michigan communities. Specifically, we aim to give opportunities to underrepresented communities within STEM. 


  • Volunteer at campus-wide events such as the MSU Science Festival and the Graduate Women in Science Girls Math and Science Day. We set up interactive booths to demonstrate our plant and environmental science research to hopeful future scientists. 
  • Volunteer with educational programs to bring plant science programs to Detroit classrooms, including the MSU Detroit Early Honors Experience. 

Objective 3: Engage the PRL community within itself. After the lockdown and work from home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic, we strive to rebuild a sense of belonging. 


  • Organize departmental events to foster an environment that promotes the trust necessary for open and honest scientific and professional discussion. By increasing opportunities for the community to engage with one another, we can increase a sense of belonging within the department. These events include:
    • PRL Introductory Seminars
    • Potluck Lunches
    • Wellness Wednesdays
  • Present our work at the annual PRL retreat to recruit members to the committee and volunteers for individual outreach events. 


  • Kara Headley. Communications Manager. 2022-present
  • Mohammad Mostofa. Fixed Term Assistant Professor, Sharkey lab. 2023-present
  • Luke Sharpe. Graduate student, Ducat and Walker labs. 2024-present
  • Stefan Schmollinger. Fixed Term Research Assistant Professor, Strenkert lab. 2024-present
  • Damien Sheppard, Co-Chair. Research Assistant, Kerfeld lab. 2022-present 
  • Sarah Stainbrook, Co-Chair. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Strenkert lab. 2023-present 
  • Emily Stringham. Research Technologist, Walker lab. 2024-present
  • Mitchell Ticoras. Graduate student, Ducat and Walker labs. 2024-present
  • Yuan Xu. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Sharkey lab. 2024-present
  • Neetu Yadav. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Vermaas lab. 2023-present 

Past Members 

  • Liana Acevedo-Siaca, Social Chair. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Kramer lab. 2022-2023
  • Jinjie Liu, Co-Chair. Fixed Term Assistant Professor, Benning lab. 2022-2023 
  • Daipayan Sarkar. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Vermaas lab. 2022-2023 
  • Deserah Strand, Co-Chair. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Walker lab. 2022-2023 
  • Sarathi Weraduwage, Founder. Research Assistant Professor, Sharkey lab. 2021 
  • Amber Wise. Executive Assistant, Brandizzi lab. 2023

Read the PRL's Code of Ethics.

Contact CBOC

We are always looking for new members to join the committee. Please email us at the following and let us know how if you want to get involved.


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