Kayla is a student in the Department of Crop Sciences, and a member of the Crop Sciences Student Ambassador Program. Read more about Kayla in the Q&A below.

Kayla Vittore

Crop Sciences: Can you share your name and a little bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Kayla Vittore. I’m a junior in the new Plant Biotechnology major in the Crop Sciences Department, and proud parent of nine little houseplants! Originally, I’m from the Rockford area, up in northwest Illinois. On campus I work part-time in a plant pathology research lab, and for a short time I also worked for the university’s Plant Pathology Clinic.

Crop Sciences: Why did you pick the Department of Crop Sciences as your program of study?

When I was in high school I really enjoyed biology, especially units about cells and genetics. People told me that I should consider medical school or nursing school, but human physiology never held my attention the same way bacteria or plants could. Then one day, I stumbled upon information about the Crop Sciences department at UIUC. My parents drove me down to attend a tour, and I fell in love! Finally, I saw the opportunity to study the parts of biology that really sparked my curiosity. Studying the complexities of plants and the microbes interacting with them is a fascinating world I want to explore forever, and in the Department of Crop Sciences that’s exactly what people are doing!

Crop Sciences: What is your favorite part of being a student in Crop Sciences?

I love that Crop Sciences allows me to experience the close community of a small school simultaneously with the excitement of the UIUC large campus environment. Over the semesters you start to recognize other people from your major in your classes, which makes it easier to meet and keep in touch with classmates. Also, the professors are more willing to form a relationship with students and provide assistance, since the student-to-professor ratio is more balanced than in other departments. Yet being at UIUC, there’s still the opportunities to explore RSO’s, social events, or fun classes, something you can only experience at large universities. To me, being in Crop Sciences at UIUC means living in the best of both worlds.

Crop Sciences: What do you do outside of the classroom for fun or professional development?

Outside of classes I like to go for nature walks or read. Most recently I read a great auto-biography called Lab Girl, which I highly recommend for any female students considering entering science or research! I’m also part of the James Scholars Communications and Activities Team, where I co-host the James Scholars Treehouse podcast interviewing different people in the ACES college community. As a part-time research intern I also spend plenty of time in the laboratory and greenhouses, tending to experimental plants or assisting graduate students with their projects.

Crop Sciences: What do you hope to do after you graduate?

My current plan is to pursue graduate school in a plant sciences department. A dream job would be contributing to a research team as a postdoctoral research associate or something similar. Whether that would be in an industry, academic, or governmental research group is something I’m still exploring. Afterall, it’s not a journey without some uncertainty!

Crop Sciences: What is one thing that you want people to know about Crop Sciences, the College of ACES, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?

The culture in the College of ACES, and especially in Crop Sciences, has always been one of immense support and collaboration. Faculty routinely interact together or collaborate on projects both for research and improving their department. For students, there are countless resources to assist with the challenges of undergraduate studies. The career center, peer tutoring program, lab intern opportunities, counseling services, and faculty/staff mentoring are all resources that I have utilized and am glad I did. I always feel fortunate to have such an encouraging community to assist me on my academic journey. That’s actually why I became a Crop Sciences Ambassador – I want to give back to the department that has done so much for me, and maybe pass that kindness on to the next generation of students as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Undergraduate Programs in Crop Sciences, you can email ugrad@cropsciences.illinois.edu. If you’re interested in scheduling a time to talk with a Crop Sciences representative, sign up here.