Faculty 360 | Avat Shekoofa

Faculty 360 is an all-around look at a UT AgResearch faculty member. In this issue we feature Avat Shekoofa, assistant professor and crop physiologist in the Department of Plant Sciences. Dr. Shekoofa joined UTIA in October of 2016. Her research primarily focuses on water stress in row crops. Particular emphasis is given to identifying genetic traits that impart drought tolerance. Dr. Shekoofa received her PhD from Shiraz University, College of Agriculture in 2010. She conducted her postdoc research at North Carolina State University (2012-2016) on water stress in turfgrass and crop species. She is a native of Iran and enjoys sports of all kinds, but running is her number one.

A favorite part of my job is communicating with a diverse range of people, from the public to professional agricultural researchers/scientists. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity and I love that a lot. I call it “the fuel for my daily work engine.”

When I’m not working, I like to run! Aside from that, I love good reading, snapchatting, facebooking, and tweeting TEDTALKS!! Yep! I’m not one to give a cliché answer and claim that “when I am not working, I am READING a book …” I DO read my favorite books from time to time and, believe me, nothing can replace reading an actual paper book. But obviously, we cannot ignore the huge impact of technology/internet on our everyday communications. All the best magazines, journals, and books somehow are available to sneak in via one of the online apps. Also, if you–just as I do–have your family and best friends living all over the world, then you need to be good with all these apps that I mentioned earlier.

As a plant scientist, I’m a fan of learning more each day about my true passion in research—plant stress physiology, discussing new discoveries with other professionals, and of course sharing what I have learned with the people who certainly can use this information and make the best out of it. However, when we are talking about new knowledge, discovery, or new types of input specifically in the agriculture arena, we better consider “demonstration of efficacy by unbiased scientific trials is essential to cut uncertainty for growers and build trust in this new type of input.” -Dr. Larry Purcell.

A life experience that connected me with my career choice was having siblings who were extremely smart and well-educated who have had careers in academia, and seeing them doing research professionally made me feel more confident that I belong in academia. Doing research is what makes me feel valuable to my community. More importantly, having the most inspiring parents on the planet who encouraged me all the time to pursue what I am passionate about, although far away from home. Last but not least, having the best mentor in academia—Dr. Thomas Sinclair. I believe these are the main reasons I am here today.

In the overall field of plant sciences, I believe the most pressing issue is abiotic stresses. I think what we need the most is improving our understanding of different environments’ effects on crop yield production. Understanding the mechanisms of plant responses to multiple stresses (e.g., high temperature, heat, drought, and/or salinity) is therefore critical in providing opportunities to develop genotypes that can sustain growth and yield when subjected to stresses.

If you raided my bookshelf, you’d find a few American history and leadership books (mostly gifts). I normally don’t buy a paper book and if I do, I will go for the used ones. I don’t want to see more trees being chopped. I prefer audio books.

Something that excites me about being part of the UTIA community is the support of the folks (from the maintenance people to dean[s]) which I have received from the very first day I joined UTIA, or better say right after I was done with my job interview for my current position. This inspires me a lot and every day I am more excited about what I am doing and those with whom I am working.