Meet Alicain Carlson!
In 2010, Alicain Carlson earned her M.S. in Horticultural Science at NC State, with research in specialty cut flower production and postharvest. She is currently a fifth-year doctoral student in Horticultural Science and expects to graduate in May 2014. But before she discovered NC State, Alicain's life took many interesting twists and turns!
Although she was born in Pennsylvania, Alicain says that she grew up everywhere. Her father spent 27 years in the US Army, so she experienced life in Germany, California, Oklahoma, New York, Maryland -- and finally, Virginia, where her father retired. When Alicain started applying to undergraduate programs, she wanted to become an architect. In high school, she had loved art, technical drawing, and interior design, so architecture seemed to be her natural choice. As fate would have it, however, she was never accepted into any of the architectural programs she picked. Instead, she chose to attend Virginia Tech as 'undecided' and took a variety of courses to explore her interests. Alicain got hooked on horticulture when she took a course in Indoor Plants.
Alicain says that she ". . . immediately fell in love with plants. I loved memorizing all the Latin names of plants and identifying them and learning how to grow them." Consequently, she took more horticulture and plant biology courses, and eventually, declared a major in biology with concentrations in plant sciences and horticulture. Alicain's favorite course, however, was in floral design. She also became a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the course. By the time she earned her undergraduate degree, she had ". . . realized my passion for flowers, science, and teaching and found the perfect balance of all three in my graduate program."
Now that she had found her career path, Alicain needed to find a graduate program that met her needs. She says that her decision to attend NC State was easy. Not only does NC State have one of the best horticulture programs in the country, but she found a research program that was an exact fit to her interests and passion.
Alicain says that as satisfying as it is to have discovered her passion, her most fulfilling part of her graduate studies is to see herself grow both professionally and personally. She believes that both the Horticulture Department and the Graduate School have tremendous resources that have contributed to her success. She has been the president of the Horticultural Science Graduate Student Association for three years, president of Pi Alpha Xi (the Horticulture Department's honor society), and she recently won a University Graduate Student Association Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. In addition, Alicain completed the Graduate School's Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching (CoAT) and Preparing the Professoriate programs. She is currently serving as a Preparing Future Leaders (PFL) Ambassador, as well as on the PFL Advisory Board.
Also, she said that NC State has been a challenging experience that has taught her to get a bit out of her comfort zone. Alicain says that can be uncomfortable –- but ultimately, it's when she learns the most! She believes that anyone who wants to get better at something needs to challenge themselves: "If something scared me that probably meant I should do it."
Alicain was an undergraduate student in April 2007 during the Virginia Tech shooting. She says that experience was traumatic, but it is also the source of her motivation: "Whenever life gets particularly challenging, I remember those students whose lives were taken way too soon and remain thankful that I still have mine. I live for those 32."
Taking on challenges also is part of Alicain's personal life. When she's not working with plants and doing research, she loves to run! She says that she never liked running, however, she found running to be " . . . a huge stress reliever for [her] and clears [her] mind, helps [her] think.' And last November, she finished her first half marathon! Other spare time is spent enjoying time with family and friends, as well as outdoors in the woods and in her garden.
Click here to view archived Graduate School stories.