STEAM Interview with Professor Duvall from NIU!

Aug 26, 2020 | Kids, News, STEAM Adventures

Do you know what a botanist does? This week, The Children’s Department is delighted to welcome Dr. Duvall from NIU’s Biology Department, so keep reading to find out more about what a botanist studies, and get some reading ideas to enhance your own studies!

What is your name? 

M. R. Duvall 

What is your job title and where do you work? 

Professor of Botany, Northern Illinois University 

What do you do for a living? 

I study plants in grasslands. A lot of my work is based on the DNA from these plants. 

If someone is interested in your line of work, what should they do to achieve their desired outcome? Is there a certain field of study or certain experiences that they should strive for? 

Study botany! Overcome your “plant blindness.” Visit nature preserves. 

Note from Miss Julie: If you are interested in ebooks about grasslands or the animals that live there, that you can access them immediately by going to Hoopla.

If you are interested in plants in general, again, Hoopla has many books to choose from.

As always, feel free to visit our non-fictions sections in the library where you can also find books on grasslands and plants!

With regards to your work, what is the most amazing or exciting thing you have ever discovered, learned, or created? 

My Ph.D. student, Phyllis, and I recently discovered that we can study the DNA of endangered grasses without harming living plants or tromping through fragile ecosystems. Phyllis used dried leaves from pressed plants in our “herbarim” (a type of plant museum) to get DNA for her study. 

What are your hobbies? Do you like comic books, manga, music, scifi? Sewing or art? Tell us what you like! 

I’m an avid gardener and love to visit botanical gardens and arboreta. I enjoy reading scifi. 

A picture from Dr. Duvall’s garden.

Tell us something fun about yourself! A silly story, a fun thing you have done, or something you are proud of… what would you like the children and families of DeKalb to know? 

Besides grasslands I also study wetlands. Recently I went to a Nature Preserve in northern Illinois where there was a fen. A “fen” is a special type of wetland. Walking there is difficult, and while I was there I got stuck! I took a step on what I thought was solid ground and went up to my knee in muck. I could not get out by myself, and had to have someone pull me out. I almost had to leave my boot behind in the mud, but I finally worked it free. The moral of this story is: never go walking alone in a fen! However, seeing all the special fen plants made the whole experience worthwhile. 

Do you have a favorite section in the library to read or find books? What is your favorite memory of time spent in the library? 

I regularly visit the mystery and scifi sections. 

Please list your favorite book (or books!) from when you were a child. Why did you love this book so much?

The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton.  I enjoyed the fantasy elements in the book, the growing sense of danger and suspense throughout the book, and the architectural descriptions of parts of their home, which my imagination pieced together into a complete house! 

What genre do you like to read now that you are an adult? Do you have a favorite author? 

I still like SciFi, but also read many mysteries and some fantasy. 

If families wanted to see the work that you have done or read a book or research paper that you have written, where would they go to view your work?   

NIU has a digital repository of faculty/staff research papers called “Huskie Commons.” Some of my technical papers can be found here

Thank you, Dr. Duvall, for taking the time to share your work with us!

Don’t forget to click on the links above to have access to all kinds of books about plants and grasslands. If you need to sign up for Hoopla, all you need is a library card, and you can sign up here for this wonderful free service.

The Diamond In the Window is not owned by the DeKalb Public Library, but we would be happy to get it for you through Interlibrary Loan!



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