Dr. Anne-Sophie Bohrer, on building community at MSU and beyond.

Photo credit: James Santiago

Dr. Anne-Sophie Bohrer, on building community at MSU and beyond.

Interview by Katie Yoest, PhD

Katie Yoest Tell us about your background and what led you to become a postdoc at Michigan State University.

Anne-Sophie Bohrer – I am originally from France – I studied biology and biochemistry as an undergrad and found my passion for plant biology my first year of college. I specialized in plant biology research for my master and eventually went on to do a PhD in plant biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay. I graduated in December 2012 and shortly after, my PhD advisor sent me a postdoc job opening at MSU she was really excited about – it turns out that I had all the technical skills they were looking for, so I applied and was hired to start in August 2013. The timing was so surreal! Although the offer was initially for 3 years, my PI, Dr. Takahashi, told me after only a few months that he could keep me an extra year on my initial project. In 2017, I switched project and started working for the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at MSU, staying in the same lab. I have worked for the GLBRC since.

In addition to my research, I have done a lot of volunteer work for the MSU postdoc association, I organized outreach events for Fascination of Plants Day, and I have been working with the Postdoc Academy team since January 2020.

How has your experience as a postdoc here been so far?

Very different than what I expected initially! I thought I would go back to France to become a faculty after my 3 years of postdoc. It’s been 8 years, and I am still here!

Joke aside, my experience has been life changing. When I decided to stay in the US, I rapidly knew I would not pursue a faculty career and I had to figure out what I wanted to do, but also what types of job I could do. My PI has been incredibly supportive of my career exploration, which allowed me to find my true purpose, and I am so grateful for that.

You’ve been actively involved with the PDA in many roles – what made you get involved and how has your participation in the PDA impacted your experience at MSU?

I was feeling isolated in my lab since I was the only postdoc and there were no grad students at the time I joined. I wanted to meet new people so a friend of mine recommended I join the PDA. I first became co-chair of the social committee in 2016 – I figured I wasn’t the only one needing to connect with other postdocs, so it was nice to organize events for people to mingle outside the lab! From there, I realized there was so much that could be (and needed to be) done for the postdoc community at MSU. I was co-chair of the PDA for 3 years and during that time, we lead the campaign for the creation of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. When the Provost announced the creation of the office, it was such an amazing feeling that I realized how much I loved being of service to this community and help postdocs navigate this time in their careers, which is not always easy.

What is your long-term career plan?

From my involvement with the PDA and all the other opportunities I’ve had at MSU and nationally because of that, I now aspire to work with grad students and postdocs to help them navigate their own career. I also want to advocate for a more holistic and wholesome approach to PhD and postdoctoral trainings.

What do you hope to achieve in the next year, in all aspects of life?

I hope to transition into a new career, the one I have been dreaming of for years now. I also want to travel someplace like Turks and Caicos – white sand, turquoise water, sun, and blue sky – to rest, recharge, and enjoy time with my family.

What is your advice on how MSU postdocs can get the most out of their experience here?

I think it is important to talk with your PI as soon as possible about your mutual expectations –make sure you find common grounds to make your experience as a postdoc as successful as possible. My own experience taught me that it can take a lot of time to find the career or job you want – the sooner you discuss it with your PI, the easier it will be to become goal-oriented and focus on what you need to achieve, or which skill you need to learn or develop, to be successful in your job search.

You also need to put in the effort to know what opportunities and resources are available to you, whether it is on campus or online. Most importantly, know what to make of these opportunities. The other thing is to accept that your PI might not be the best mentor for you, and it is your responsibility to find someone who can help you grow professionally and champion you when needed!

To wrap it up, and to know more about you, tell me what comes to mind first in this rapid round of questions!

Favorite food – Lasagna

Favorite way to spend a day off – Cook, play with my son, rest!

Favorite Holiday – Back in France, Bastille Day (July 14th). In the US, Memorial Day.

Favorite place you ever visited or lived – Visited, Morocco, where my dad and his family are from, and Senegal. Lived – Lyon.

Job you would do if it wasn’t research – Baker – I dream to open a coffee shop where people can feel a bit happier after eating cake!