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Voices of ACES Blog

Graduate Student Spotlight: Emily Lawson-Bulten

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Today our department would like to spotlight ABE Ph.D. student, Emily Lawson-Bulten. Deciding to pursue graduate school can be a difficult decision to make, but Dr. Ann-Perry Witmer helped Emily along the way. “I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to even go to graduate school,” Emily said, “But after speaking with my now advisor on the phone, I was hooked. What she was doing with contextual engineering was so innovative and inspiring, I knew I had to be a part of it.”

Emily currently works as a teaching assistant but is looking forward to the opportunities that will come her way while pursuing her degree. “Through this program I hope to expand the scope of my career. Before, I was tackling problems one site and person at a time. Through this program, I already have had the opportunity to work with organizations, undergraduate students, and entire communities for an increased impact,” she shared.

As the president of the ABE Graduate Student Association, Emily values connection and community. “Most of us in ABE are far away from where we grew up, where our friends or family live, so grad school can easily become really lonely. GSA tries to create moments of belonging and strengthening of relationships for all of us to feel a little more connected at UIUC.”

Before beginning graduate school, Emily worked as a civil engineer. Her advice for others who may be interested in ABE is this, “Come join! I’m a civil engineer, but contextual engineering has agricultural, electrical, systems – all types of engineering! The hardest part is really the first step, but after you take that leap you are supported by the most amazing team.”

Emily is a recipient of the SURGE Fellowship and Summer Research Graduate Fellowship. Under the advisement of Dr. Ann-Perry Witmer, she anticipates graduating with her Ph.D. in ABE in May 2025.