Closeup: Donna Becker
Plants pervade the life of Donna Becker (Biology). Not only do they fill her office and home, but she also teaches about them in the classroom and works with them in the laboratory and greenhouse.
Now in her 10th year as an NMU professor, Becker still enjoys having the opportunity to work with students in directed-study research projects in addition to her regular courses. Her personal research interests lie in plant-microbe interactions, with the overall goal of improving plant growth and their resistance to disease.
“I find that it’s very satisfying to work with students in small groups. Teaching them is very rewarding. That’s why I wanted to work at a university with this low student-teacher ratio,” Becker said.
As an NMU alumna, Becker vividly recalled sitting in the large lecture halls as a student. While being on the other end of education was disconcerting at first, she quickly grew to love it.
“I remember staring at over 100 students at my very first lecture thinking, ‘It’s very strange.’ It was a little surreal, but it felt very nice to be here and to be involved,” Becker said.
She grew up knowing that she wanted to do something related to science. In her undergraduate days, she originally wanted to be a veterinarian. Becker enrolled in plant physiology and microbiology courses during her senior year. Her interest in microbes and plants blossomed from there and she decided to pursue these interests further in graduate education.
She graduated from NMU in 1987 with a bachelor's degree. She has a strong loyalty to the university, not only for her current faculty position and her undergraduate training here, but also because all of her siblings and their spouses attended NMU. In addition, her father was a student here and her mom taught in the nursing program.
Becker grew up in Marquette. Graduate school took her out of the state, but she was thrilled to return after accepting the faculty position at Northern. Now she is raising her own family here. Her two boys, Erik, 5, and Alexander, 2, keep her busy. Her husband is an avid sailor and the family likes to go sailing whenever possible. Most of her free time is spent with her family, playing hockey or basketball, taking adventurous hikes in the woods or skiing and sledding.
On her own time, Becker enjoys cooking and baking, including making her own yogurt. As a biologist, she is quite comfortable "experimenting" in her kitchen and working with microbes to produce tasty and healthy foods. She also enjoys horseback riding. She has trained for many years in dressage, which is often referred to as “equine ballet” and involves training the horse to do complex maneuvers in response to barely perceptible movements of the rider’s body.
“I find dressage very enjoyable because you are so in the moment that it is easy to forget about everything else and when you and the horse have accomplished a particularly difficult movement, it is so satisfying and exhilarating,” Becker said.