Major Spotlight: UF Student Explains Why She Became a Plant Science Major

Many college application deadlines are approaching and with that comes the answering of endless questions.

But one question that might make you stop and think for a minute, is when you need to choose your “intended major?”

It can feel a bit intimidating when browsing through the endless options. You might be wondering, well, “What is the difference between botany and horticulture?” or “What differentiates communication studies from communication disorders?” 

These are all valid questions you should be asking yourself. However, sometimes deciding on which interest to pursue  can lead many people to choose very broad majors, while ignoring those smaller ones that better suit their passions. 

So how do you choose the right major? To answer that question, I decided to ask college students from smaller majors at UF on how they decided to go down the “path less chosen.”

I talked to Kaitlin Swiantek, a third-year student majoring in plant science, and this is what she had to say.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Kaitlin Swiantek (KS): I’m a third-year student at UF majoring in plant science with a focus on genetics and breeding. I grew up in Maryland and went to high school in Orlando, FL, where I currently live. Despite living in Florida for over seven years now, I’m still scared of hurricanes and alligators, and I’m not used to constant summer.

Q: Before coming to UF, did you have a particular career in mind?

KS: Before coming to UF I wanted to be a movie producer and editor. I was actually in a TV and Film program in high school, where I was learning about the movie-making process. Then, right before college I realized I wasn’t really having fun anymore and decided to be a geneticist. Switching from a more artsy career to a STEM focused one seems a bit random but even when I thought I wanted to be a producer I was very logical and mathematic about my storylines and process. I switched to genetics because I was interested in cancer research. Cancer researcher is a field I have been interested in for most of my life because cancer has affected many members of my family. When I got to UF, however, I took the Plant, Gardening and You class on a whim and discovered that plant breeding was a career I could really enjoy.

Q: How did you decide your major during Preview? Did you change it later?

KS: I chose Microbiology at Preview because it is the major that related most to genetics, plus it is in the CALS college, which has better advising. After my first semester, I changed my major to Plant Science, but still wanted to focus on genetics so I made genetics and breeding my specialization. I really just went from human genetics to plant genetics.

Q: What made you decide to make that switch from cancer research to plant science?

KS: When I got to UF, however, I took the Plant, Gardening and You class on a whim and discovered that plant breeding was a career I could really enjoy. I really enjoyed the class material and I loved taking care of the plants we got each week. I realized I loved plants and the techniques involved in breeding them, so I changed my major.

Q: A lot of people prefer to major in something broad that could be applied to many disciplines, what made you choose this specific major?

KS: I know that I want a career that allows me to take care of plants and work outside. Plant Science is a major that I believe will teach me the skills I need to know for a career that includes both. Plus, I like taking classes that focus on my interests specifically. Choosing a more specialized major means most of my classes are geared towards my major.

Q: Do you think that your classes in terms of size have changed when you made the major switch?

KS: Yeah, my plant science classes are generally a lot smaller than my other classes. It’s nice, though, because the class is more individualized due to the smaller size.

Q: What do you recommend for future students when deciding to explore their majors?

KS: Try taking classes that you’re interested in and classes that involve your hobbies. School and work are a lot more bearable when you are excited about learning more.