Winter 2018

Fungi fanatic

Photography by R. VILGALYS

Much like fungi are neither plant nor animal, Lotus Lofgren, ’13 B.S., is neither an artist nor a scientist. She feels the same sense of wonder researching mushrooms as she does sketching or making digital art, a mindset that may stem from her early years. As an “unschooled” student, she taught herself how to teach herself, free from the confines of traditional disciplines.

As an undergrad at the University of Minnesota, she became interested in urban agriculture. After co-founding the Fungal Garden—a mushroom farm on the St. Paul campus—she turned her attention to mycology, the study of mushrooms.

Today, Lofgren is a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Biological Sciences and an internationally recognized mushroom researcher who recently received the J. L. Harley Medal from the International Mycorrhiza Society. Her work focuses on how fungi behave in a changing world—why some symbiotic species associate with innumerable hosts and others attach to a select few, for example.

Lofgren says that without guidance from trusted advisors and scholarships, she wouldn’t be where she is today. “Scholarships definitely helped me financially get through undergrad, but they also made me feel like someone believed in my potential,” she says. “That’s really important for students who always feel like the odd ones out.”