Annette Moser: ‘My Main Focus Will Always Be My Students’

KEARNEY – Annette Moser grew up around agriculture.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney chemistry professor was raised on a farm near Blue Hill.

She’s also had a longtime interest in environmental issues.

Her current research project lies at the intersection of those two areas.

Moser, an analytical chemist, is measuring the amount of glyphosate and its main metabolite in soybean tissues and soil samples using a liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC- MS) system recently acquired by the chemistry department.

Glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides, is the main ingredient in Roundup and other popular weed killers.

It’s also a controversial product.

Thousands of lawsuits were filed against Roundup maker Monsanto, which was purchased by Bayer in 2018, alleging the product causes cancer. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is not a carcinogen and the product poses no risks to human health when used properly.

As part of a collaborative project, Moser will share her data with researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who will compare the amount of glyphosate residue present after standard applications of the herbicide and after a new application method.

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How do you measure success as a researcher?
“My goal as a researcher is to train undergraduates. When my students are successful in reaching their goals, I consider that a win. It is great when projects work and we are able to get publications, but my main focus will always be my students.”

In what ways are students involved in your research?
“Students conducting research in my lab learn a variety of analytical techniques – how to run research-grade instrumentation, prepare samples for analysis and collect and analyze data. They get to do everything. Initially, I’m very involved to make sure my students know how to do the analytical procedures correctly. However, after that initial training time, the students work independently and I’m available for questions or troubleshooting. Depending on the student’s strengths and goals, eventually they design their own experiments, as well. Students also present their data at local and regional meetings each year.”

How do you balance research and teaching? Do they benefit each other?
“I tend to focus a little more on teaching since my primary goal is to help students meet their goals. I treat my research projects as tools to help my students learn how research works and give them hands-on experiences. While many of my students will not be conducting research once they leave UNK, I feel that their research experiences allow them to appreciate how scientific knowledge is achieved.”

What’s your biggest challenge?
“Finding time to work with students and troubleshoot projects when they don’t quite go as planned. There’s a reason it’s called RE-search.”

What stands out about UNK’s research programs?
“One of the best things about UNK is our focus on the students, especially undergraduate students. In contrast to large, R1 schools, undergraduates are our focus, both in the classroom and in the lab. I generally have two or three students working with me every semester and I get to know them personally and help them pursue their goals, whether that’s going to pharmacy school, medical school, graduate school in chemistry or becoming a chemist in the industry. That personal interaction is what helped me when I was a student, and I want to pass it along to my students.”

Title: Professor
College: Arts and Sciences
Department: Chemistry
Education: Bachelor of Science, Chemistry, University of Nebraska at Kearney, 2000; Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, University of Nebraska- Lincoln, 2006.
Years at UNK: 13
Areas of research/specialization: Bioanalytical Chemistry