Dow AgroSciences Career as a Field Scientist

Above: Left, Alejandro Calixto, Right, Joe Egher, share their career paths and wisdom regarding becoming and performing the job of a field scientist in industry.

I thought Joe and Alejandro did an amazing job talking to our group about industry. Their personal career paths and perspective provided an unique opportunity for students to understand how they can become field scientists as well. Joe also spent quite a bit of time talking about the skills that Dow AgroSciences looks for in an employee. As we have heard time and again, it is not enough to be a great researcher. To be a viable candidate for industry, students will need to display that in addition to research expertise, they are effective communicators as well. Furthermore, skills such as leadership and experience such as collaboration are the resume items that will ultimately get you to an interview.

Syngenta Career Day at the Vero Beach Research Station

Above: Our group on the field trial site visit portion of the trip. Here we discussed field experimental design and the importance of understanding specific crop practices when developing relevant protocols.

Thank you again to Bryan Delp, James Hadden, and all of the researchers at Syngenta VRBC for taking the time to satisfy our curiosity. The Syngenta Career Day was an absolute hit with our graduate student group. During our tour, we had numerous opportunities to have candid conversations with researchers involved in a wide range of crop protection business. As we talked to each of the researchers, they each imparted to us the skills that, as they saw it, we’re necessary to succeed in industry.

The following is a brief list of the skills mentioned:

1. Be flexible. This is a theme that we heard again and again. Basically, to me, this one means that there are times that you have to put the needs of the team before your own interests.

2. Be interested. Many of the researchers said the best way to be successful in industry is to be  curious about all the areas of crop protection. Most suggested that the best way to find resources is to pick up the phone or to go next door. Syngenta is very large company with some of the top professionals in the world within their field. So if you need to learn more about an unfamiliar area, very likely the experience you are looking for is just a team member away.

3. Be productive. This one explains itself.

Some necessary skills were more technical such as understanding​ field experimental design, a solid statistical background, and disease assessment strategies. Others were more socially based such as ability to effectively communicate with others, networking, leadership, and teamwork.

Career Focus: Plant Disease Diagnostician, Carrie Harmon UF IFAS

Plant Disease Clinic

Thank you again to Carrie Harmon for the informative workshop on economically important plant diseases in Florida. During the workshop, Dr. Harmon gave us a tour of the UF plant disease clinic, including their biosecure room. She also explained in detail what it is like to work as a diagnostician at a land grant university.

We also had a bit of time to use the wonderful teaching lab from the above picture to diagnose a few samples.

We would also like to thank Patricia Soria and the other UF graduate students. They did an amazing job coordinating our visit and fed us some very good Cuban food as well.

 

Career Day at Dow AgroSciences

 Dow AgroSciences’ Headquarters Zionsville, IN

Career Day Agenda – University of Georgia 20JUL2016

Click above link for a list of our activities at Dow AgroSciences…

Our day at Dow AgroSciences’ global head quarters in Indianapolis, IN began with a safety and security briefing. After reviewing the necessary guidelines, we were then welcomed by our hosts Javier Delgado, Associate Research Scientist, and Ronda Hamm, Patent Liason and Co-chair of the Science Ambassadors program.

They along with started out by telling us about their educational/professional backgrounds, their current duties, and why they chose to work for Dow AgroSciences. This was then followed by a brief discussion of their seeds and traits business. During this time, we covered topics such as the structure and functions of the components of the research “pipeline”, time for a new product to go from discovery to commercialization (around 15 years), and new traits on the horizon. It was mentioned during this session that it wasn’t atypical for someone to only get to work on one or two products that actually get commercialized during their whole career.

After the run down on the R&D structure, scientists from two discovery labs spoke to us about their career journey to Dow AgroSciences and where there positions are within the pipeline. One of the scientists, Cruz Avila Adame, had a very interesting career path. He told us that he had worked as salesman/technical support at a smaller ag company before he joined Dow AgroSciences. According to him, the experience that he gained in his previous company was an invaluable resource that he continues to draw on in his current job. Though he had significantly more responsibilities in his previous position, the experience allowed him to have an intimate understanding of both the commercial and R&D side of the business. In the end, Cruz said that when looking for a career industry never rule out companies that are not one of the big six. The big reasons to go this route if you are having a hard time finding a position with big Ag are: you have a better chance to get your foot in the door and the benefits packages with these companies are often very competitive.

Before our talk with HR, we had the privilege of speaking to two fellows at DAS. During their talk, they gave us an in-depth look into the organization structure of the R&D side of Dow Agro as well as the level of interaction that each position would have with the commercial side. They also spoke to us at length about the career development opportunities at DAS. Carla Klittich, Fellow at DAS, told us that when a person gets hired to DAS one of the first things that is done is to sit down with their supervisor and create a career plan. These plans are typically associated with two paths. One is the research path which would involve a minimal level of people management and would provide a terminal position of Fellow and the people path which would involve supervise increasing number of other researchers and had several different types of terminal positions. For me, the most important part of the career path process is that DAS actually tries to help you meet your career goals. It is not just a pretty little idea that gets filed away. It is a constant reference that your supervisors use to try to advance you professionally and which is annually reviewed and , if necessary, altered on a 3 – 5 year basis. As part of your plan, DAS encourages its employees to take advantage of experiential opportunities, even so far as to allow people to switch positions for a time to learn a new area of interest. I really got the feeling that once you were in the DAS family then they wanted to do everything that they can to help you meet your individual potential.

One of the highlights of the visit was the chance to hear from Human Resources at Dow Agro, among other things, about how to increase your chances of getting an interview during the application process. I thought it was of important note that in the beginning of the hiring process keyword search software is what ultimately gets an application brought to the top of the pile to be reviewed. The HR rep that spoke to us said that the best thing that you can do with your application is to pay attention to the job posting and include as many keywords from it with as high of a frequency as possible into your application documents. We were also able to pick her brain on a wide range of other concerns such as the value of experience versus education and the career paths at DAS.

After our time with HR, we had a chance to be kids again for 15 to 20 minutes. Ronda, co-chair of the Science Ambassadors program, along with her colleague, a former UGA graduate himself, brought out one of the stars of the Science Ambassadors program. The star that I am speaking of was their live whip-tail scorpion or vinageroon as they are sometimes called. This arachnid ambassador stood at a height of 1 to 2 inches tall and ca. 3 inches long and had a long tube from which it could spray a liquid containing acetic acid. It was hilarious to watch people’s reaction to this little guy when offered the chance to hold him. Some readily let it crawl all over there hands and arms and some got close to making a quick exit from their seat. They also filled us in on the Science Ambassadors program and how important it was to educate our youth on agriculture and the STEM fields in general.

Our hosts then treated us to a great lunch from Panera and gave us the opportunity to sit at a table with scientists from various different areas of Discovery. I really thought that this was an awesome experience. On one hand we really got to see the diversity of the Dow Agro family and on the other we got an invaluable to talk to them in an informal setting. From what I saw the different scientists did an excellent job engaging our students and I really feel like everyone walked away from that lunch feeling that Dow Agro is like one big family.

In the afternoon it was all R&D. We had an opportunity to see labs outfitted with the top technology available in our field. Unfortunately, and understandably, there was much that we couldn’t see but the much of the general process was laid bare for us to see. One of the highlights of the R&D tour was the insectary. This was a series of chambers where important the crop pests important to research were housed and raised.

During our R&D tour, we visited an area near the greenhouses where Dow AgroSciences employees from the organization Noble (http://www.mynoblelife.org/) work. I thought this part of the tour really, to me, showed that DAS is a company that not only cares about making a profit they also care about making a positiveimpact on the global community in the process. For those not familiar with the interaction between the Noble organization and other employers such as DAS, Noble assists individuals in Indiana with disabilities to serve a valuable role in society and find employment with, at least in this case, one of the top agriculture companies in North America. I was really touched by this program. Too often companies give money, snap a few pictures for the investor’s brochure, and walk away. The end result of this is that the money gets spent and, in most cases, a lasting impact never materializes. That is why this instance is so inspiring. In this case, Noble and Dow AgroSciences have partnered to provide willing individuals the opportunity to have a sense of purpose and pride that can only be found in employment. In all honesty, this is one of the things that most made me want to work for Dow AgroSciences. I did not choose the field of plant pathology for the money. It pays but I’ll bet a shiny nickel that there has never once has a plant pathologist that has been described as overpaid. I choose my field so that I would have the chance to make an impact on the most lives possible and to do this I need to work with a company that feels the same.

After our time at Dow AgroSciences, I personally feel and think very differently about what a job in industry looks like. In some ways it made me more encouraged to pursue a career at DAS and in all honesty some things turned me off to industry. Overall though, I feel very strongly that DAS would be a great company to develop my professional self and pursue my scientific goals to impact the field of agriculture.

 

 

From all of us at the University of Georgia, thanks again to everyone at Dow AgroSciences for an amazing career day.

 

-Russell Ingram

Preparing to make the world a better place through science

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Picture above: Our students in front of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument in Indianapolis, IN

One final reflection on our trip.

We as agricultural scientists collectively carry with us an enormous responsibility to serve our clients. Why is this an enormous responsibility? Simply put, our clients are everyone on our little blue marble that eats that which arises from the soil. In other words, everyone on the planet is either directly or indirectly our client. Too often we agriculture students forget this fact. With the majority of our educational career focusing on the extremely specialized areas to which our thesis/dissertation projects pertain it becomes far too easy for us to lose sight of the big picture.

The big picture is that it is each of our responsibilities as crop protection scientists to answer the call to provide for the food needs of our growing world. Providing reference to this call, the following quote is from Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and Daniel Servitje, CEO of Grupo Bimbo during the G20 conference in Mexico in 2012.

“Imagine all the food mankind has produced over the past 8,000 years. Now consider that we need to produce that same amount again — but in just the next 40 years if we are to feed our growing and hungry world.” 

This message was driven home during our visit to Dow AgroSciences. While at their headquarters, we spoke to several scientists and crop protection leaders that reiterated the message and the call to action. In my mind, it is one of the main reasons that the company feels more like a family than a business. Those to which we spoke, impressed on us the fact that they felt that their work had a purpose and would ultimately make a positive impact on the world that they were to leave to their children.

I mention these facts because I believe that they highlight the responsibility that comes with privilege. We the students and future scientists of agriculture have the privilege of  having our life’s work translate into a greater purpose while at the same time carrying the responsibility to try to make food security a reality for everyone. That is why career development for us is about much more than just finding a job, it is about finding our way to contribute to this larger call to action.

To some these thoughts may seem as illusions of grandeur or some attempt to find purpose where there is none. However, the scary reality is that these are facts and if we do not treat them as such, there will come a day when all the theories and projections will be become a reality.

In closing, I would like to include one last quote from a source which is unknown to me but which I believe best summarizes the situation…

“The man with food has many problems but the man without food has but one.” -Unknown

-Russell Ingram

Crop Development: Growing corn and soybeans in Indiana

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Picture Above: Another wonderful example of the many demonstration plots at the Beck Agricultural Center. These large plots are only used for demonstration purposes and are one of the many reasons that his facility is so unique.

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Dr. John Obermeyer (picture above), Integrated Pest Management Specialist at Purdue University, speaking to our group about corn developmental stages and the impact of management at key stages.

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Dr. Shaun Casteel (picture above), Associate Professor of Agronomy at Purdue University, speaking to our group about soybean developmental stages and cultivation in Indiana. Dr. Casteel spent some time covering why they grow indeterminate lines of soybeans in Indiana. He also spent a good bit of time explaining the adaptability of soybeans to a variety of planting densities and how this trait can be used to maximize yields in a shorter growing season.

Weed management and Chemical Stewardship: Drift Reduction

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During his talk on “Maximizing Weed Control While Minimizing Herbicide Drift” Travis Legleiter, Weed Science Professional Assistant at Purdue University, used this awesome modified boom demonstration spray table to highlight the effect of pressure and spray tip design on drift potential. Be sure to notice the slight fog forming over the spray table. This is an example of the higher drift potential created by the traditional one stage fan spray tips under high pressure.

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In the above picture there is a kit displaying the variety of technology and spray tips currently available to growers. Travis used this kit to highlight the design differences between the tips and the effects these differences have on coverage and drift.

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The above slide was taken from Travis Legleiter’s presentation during the Midseason Diagnostic Workshop. The table pictured in the slide highlights the relationship between the size of droplets exiting the spray tip and their potential drift distance per a given wind speed. As you can imagine, the larger the droplet size the lower the potential for drift. However, there is a trade off in spray tip performance. As the droplet size gets larger, it often results in lower rates of coverage. Travis’s current research is focused on finding the optimum point for drift reduction and maximum coverage but he did stress that since most of the herbicides are systemics chemical stewardship via drift reduction is the current priority.

Insect Identification and Management

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We are all inside the soybean pest demonstration screenhouse. Typically a screenhouse is used to keep pests out but this one is used to keep pests in. The idea is to trap all of the crop pests and beneficial predators in one space and observe the population dynamics over the course of the growing season. Dr. Krupke highlighted the fact that during the season you usually are able to observe predator-prey dynamics. By this I mean that over the course of the season you will first observe an exponential increase in pest numbers as they feed on the crop (soybean in the picture) and produce more offspring. This increase in the number of pests  is then followed by an equally large increase in the predators of these insects which then causes a large decrease in crop pest numbers. In summary, the experiment set up in the screenhouse demonstrates that when all other aspects of crop stress are controlled natural predator-prey relationships are able to keep insect pests at moderately low levels.
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