PPCP Student Monsanto Tour


 PPCP students at Monsanto
(From Left to right) Tiago Lelis, Jorge Reyes, Jancee Rice, Lawrence Datnoff,
Emilio Oyarzabal, Brian Ward, and Olanike Omolehin.

April 10-13, 2017

Dr. Emilio Oyarzabal visited the department during January and presented a seminar “An Industry Perspective on Challenges in Agriculture”. Afterwards, he extended an invitation to Dr. Lawrence Datnoff for plant pathology graduate students to visit Monsanto.  Dr. Oyarzabal then organized a tour and visit with scientists at the Monsanto Headquarters in St. Louis, MO.  An extensive team of researchers were happy to meet with the students and discuss a range of topics from individual research interests to advice pertaining to working in industry as a plant pathologist in an interdisciplinary team.  Breeders, seed pathologists, microbiologists, epidemiologists, and data management specialists were just a few of the professions represented by the hosting scientists during the two-day visit.  Each student was able to present their research in their respective area which always resulted in an enthusiastic dialogue amongst each group.

One theme of the visit was keeping LSU students competitive with their peers in job markets outside of academia.  To this end, the most asked question of the Monsanto staff was: “In what areas can the department and the students improve upon to make them more competitive in the job market after graduation?”  One common answer involved the design of experiments and analysis of data.  With each step forward in technology, more and more data can be acquired with less time invested. Obtaining high quality data and analyzing it correctly can lead to higher resolving power and new discoveries.  Whether it be a working knowledge of R statistical software, understanding of GIS data, or proficiency in Python, proficiency in data analysis techniques to better explore the ever-growing accumulation of information will help separate a graduate from his peers and make him or her much more sought after. 

Another characteristic emphasized for students is to have a working knowledge of field practices.  Knowing their way around a farm and the limitations and practicality of experimental design and execution is a necessity for many of the positions in industry, even among the molecular and genetic specialists.  Similarly, an understanding of the final goal and a sense of direction are desired traits in industry scientists.  This visit will lead to the LSU Department of Plant Pathology and Crop Physiology being better equipped to guide its students in their academic careers, as well as showcasing the capabilities of the students and quality of research at LSU.  The students would like to voice their gratitude to Drs. Emilio Oyarzabal, Lawrence Datnoff, Jeffrey Hoy, and the many scientists at Monsanto for their efforts in making this trip not only possible, but a resounding success.  

With much gratitude,

Brian Ward
Jancee Rice
Jorge Reyes
Olanike Omolehin
Tiago Lelis