Southeast Grad Cultivating Plant Biology Skills at Monsanto

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Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Cody Wilson continues to grow his knowledge as a greenhouse technician with the Biotechnology Controlled Environment team at Monsanto.

Whether it’s planting, transplanting, monitoring or maintaining moisture and environmental controls, Wilson says he is building on his knowledge he gained and his experience in renovating the biology greenhouses at Southeast.

“I work with a little bit of everything at Monsanto, including corn, soy and cotton,” he said. “Working at Monsanto has been extremely fulfilling – to know that I’m a part of the bigger picture that is feeding the world is incredibly satisfying.”

He said his work at Monsanto has been “a great continuation of what I worked on with Dr. (Jenn) Weber in the biology greenhouses” at Southeast.

He and several other Southeast students were the first to begin work on renovating the greenhouses that recently have received a major facelift, undergoing extensive renovation and modernization upgrades thanks to the efforts of student volunteers and workers, including Wilson. Aging infrastructure led to the decline of both the Diversity Greenhouse and the Research Greenhouse, the latter of which was built in 1978. With the latest renovations and cleanup, including removing weeds and pests, repairing the infrastructure and ceiling, and relocating pipes, both facilities are being restored for their original intent.

“I have no doubt that my participation in renovating and working in the biology greenhouses directly contributed to a successful job search,” said Cody, who was a biology major with an option in organismal, ecological and evolutionary biology.

“Experience with plant care in a greenhouse environment is highly sought after in the biological sciences,” he said.

Although his work in renovating Southeast’s biology greenhouses was “tedious,” he said, “there’s not a moment we didn’t have fun doing it. The majority of our time was spent renovating. This included landscaping, repair, removal of dead and dying plants, planting new plants. It was a great experience knowing what a fantastic educational tool the greenhouses had been in the past and promised to be in the future.”

Wilson, of Mount Vernon, Illinois, graduated from Southeast in May 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in biology, organismal, ecological and evolutionary biology option. He immediately moved to St. Louis and began working as a seasonal gardener at Forest Park. A gentleman he interviewed with took great interest in his work in Southeast’s biology greenhouses, he said.

At the end of the season, Wilson transitioned to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center as a member of the crop phenotyping, genetics and breeding team in Dr. Todd Mockler’s lab. The lab focuses its research on investigating the effects of certain stress-inducing variables such as drought on sorghum and other crops, and on the viability of sorghum as a source of biofuel.

In addition to the position he recently accepted with Monsanto in Chesterfield, Missouri, Wilson said he hopes to pursue graduate school in the near future and study either molecular and cell biology or biochemistry and biotechnology.

“Don’t get discouraged. Stick with your hopes and dreams, and if you’re ambitious and driven enough, you can do anything you put your mind to,” he advised current Southeast students. “View everything as a resume builder. The more you can add to your resume that even slightly applies to your field, the more sought after you will be by potential employers.”