Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ag Jobs A to Z: Research

Lee Koenigsfeld is a Research Associate for Beck's Hybrids, where I interned last summer, working in Iowa. His sister is my roommate and so kindly offered him up to help me complete this Ag Jobs A to Z series. (Aren't sisters the best?) Putting together this blog post has been such a fun way to learn about a part of Beck's I never got to experience.

1. Where did you go to school?

I attended Iowa State University and graduated with a degree in agronomy.

2. What inspired you to pursue a job in research?
My initial plan when starting my college experience was to do as many internships, in as many different fields, as possible. After my freshman year, I did an internship with Remington Hybrids working in seed corn production. My sophomore year, I was hired for a soybean research internship with Pioneer and that was when the plan changed for me. I felt as though I had found my spot and I never had a non-research related internship after that.

3. How long have you been working in research?
I have been working off and on in research since that first six month internship with Pioneer in 2010. In 2011, I worked for Iowa State University in the Entomology Department, working mostly in corn research. It was here that I learned I preferred soybean to corn research so in 2012, I went back to Pioneer for another six month soybean internship and never really left after that.  I was hired full time by Pioneer in the spring of 2013 as a soybean research associate. In September of 2015, I left Pioneer to take my current job with Beck’s Hybrids as a Research Associate ll.

4. What skills are necessary for a career in research?
The most important skill I think someone needs to have if they want to work in research is a love of the outdoors. I am outside in every season, though not as often in the winter. Strong agronomic skills are also very important, working in field research means you have the opportunity to experience every problem a farmer can; we need to be able to recognize those problems to evaluate our plots to give our customers the best products possible. Computer skills are a major plus in research, as we do a lot of database work for the notes that we take on our plots. We also operate equipment as well, so willingness to run a tractor and combine are paramount.

5. How does your job fit into the agricultural industry? (Who do you work with? Who do you help? Who helps you?)
Working for Beck’s, I am in charge of helping manage their soybean testing program here in the Central Corn Belt. What I do is plant plots with hundreds of different soybean varieties in various locations trying to evaluate the varieties in different environments, soil types, and maturities. Then these locations are closely monitored to evaluate the different varieties as potential new products. In the fall we travel around and combine the plots to evaluate for yield. The information collected is then passed on and the products performance is evaluated to see if they have the potential to become a product.

6. What career/internship opportunities are there in research?
There are several different opportunities for internships in the research field. Beck’s, as well as other companies, offer internships. In both of my Pioneer internships I was given my own project to work on which was something I really enjoyed.There are also just as many career opportunities as internships.

7. Is there anything else you would like a student audience to know?
As margins continue to be tight for the farming community, being able to get the most out of every bag of seed becomes increasingly important. Research is what gives the end user (the farmer) the best chance to succeed.

One other thing I would stress to college students is the value of having six month internships. It looks great on your resume when you go to apply for a full-time position. One of the other great things about them is getting to see a much larger picture of what actually happens in the course of the year, being able to experience both planting and harvest is a very rewarding feeling at the end of the internship.  

I'm so glad my roommate Lynn convinced her brother to share his story with me. Thanks Lee!

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