For someone who didn’t grow up on a farm and with no agricultural background, Zach Hinds has sure found himself ensconced in the world of agriculture. The Lubbock native enrolled at Texas Tech University without a clear idea of what he wanted to major in, but it didn’t take long before he realized where his studies would lead him.
“I grew up in town, not on a farm,” Hinds says. “I took a few ag classes at Texas Tech that I really liked early on, so I decided on this as a career path.”
After earning his undergraduate degree in plant biotechnology and his master’s in crop science, Hinds is now flourishing as a researcher in the Department of Plant and Soil Science in the university’s College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources. He is one of several students and graduates who are benefiting from the hands-on experience that research brings.
It’s a win-win situation in most cases, according to Dr. Eric Hequet, professor and chair of the Department of Plant & Soil Science.
“Research is important, but the number one goal for the university is to train the workforce and to give students the tools to make them competitive in the real world,” Hequet says.
The tools and experience are coming partly from Bayer CropScience, specifically in the form of a $19.3 million contribution the company made in 2014 to benefit research programs and projects in Texas Tech’s Department of Plant and Soil Science. The most recent contribution came as part of a working collaboration Bayer CropScience has had with the university since 1998, on top of a $7.5 million donation the company made in 2009.
The 2009 funding “led to a major collaboration on genetic improvement of cotton,” says Mike Gilbert, Bayer’s vice president of global breeding and trait development and the company’s main liaison with the university. “With the 2014 contribution, we are ramping up the collaboration even more to continue work on the genetic improvement of cotton, as well as expand some new industrial uses for cotton and work on other crops.”
Much of Bayer’s donation, which is matched by a grant from the Texas Research Incentive Program, is going toward ongoing research projects taking place through a program known as Project Revolution.
Bayer’s contributions benefit not only the department and the university as a whole, but also the individual students who are reaping the rewards.
“Basically, it increases the student activity and involvement in cutting-edge research.” Gilbert says. “There also are internship opportunities with Bayer, as we’re always keeping an eye out for good employees.
Hinds can attest to the importance of research life at Texas Tech and, specifically, the Bayer-related projects. He compiles and analyzes data in the company’s greenhouses located at Texas Tech, and he is now working toward his Ph.D.
“My goal was to get acquainted with the corporate side of the research,” he says. “I wanted to get hands-on experience and meet people who actually work on the industry side of things.”
He recognizes the role that Bayer plays in the Department of Plant and Soil Science. “Just having that presence on and around campus gets a lot of students interested in this field of study,” he says.