Featured Students

Learn about our programs and students. 


Graduate Students

Natalie Kirkwyland - Potato Breeding and Genetic - Fall 2016

Christopher Bauer - Crop and Soil Sciences - Spring 2016


Undergraduate Students

Christopher Gillespie - Agronomic Scienes - Fall 2016

Ashley Wagar - Agronomic Sciences Concentration - Spring 2016


Certificate Students

Timothy (T.J.) LeBlanc - Turfgrass Management - Fall 2016

Adam Retford - Agricultural Industries - Spring 2016



Certificate Students

Fall 2016

Name: Timothy (T.J.) LeBlancTimothy LeBlanc waters grass.

Hometown: Livonia, MI

Adviser: Dr. John R. Rogers, III

What is your Major, or Certificate Program?

Turfgrass Management

Why did you choose that major or program?

I’ve always loved the game of Golf, and MSU allows me to pursue a career that I’m not only passionate about, but also fits the lifestyle I want to lead.

Future plans:

I interned this summer at Meadowbrook Country Club in Novi, MI. I am graduating in the Spring of 2017, with goals of ultimately becoming a superintendent at a golf course.

What or who inspired your interest in your program?

Once upon a time I was on track to attend nursing school, but perspectives and life goals changed and I got a job on a course in Livonia, and worked under Doug Ware, a former Spartan grad. He really influenced me to expand my horizons in the two short years I was there, and ultimately referred me for admittance to MSU.

What has been your best experience in the discipline listed above?

My first semester at MSU was eye-opening. In a field where I thought I had a good footing, I realized I had barely scratched the surface. It took me from apprehensive about how to handle the workload that comes with school, to eager to dive in and really explore my new career.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences?

Simply put, my adventures and life experiences led me to discover what I find important in life, and PSM allows me to pursue something more than just a job or a career, but also the passions and life I want to lead with it.


Spring 2016

Name: Adam RetfordAdam Retford on a tractor at Retford farms.

Hometown: Owendale, MI

Adviser: Erin Bosch

What is your Major or Certificate Program?

Agricultural Industries Program

Why did you choose that major or program?

I chose this course of study because I grew up on a small family cash crop farm and have always had a great interest in the industry.

Future plans:

My future plans include continuing to operate our family owned farm where we grow corn, dry beans, wheat and sugar beets. I also plan to obtain employment off farm and would like to become an agronomist.  

What or who inspired your interest in your program?

Our farm has been in our family for over 100 years, so I have been inspired to farm during my whole life. I learned of this program through a close friend and after much research decided this program was well suited for my personal growth and career development for my future plans.

What has been your best experience in discipline listed above?  

I have learned about many types of farm practices and about precision farming. The courses offered atMSU have been very useful and it will be interesting to see how much improvements we will see in the future.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences?

I chose PSM because the program covers so many areas that I will use in the future. I am very happy with my decision and continue to enjoy my time at MSU.


Undergraduate Students

Fall 2016

Name: Christopher Gillespie     ''

Hometown: Champaign, IL

Crop and Soil Sciences Concentrations: Agronomic Sciences

Adviser: Karen Renner

Why did you choose this major and concentration?

I chose this major and concentration because “a farmer is someone who is outstanding in their field.” As I hope to be one day soon!

What are your future plans?

Following undergrad, I have hopes of attending graduate school to earn my doctorate in agronomy and to advance in both agriculture and health fields. I would like to conduct research involving plants and their connection to the human physiology. I thirst to discover a connection, a bridge one might say, that integrates the world of agriculture and life sciences. Through this connection, I desire to unveil the knowledge necessary to address the growing epidemic of antibiotic resistant bacteria. In efforts to condense the effects of relapsing-remitting and chronic diseases (Multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, etc.), I wish to assist in the discovery of undisclosed novelty compounds which are derived from plants. Finally, I am intent on providing feed, food, and fuel for the projected population of 9 billion in the year 2050.

What or who inspired your interest in your program?

When I was a young boy, I recall an older fellow telling me these words “Go into agriculture, that is where the money is at!”

What has been the best experience in your major so far?

Apart from working with faculty, students, and agriculture organizations, my best experience has been my journey as a whole. Coming from a predominantly urban background, I entered the MSU Crop and Soil Science program with a less than ideal understanding of agronomy. However, from the moment I chose this program I have not only felt welcomed, but convinced that the path I have chosen is the correct one.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences?

I’m not going to lie, The College of Law was enticing to say the least, and nearly swallowed me whole! Though, while practicing law would perhaps polish my ego; Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences will without a doubt brighten the world.

Through Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences, I hope to facilitate the integration of other prominent applied sciences. Promoting efficiency in food, fuel, feed and discovering advances in cropping systems and crop physiology which in my opinion beats winning any old court case.

What is the best selling point about your major that you would like others to know?

In agronomy there is a place for everyone, from the writer and the salesmans, to the scientist and the politician. I have found this to be true not only in agronomy, but across many agriculture related fields. When one opens their eyes to agriculture, they discover the path to a multi-faceted future.


Spring 2016

Name: Ashley Wagar''

Hometown: Climax, MI

Crop and Soil Sciences Concentration: Agronomic Sciences

Adviser: Dr. Karen Renner

Why did you choose this major and concentration? My interest in crop and soil sciences came from growing up on my family’s cash crop farm.

What are your future plans? My future plans are to work as an agronomist, possibly focusing on the seed corn industry.

What or who inspired your interest in your program? Growing up on a farm and my involvement in 4-H has helped me find a passion within agriculture. This helped me to realize that I wanted to learn more about the agricultural industry.

What has been the best experience in your major so far?My summer internship was a great experience, the actual hands on aspect allowed me to exercise what I had learned in the class room. I also have enjoyed learning and seeing the different farming practices used across the state, while making new friends with similar interests.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil, and Microbial Sciences? I chose PSM because it will provide me with everything I need to know to become an agronomist. The professors are great to work with and my advisor is great at keeping me on track and helping me when needed.

What is the best selling point about your major that you would like others to know? If you are interested in agronomic sciences the classes are very helpful and informative.

Graduate Students

Fall 2016

Name: Natalie Raissa KirkwylandNatalie Kirkwyland posing for picture.

Hometown: Dryden, NY

Major Professor: Dave Douches

In what lab do you work in and what are you researching?

As a member of the Potato Breeding and Genetics program, my project involves conducting potato improvement at the diploid level, either adapting wild diploid germplasm or using haploids generated from tetraploid cultivars. Specifically, I am interested in introducing self-compatibility to the largely self-incompatible diploid germplasm, generating inbred lines, and selecting for glandular trichome and glycoalkaloid mediated resistance to aphids, which vector economically devastating viruses, and the Colorado potato beetle, a defoliation menace.

Future career plans:

Upon completion of my PhD, I intend to seek a breeder position in industry.

What program are you in? Why did you choose that program?

I am within the Plant Breeding, Genetics, and Biotechnology program which I appreciate for its interdisciplinary nature and enhanced collaboration potential.

What or who inspired your interest in Plant Science, Soil Sciences, Plant Pathology, Weed Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics or other?

My foray into agriculture began in my youth, growing up in a family greenhouse enterprise and to parents steeped in agricultural careers. My passion for cultivating crops was affirmed attending a small technical agronomic school in undergraduate and learning from the professors’ involvement in the farming, research, and industry communities. Their enthusiasm for plant science and eagerness to facilitate hands-on learning opportunities spurred me to pursue work experience in the field. It was as a research technician in the Cornell Small Grains Breeding Program, under the guidance of Mark Sorrells, David Benscher, John Shiffer, and James Tanaka, that I fell in love with the daily challenges and rewards of being a plant breeder.

What has been your best experience in your program listed above?

Making selections in the field during this past harvest season was incredibly fulfilling. It is a culminating experience that draws on your knowledge of the crop, agricultural practice, and genetics. Walking the plots, comparing the pedigrees with field observations, makes the whole breeding process incredibly tangible.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences?

The supportive and edifying culture of the department and caliber of research produced from the department members made my choice very easy. Such a cohesive and kind working environment makes it truly a joy to come to work every day.

Spring 2016

Name: Christopher Bauer''

Hometown: Reese, Michigan

Major Professor: Dr. Kurt Steinke

What lab do you work in and what are you researching?

I work in the soil fertility lab. I have two projects that I am researching: one on winter wheat and the other on sugarbeets. My main project was a two-year field experiment looking at the effects of planting date, Nitrogen Application Timing, and Nitrogen Application Rate on winter wheat growth and yield. My second study was also a two-year field experiment, and this project was conducted to observe the effects of enhanced efficiency fertilizers in comparison to standard nitrogen programs on sugarbeet yield and quality.

Future career plans:

I will be graduating in May 2016 with my Master’s Degree. I recently accepted a job working as a sourcing specialist with Nestle North America Procurement/Gerber Products Company in Fremont, MI.

What program are you in? Why did you choose that program?

I am in the Soil Fertility and Nutrient Management Program. I chose this program because of my interests in agriculture and desire to assist growers in the future by improving their management programs.

What or who inspired your interest in Plant Science, Soil Sciences, Plant Pathology, Weed Science, Plant Breeding and Genetics or Other?

Growing up on a farm made me realize how enjoyable it is to work in agriculture. Through this I learned that I wanted to continue to pursue a career in agriculture and be able to work with growers to give them assistance in improving their management programs. The people who inspired me to pursue an education in an agricultural degree were my parents, Mark and Collette Bauer, who run our farm at home with the assistance of my younger brother. My parents have shown me where a great work ethic can take you in life and have also made me realize the passion I have in wanting to continue my career in agriculture. When I was an undergraduate student, I had an internship with DuPont Pioneer, and this experience helped me realize that I wanted to continue my educational career and pursue a Master’s Degree.

What has been your best experience in your program listed above?

I have really enjoyed the research which we conduct and being able to talk with growers about their management programs in hopes of helping them make improvements. The meetings that I have spoken at as a graduate student were always a good experience as well because of the interaction I was able to have directly with growers and industry people from around the area.

Why did you choose Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences?

The reason I chose this department was because of my passion for agriculture. I knew MSU was the right place to pursue my goal of attaining a Master’s Degree with the agricultural history of this college, and the success of many students coming out of this department gave me the confidence that this was the right fit for me.