STEM opportunities abound in agriculture fields

By Carmen Chandler, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Washington State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences explores and conducts research in plants, soils, and pests to identify best practices to improve crops and cropping systems. Crop and Soil Sciences strive to make foods safer, healthier, and more sustainable.

The department provides a wide variety of opportunities for students seeking STEM degrees. Opportunities range from lab, field, technology, education, and greenhouse employment. The multidisciplinary education within crop and soil sciences allows students to learn a broad set of skills to take with them into the workforce.

Hannah Peha sits in a field surrounded by bright yellow canola flowers.
Hannah Peha in a canola field.

WSU Crop and Soil Science professor Arron Carter hires students from his classes to participate in several campus job opportunities. These opportunities are not exclusive to soil science majors. Carter encourages any student with an interest in agriculture to search for opportunities early in their college career.

“I would be hard pressed not to find an opportunity for any student who has an interest in agriculture,” Carter said.

Hands-on opportunities allow students to discover the interdisciplinary learning behind various jobs in the Crop and Soil Sciences field. Technology is a key resource. Students have built equipment and assisted Carter with piloting drones on the field.

Carter believes the biggest misconception students find with his field is that they won’t be able to use their knowledge in multiple careers.

Hannah Peha, a junior Agricultural Biotechnology student, believes something similar: “I don’t think people realize the number of opportunities that there are in Crop and Soil Sciences.”

Hannah currently works as an undergraduate researcher for a barley breeder in the WSU greenhouse laboratory. She is involved in a pathology project working to identify a gene in barley that allows the pathogen to cause an infection in the plant. The research at WSU piqued her interest, and her goal is earning a Ph.D. in plant science before pursuing work in a laboratory.

Hannah took Carter’s plant breeding class, Crop Science 445, and is set to complete an internship at Columbia University this summer. She advises students who are interested in STEM to consider Crop and Soil Sciences.

“If you want to be in a profession that helps people and not necessarily go into medicine, agriculture is the way to go,” Hannah said.

The Crop and Soil Science department is versatile, with many hands-on and applied programs that span many research areas. Professors have a range of connections that can aid students in finding jobs and internships outside of the university.

Arron Carter

Carter advises students to engage in any hands-on opportunity they can. Using jobs or internships in education can allow students to discover the different areas within the field. Carter frequently finds himself collaborating with many different professors and researchers across a wide variety of specialties. Students engaging in these opportunities graduate from WSU with a broad set of tools and knowledge that will help them discover future careers.