Jim Holland is a Research Geneticist with the USDA-ARS and a Professor of Crop Science at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on breeding new types of corn for use in the USA and understanding the genetics of complex traits in corn.
Why I Became a Scientist:
My dad was in the navy so I spent my childhood in many different places, but always near the ocean, as that is where submarines are found. In other words, I did not grow up around farms. My nerd tendencies expressed early in life. I distinctly remember reading a ‘Little Golden Book’ on dinosaurs around the age of 6 and being terrified and thrilled at the concept of species extinction, while also wondering if I could have a job as a ‘scientist’ and study such things when I grew up. I went to college at Johns Hopkins because it has a good biology program and because my mom thought that maybe I would become a doctor under the influence of all the pre-med students there. However, I thought it would be more fun to work on plants. Plants are strange creatures that live in soil and eat sunlight and make air for us to breathe and food for us to eat, what could be more interesting?
By dumb luck, I got a job one summer with the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Beltsville, MD, working as a bottom level field and lab hand on a soybean genetics research program. My boss was a plant breeder and an extremely kind and patient mentor who helped guide me toward graduate school in plant breeding. I feel really fortunate to have a job that is tremendously fun and interesting. I get to work outside all summer pollinating and studying plants, making selections in breeding populations, and seeing the incredible diversity of maize. I have a lot of freedom to be creative in my job, choosing research topics that are interesting to me and thinking about how to answer questions using science. The best part is being able to work and think collaboratively with my students and other scientists.
1238 Williams Hall
Campus Box 7620
Raleigh, NC 27695-7620