HCS Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Emma Grace Matcham

June 9, 2022
Dr. Emma Matcham standing in a gap in the soil

Meet Emma Grace Matcham | HCS Alumna Class of 2019

Today Emma is a Nutrient-Cycling Agroecologist – she recently completed her PhD & has moved right into a new role at the University of Florida – where she is an Assistant Professor focused on nutrient-cycling. While here at HCS, Emma completed her master’s degree in 2019 under the advisement of Dr. Laura Lindsey. Her MS thesis was focused on “Identifying Soil & Terrain Attributes that Predict Changes in Local Ideal Seeding Rate for Soybean”. 

Graciously, Emma took some time to share with us how her career is going, her time here at HCS + some advice for students looking for their first post-college job:

How did you become interested in soybeans, nutrient cycling & agroecology for agronomic crop production?

My undergraduate degree was in Forestry, but during my junior year I worked in Reed Johnson’s honey bee entomology lab and collected insecticide drift samples during corn planting with Harold Watters at OSU Extension. Between that research and my involvement with TerrAqua (a student chapter of the Water Management Association of Ohio), I became increasingly interested in how agricultural ecosystems impact surrounding ecosystems. When I started working with agronomic crops, I really enjoyed the experience of getting to plan a trial and harvest data in just a few months—so much faster and more satisfying than forestry trials! While working primarily in soybean during grad school, I learned a lot about plant-based proteins and international trade. That knowledge base has been useful as I transition into researching more peanuts, cotton, and corn. 

What are you most looking forward to as an Assistant Professor at the University of Florida?

I just got my first trial in Florida planted, and I’m already feeling so much more settled! I’m most excited to get to know farmers and other landowners later this summer, and I’m also looking forward to advising students and serving on mentoring committees next academic year. 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in academia?

I had been on the fence between Extension and industry career paths, and I realized in the early part of the COVID pandemic that I wanted to continue working directly with my Extension colleagues throughout my career. Their creativity and support was so energizing for me during that time, and I enjoy being able to talk to community members about their concerns and goals without having to sell them a product.

How did your time at HCS help prepare you for your career?

My MS in HCS was helpful for transitioning from a production forestry background into annual cropping systems. I particularly benefited from the departmental support for preparing for the Certified Crop Advisor exam—being a CCA has been a huge asset during my job search, and the international network of CCAs has been a great resource for me. The people I met were also instrumental. I still lean on the folks I met in HCS, including my advisor, other faculty, and students I met through classes and student organizations. 

Any advice for students considering graduate school?

Someone can be a great advisor with successful students, but they might not be the right choice for you. I’d recommend getting to know how they resolve conflicts and manage time before committing to graduate school. 

Any advice for students looking for their first job out of college?

I’m glad I started my job search very early. The first few job applications I filled out were very difficult and time consuming. As my defense approached, I felt a lot better about filling out applications and it was much less stressful to balance graduation requirements with job searching. 

You can keep up with Dr. Matcham’s lab on twitter