Soil Science and a Giant Squash
Scott Holub, class of 1997, works for a big company as a soil scientist, conducting research for the benefit of the trees, with enough time on the side to compete (and win!) in giant vegetable contests. Read more here about what his work involves and what it takes to do his kind of work.
What inspired you to pursue a PhD in Botany?
I have always loved science and plants. I was interested in ecology and ended up going to Oregon State University after I contacted my future advisor there and she had a position open.
What is your job title and what do you do?
I am a Soil Scientist with Weyerhaeuser Company. I work with our Timberlands operations and our sustainability group to identify research needs in the areas of silviculture (tree growing) and soil sustainability. I help to address those needs by designing studies to expand our knowledge and understanding of critical biological, chemical, and physical processes. My major projects revolve around how forest practices affect carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and around how best to maintain adequate tree nutrition. I collaborate with industry research co-ops and with a variety of university researchers and sit on graduate student committees when possible.
How did you find out about your job?
I found the job ad on an email list serve and thought it looked very interesting.
What is it like doing research for a big company?
I enjoy working for Weyerhaeuser Company. We have a commitment to protecting the environment. My research directly supports that commitment by ensuring that our practices maintain soil productivity so that healthy forests can continue to provide the wood and wood products that society values on a sustainable basis.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I like the applied aspect of the research I do here. Using science to answer meaningful and urgent research needs is very motivating and rewarding. And I work with a great group of researchers and operation folks, who make the job fun.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?
Time management is always tricky. With several different and equally important projects going on at once, it can be hard to prioritize. And I always want to do more.
Do you apply much of the skills and knowledge you acquired in school to what you do now?
Yes, I apply my school training and knowledge on a daily basis. I also continue to learn new facts, approaches, and methods to grow my skill set. Integrating new data and information from a variety of topics and disciplines maximizes the chances of successful research.
Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing your line of work?
General advice I would give is to not let yourself be geographically restrained when looking for opportunities. Take internships or positions in places you might not consider to be optimal. Gain experience and connections this way and continue to grow and learn new things.
A fun fact about me is that I grow giant vegetables as a hobby. I just broke the world record for giant green squash in October and it weighed in at 1,844.5 pounds.