Chemical Engineering alumnus Dr Matthew Cahill, R&D Leader at Dow AgroSciences returned to his alma mater in Cambridge after 7 years to give a career talk on agricultural science in the Department on Thursday 23 April 2015.
Dr Cahill gave an insight into the type of scientific research undertaken in a global agricultural research company like Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company specialising in not only agricultural chemicals such as pesticides, but also seeds and biotechnology solutions. He also discussed some factors that motivate us in our careers and talk about the skills that can help along the way.
Chemical Engineering expertise is moving into new directions to meet global demands. More engineering talent is required in face of the global challenges posed by the increasing population numbers and climate change, calling for increased food production and smarter ways of producing food to help eradicate hunger the world. Sustainable crop protection and plant biotechnology solutions are then becoming increasingly important as these help enhance yields and crop quality and address challenging issues in global agriculture. Decreased rainfall has made it difficult to increase production in dry areas like Australia.
In the plant breeding process he noted the high costs involved in bringing a biotech crop to the market, such as the R&D element to support a route into market requiring a safe data sheet allowing for seeds to be sold. Despite the challenges at hand, Dr Cahill mentioned that industry is currently effectively working with talented scientists helping align academic capabilities with corporate needs and interests. Chemical engineers can then play a key role by helping optimise costs in the areas of food processing and manufacturing. Matthew also talked about plant breeding techniques and precision technologies, more specifically discussing targeted mutagenesis and genome engineering including genome editing techniques.
Finally, he touched on the importance of the concepts of purpose and mastery, which provide the drive for knowledge, while social styles provide the opportunity for engagement and creativity. He said ‘you need a career purpose to feel incentivised to go to work everyday.’ He also pointed out the meaning of human existence and the important role a group of individuals working in a team plays to help achieve a common goal – with team interaction and communication making the work experience more rewarding, worthwhile and successful.