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It is the little things that count

I teach in the areas of soil/plant and environmental microbiology and researches the rhizobia and mycorrhizae of soybean.

Tom Loynachan
Iowa State University

I consider myself a: Soil Scientist

My Highest Degree: Doctorate

I received my degrees from: B.S. - Iowa State University M.S. - Iowa State University Ph.D. - North Carolina State University

I received my degree(s) in: Ph.D. in Soil Science

Length of Career: I consider myself a soil microbiologist. I have a long interest in natural sciences and originally started graduate school in soil fertility. I took a course in soil biology that excited me about the small living organisms of the soil. When the teacher of that course retired, I replaced him at Iowa State, and I have been teaching that course for over 30 years now.

What was your career path to your current position?
I received my Bachelor of Science Degree from Iowa State University in 1968. I taught Vocational Agriculture at Grinnell, IA only a short time before being drafted into the U.S. Army. After honorable discharge, I received my Master of Science Degree in Soil Microbiology and Biochemistry from Iowa State in 1972 and my Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Soil Science from North Carolina State University in 1975. From 1975 until 1978, I was on the staff as an assistant professor at the University of Alaska doing research on oil-spill remediation.

What projects are you working on now? What interesting projects have you worked on/led in the past?
I am currently working on a book chapter on soil biology intended for the 10-12 grade high school level. We need to excite young people about the importance of soils; for life above ground depends on the soils of the world for food, fuel, feed, and fiber production.

What do you find most interesting about your work (either currently or a story of a past experience)?
I enjoy working with students…they keep me young (in heart at least). It is great to advise students and be a part of their success stories. You often don’t know the impact you might have on a student until years later when the student tells you about a certain incidence (which you probably forgot long ago).

What do you like best about your job and/or what do you like best about being in your profession?
Again, working with students is a real joy. I tell my advisees that they should find a job for which they have a passion. Life is too short to get up Monday mornings and dread going to work. I have a great job that I enjoy (and someone is willing to pay me to do it).

What’s the one thing you would change about your job/profession that would make it better?
Paperwork is troublesome (but a necessity). The paperwork might be completing student degree audits, writing teaching materials, or working on publications. And, writing exams and grading exams is work!

What would you say to someone thinking about entering the profession? What advice would you give for succeeding in this field?
Being a college professor is a great job and fairly secure. It you do your job, you probably will continue to have a job. The need to educate future generations will be with us for many years to come. You must like people, enjoy working with people, and take joy in the success of others.

What do you like doing in your free time?
I like to fish, as you can see from the accompanying picture. Also, Jean and I have three great boys and seven great grandchildren. There is no problem in finding something to do during free time.

If you have more questions about my career, feel free to contact me at:

Tom Loynachan
Iowa State University
Ames, IA
Iowa State University