The journey after college takes many paths for UC Davis College of Biological Sciences graduates. To inspire and prepare current students, we’re introducing a new series to profile the real-world, professional experiences of our alumni.
Improving Plant Health Through Biology
Maud Hinchee received her B.S. in Botany in 1975 and then returned to UC Davis and completed a Ph.D. in Botany in 1981. Hinchee possesses decades of experience in the fields of botany and plant biotechnology.
She works as the chief science officer at Agricen Sciences in Pilot Point, Texas. Hinchee leads a research program which uses microbiology and bioprocessing science to develop biological products to improve plant health for agricultural applications. Hinchee directs the research efforts of the company, making sure projects are up-to-date and running smoothly and that they are appropriate to help achieve the company’s goals. She stays in contact with employees at all levels, from the CEO of Agricen to the researchers in the labs.
“I started industrial research when I joined Monsanto,” said Hinchee. “There I was able to grow into greater and greater supervisory and management roles as the company pioneered the development of plant biotech products.” From here, she moved into a chief science role at ArborGen, a forest biotechnology and genetics company.
“I was intrigued by the possibilities that my present company, Agricen Sciences, presented to be once again part of a pioneering company, this time in the area of biological products for plant growth and health,” Hinchee said.
Unique Educational Experiences Grow Opportunities
Hinchee’s first career experience came as an undergraduate intern with Professor Emeritus Tom Rost, Department of Plant Biology, whose lab research specialized in root development. Along with another position as an undergrad teaching assistant, Hinchee learned hands-on research techniques and the ability to collaborate, motivate and lead people in a team environment.
“Both of these experiences motivated me to go to graduate school to gain an M.S. and Ph.D. in botany, with an emphasis in gaining an understanding of what controls plant morphogenesis,” Hinchee said. Plant morphogenesis deals with a plant’s origin and how it develops its physical form and external structure.
After leaving UC Davis, Hinchee found that her education experience was quite unique from that of her peers from other schools. Discovering how to manipulate plant cells, tissues and organ development, as well as other techniques in the burgeoning field of plant biotechnology, gave Hinchee an advantage over many other students who lacked similar experience.
“UC Davis provides so many diverse academic and experiential learning opportunities for students,” Hinchee said. “It is a university that has everything — agriculture, law, medicine, veterinary medicine, environmental sciences and engineering — plus a strong traditional arts and science curriculum. A student is only limited by their own perceptions of their limitations.”
As plant biotechnology grew as a field, Hinchee expanded her knowledge of genetics, genomics and applied field research. Her focus ultimately moved from conducting research herself to leading a team of researchers—which is what she does in her current role at Agricen Sciences.
Hinchee joined Agricen Sciences because the small research and development company focuses on developing biological products for crop production. The company’s goal is to develop microbial technologies to aid farmers to get the most of their agricultural land and their crops, by increasing the availability of nutrients, improving crop tolerance to stress and by increasing crop yields. Hinchee says the key to enjoying your career is to be able to adapt, learn and thrive when circumstances change.
She was recognized for her academic excellence as a student, earning UC Davis’ coveted Chancellor's Fellowship, the Jastro-Shields Graduate Research Scholarship, the Regents Fellowship and the Botany Department Citation for Outstanding Undergraduate Majors.
In her leisure time, Hinchee gardens, rides horses and enjoys the company of an extended pet family consisting of four cats and three dogs. She also spends time exploring new recipes and cooking together with her daughter.