Stoneville, MS | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2014
Geoff Waldbieser received all three of his degrees from Purdue University (B.S. ‘83, M.S. ‘85, and Ph.D. ‘89) before becoming a Research Molecular Biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture and an adjunct graduate faculty member in the Center for Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. Based in Stoneville, Miss., Waldbieser and his research team have focused on genetic improvement of channel and blue catfish, which are the most economically important aquacultured species in the United States and are also grown throughout the world. His research has focused on DNA-based identification methods to produce pedigreed research populations, and currently leads efforts to sequence the genomes of these two species to facilitate selection for economically important traits. Waldbieser has authored or co-authored more than 85 research publications and has given numerous research presentations at national and international scientific conferences. He is a key scientist for the development of genomic resources for catfish, which continue to be essential for continued genetic selection. Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? Larry Chrisman (Animal Sciences) was most influential in my development as a scientist. During my junior year I volunteered in his lab. It was a watershed moment when I saw my own chromosomes under a microscope. William Frey, the manager of Tarkington Hall, also influenced me significantly. I worked for him as a counselor my senior year and as a staff resident for the two years of my master’s program .... Mr. Frey was a modest and effective leader, and an interesting man. He encouraged us to go the extra mile for those under our charge. He taught us to be active, empathetic listeners, which really changed my way of going from that point forward - amazing how many people just want someone to listen. What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Who gave you the advice? Dr. Chrisman advised me to develop a “big bag of tricks,” basically broadening my learning and skills so when I graduated I would have flexibility in my career. He was a proponent of learning to communicate science to a general audience and gave me many opportunities to teach or talk to an audience. I was rough at first but improved with each experience. Dr. Chrisman would also encourage me to continue learning. One of his sayings was, “Don’t get so far behind the parade that you think you’re leading it.” What is the best advice you have ever given? To whom did you give the advice? Eat more U.S. farm-raised catfish. It’s good for you. Humility, self-sacrifice, and delayed gratification are valuable. Praise is always better coming from someone other than yourself. Don’t waste your time on envy. If you’re like me, then you admire those who give of themselves, so we should all work to be that kind of person. I would remind students that you will leave Purdue with a terrific education, but wisdom comes from experience so develop relationships and learn from experienced people. Sometimes you’ll only learn what not to do, but that’s valuable. Remember that you’re special and unique, just like everyone else, so be ready and willing to do the work, because the world does not owe you a living. Often, you’ll just have to be content with the personal satisfaction of a job well done. Hopefully you’ve learned how to learn, because you must continue learning to be relevant as knowledge and technology expand (although human nature doesn’t seem to change much). I think it boils down to: Learn from the past, live in the present, look to the future.