Photo by Ryan Jeske

Alum partners with Dow AgroSciences, develops international STEM program

By MARISA MATA, Student Writer

Ronda Hamm (2000) experienced some shock when she moved to New York for graduate school after living in the Central Valley her entire life.

Hamm persevered through bouts of homesickness, and after staying in New York for seven years moved to Indiana, where she has been for the last eight years because of her love for her work — connecting science and the community. And despite negative perceptions that people have about her line of work, Hamm has continued to and plans on always being involved in scientific outreach efforts.

Hamm grew up interested in animals, dreaming that she would one day be a veterinarian. But her involvement in Future Farmers of America and internship at the Kearney Ag. Center during high school led her to Fresno State, where she would get a “well-rounded degree” in agricultural education, which not only focused on animals but plants and agricultural mechanics as well.

“After completing my degree, I continued my education as a student teacher at Clovis East and Sierra High Schools. Teaching has always been, and still remains, a passion of mine. It was during this time that I made the decision to attend graduate school with the intention of completing a master’s degree and returning to the classroom,” Hamm said.

Hamm working with flies in a growth chamber during graduate school

“I began graduate school at Cornell University in the department of entomology during the spring of 2002. Upon completion of my M.S. I remained at Cornell completing my Ph.D. in entomology in 2008.”

While at Cornell, Hamm worked as a teaching assistant and partnered with a faculty member to develop Insectapalooza — an interactive open-house hosted by the entomology department.

“The first year we got hundreds of people, and we were shocked by the demand that there was in the community for something like this. That momentum carried it on, and it’s been going on as an annual event for the department, drawing more than 1,000 people each year.”

“Additionally, I co-developed the Naturalist Outreach in Biology course, which inspires students to develop a hands-on interactive talk about a biology subject.”

“The students present their talk at ten outreach events throughout the semester, which trains them how to become science communicators, builds their confidence and presence, while providing role model scientists to the community.”

The same year Hamm completed her doctorate, she started working at Dow AgroSciences as a field scientist in research and development.

“I managed the urban pest management laboratory and worked with termites, cockroaches and bed bugs. My responsibilities included field research and technical support for the sales organization, covering a territory from Maine to the Carolinas, across to Tennessee and up to Wisconsin.”

“Currently, I am a patent liaison for biological solutions. When research and development has a new invention, I work with them to gather the information and data that has been generated, then write the patent application and work with the patent attorney to protect our intellectual property. In this role I support a wide variety of groups and new technologies, which has me learning something new every day.”

Photo by Jenna Marston

The work that Hamm has done with Dow AgroSciences that she is proudest of is the formation of the Science Ambassadors Program, which aims to get kids interested enough in STEM to want to study it and eventually work in a STEM industry. Hamm helped to form the program five years ago in Indianapolis, and it now has locations in Michigan, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom and India and has reached over half a million children.

“I see myself always being involved in outreach…it’s something that I am passionate about, I care about and I think has high value to our community and to society as a whole…what’s next is hard to say because there’s so many opportunities, but I look forward to seeing what those opportunities are.”

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