Each year, the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) select one exceptional graduate student for the Future Leaders in Science Award. This year, that honor went to Baylor University’s very own Zack Valdez—a Ph.D. Student in the Ecological, Earth and Environmental Science Department. BLOG PICThe award recognizes students that have a vision for impacting policy and science.  Zack first learned of the award opportunity at a conference in Long Beach, CA, where he won an elevator speech contest. An advocate for the ASA, CSSA, and SSSA Future Leaders in Science Award was impressed by Zack’s speech and encouraged him to apply.  Good thing he followed his advice! As this year’s winner, Zack will enjoy an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC to participate in the 2015 Congressional Visits Day in March where he will receive advocacy training and meet with Congressional representatives.

According to Zack, it was the unique interdisciplinary approach of the EEES program that initially attracted him to Baylor.  Eventually, he hopes to pursue a career in alternative energy, but has decided to hone his skills in Environmental Science, Geology, Chemistry and various other disciplines first.  The majority of Zack’s research time has been spent working on carbon cycling, which has to do with ethanol fuel made from corn.  He is also an avid traveler and has been around the world more times than Carmen San Diego doing research and attending different Soil Science conferences in order to stay up-to-date with current developments in his field. When he’s not traveling the world or conducting research, Zack enjoys playing club soccer and enjoying the outdoors.

He looks forward to his trip to DC and is most excited to meet with congressional leaders to see how scientific research is implemented by policy.  While he loves to research within his discipline, Zack also feels his ability to speak and interact with people will allow him to be an advocate for progressive use of alternative energy and make a positive impact on our planet.