Phillip Williams, a second year doctoral student from Orangeburg, South Carolina is helping farmers save big with sensor-based nitrogen management. The soil science major has been making great strides in the research and development of technology that can lower costs for farmers while limiting environmental emissions.
Check out Phillip and his accomplishments below!
How has your experience working/studying in this field helped you achieve your academic goals?
It has helped tremendously; I am having a great experience at Clemson thus far. All of the professors are helpful and knowledgeable. As a student, I get the opportunity to go out and speak with farmers providing me with hands on experience. My advisors have given me a great opportunity to combine field work with class knowledge to help me become more well-rounded in my field of study.
Why is this field (or research) important to you? And what made you want to get involved in it?
I grew up in a household heavily influenced by agriculture. Many generations before me have been farmers and seeing the struggles that come with this field I feel the need to contribute. My major soil fertility plays a large role in agriculture, specifically it is important to farmers that are producing food and fiber. To me, agriculture is the basis of a civilization and fertility and soil play a big role in the advancement of the field. With a growing global population, the demand for crops is steadily increasing making it important to study agriculture and how to make it more profitable and safe to meet global demands.
What is the overall goal of your research/study and how will you able to achieve it?
The overall goal of my research is to apply nitrogen, in specific amounts exactly where it is needed. This helps eliminate waste that could potentially harm the environment as well as save farmers on input costs to increase their profitability. There are several ways my research is helping to achieve this goal. One way is using optical sensors to obtain readings that can help determine how much nitrogen is needed. The other way is to apply sensor technology to irrigation systems to measure nutrient needs and apply them on the go.
Have you faced any obstacles academically or in your research? How did you overcome them?
I am currently on three research projects while still doing my graduate research. One of the largest obstacles is time management, especially with intense course work time can become a limiting factor. There are many long nights, weekends and holidays worked.
What would you say is your biggest take-away from your research/studies?
The biggest takeaway is the impact that I am trying to make for farmers. They are my priority and I am here for them. If my research is not of benefit to them then I have not done my job.
What are your future goals/aspirations?
I want to work in a university extension service helping farmers make management decisions and providing them with answers on problems, questions or concerns they may have.
Quote from Advisor: “Phillip always reflects an eagerness to learn and a willingness to work hard to achieve academic success. He never complains about workload or difficulty, but exhibits the strong work ethic that he has developed throughout his life. He has the energy and brightness to encourage others as I have witnessed in his interactions with the professors and students here at the Edisto REC. Phillip has experienced first-hand the need for successful food production research as it relates to our front line producers. I have always been impressed with the drive he shows when he approaches problems and how well he understands the research and Extension process. He is very good at considering what the impact of his work will be for improving technology and solving real-world problems. Students like Phillip give us reason to be convinced that our future is bright and that excitement, dedication, and hard work are alive and well within our students,” says Ahmad Khalilihan, precision agriculture engineer and advisor to Williams.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.