By Aaron M.., Summer Intern and Student Ambassador
Thanks to Monsanto, I obtained my first real-world engineering experience this year. Although it may sound like a simple achievement, it was a milestone for the rest of my professional career, as it is my life-long goal to become an electrical engineer. I still remember driving up to Muscatine, Iowa, more than a thousand miles away from my home in Texas, perhaps a little afraid of the uncertainty of what was to come and completely oblivious to the great experience that was in store.
I serendipitously came to the company through Monsanto’s 1890 student leadership program, a diversity outreach initiative that extends invitations to students of 1890 land grant universities each year. There, I was introduced to the company’s mission to help feed the world, so I decided that I, too, should put my grain of sand toward this tremendous effort.
This past January, I began my role as an electrical engineer co-op in the acetanilides production unit (A-Unit) at Monsanto’s chemical manufacturing plant in Muscatine. My role entailed supporting the engineering team, technicians, and electricians; I also assisted in the plant’s butachlor and acetochlor campaigns and helped to prepare for the unit’s scheduled summer shutdown.
I learned so much at Monsanto, from electrical engineering applications for chemical processes— including process instrumentation and controls, motor control centers, unique safety features and interlocks—to scoping projects and putting together bills for materials in SAP. Some of the projects for which I was responsible included commissioning emergency stop buttons to a conveyer belt system and upgrading the lighting in the plant’s storage tank area from high pressure sodium fixtures to LED technology. I updated various engineering flow diagrams, control schematics, and other instrumentation drawings, and provided direction to electricians as needed.
My fellow engineers and colleagues quickly welcomed me to their unit and they asked my opinion when we faced problems that needed to be fixed. The value that they bestowed on me is something that I will never forget. The camaraderie and teamwork that are present in the A-Unit are crucial to keep everything running smoothly and are prime examples of the values that are cherished at Monsanto, which I truly respect.
Another key takeaway from this experience is Monsanto’s strong safety culture and sense of community. From day one, it was evident to me that these folks are genuinely concerned for everyone’s safety. All of the plant’s employees are committed to working safely, facilitating daily conversations on behavioral based safety and collectively participating in OSHA’s voluntary protection program to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. Needless to say, I felt very safe throughout my co-op.
Caring about safety extended beyond the plant. I learned that Monsanto has a huge impact on the Muscatine community, and I, coming from one of the largest cities in the nation, sincerely appreciated the company’s involvement. I helped with Monsanto’s annual Safety Day for sixth graders—a community service event in which local students are taught safe practices for use in daily life. In my booth, they took the chemical look-alike challenge, which taught them about the risks of confusing household chemicals with hazardous chemicals when labels are not provided. The students also had an opportunity to extinguish small fires and learn the about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
Thanks to this co-op experience, I have developed strong relationships within Monsanto, and plan on continuing my contribution to the company’s efforts of feeding the ever-growing world. Now that my tenure is over, I am eager to return to Prairie View A&M University and let my fellow students know about the opportunities that Monsanto has to offer!