Winning the prestigious Bolton/Carothers Innovative Science Award is an honor for any DuPont employee, especially so when it is only your fourth year on the job. Such is the case for Zaiqi Pan, who received a master’s degree from the University of Delaware Statistics Program in January 2008.
An employee of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, Pan received the award with his fellow team members — Laura Higgins, Lindsey Flexner and Natalie Hubbard — in January 2012 for their work developing and implementing an innovative method to deploy refuge for the Pioneer genetically modified corn plant.
Pan, who received a master’s degree in statistics, credits the personal and educational support he received from the professors in the Department of Food and Resource Economics in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for not only helping him make it through to graduation, but also for starting him off on his successful career path.
When Pan started in the statistics program in 2005, a serious family situation made him question whether or not he wanted to continue with his studies. Luckily for him, the statistics faculty was there to help guide and support him through the rough patch.
“Dr. Ilvento encouraged me to stay in the program and keep connected when I had to go through such a very stressful time,” said Pan, adding that he missed a lot of class time and studies that Tom Ilvento, professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, helped him make up.
After the difficult start, Pan said he soon began thriving in the Statistics Program, specifically in the StatLab, a statistics laboratory designed to help researchers in the use of effective and appropriate statistical techniques in different research areas. It was in the StatLab that Pan worked and formed a close friendship with Lidia Rejtö, professor of statistics in the Department of Food and Resource Economics.
That friendship was cemented, Pan said, when Rejtö spent a sabbatical at Pioneer, DuPont Agricultural Biotechnology, in 2008 and they worked together on a number of projects.
Rejtö said she enjoyed working with her former student and praised Pan for his statistical abilities. “What is very rare is that he knows not just the statistical theory but he’s able to apply the theory and to develop a program,” said Rejtö. “There are not many statisticians who can combine the two things.”
Pan, who did his undergraduate research in mechanical engineering and then went to work as a software engineer in telecommunications before joining the UD Statistics Program, praised StatLab for providing him with the skills that ultimately led him to become a successful professional.
“It’s a really hands-on experience,” said Pan, adding that it helped improve his communication and collaboration talents.
Pan explained this comes in handy working at DuPont, where “you have to have excellent communication skills to present your ideas, so your audience will be able to understand your creative solutions quickly.”
The program also helped Pan by providing him with an opportunity to intern at DuPont while still studying for his master’s degree. He worked with Bruce Stanley in the Stine-Haskell Laboratory at DuPont Crop Protection, which gave him the first-hand experience that helped him get his current job with Pioneer studying agricultural biotechnology.
Pan has helped current students in the same way that he was helped as a student, saying that he currently oversees three interns from the UD Statistics Program.
“I think that the internship just helped me a lot to prepare for my career, so now I try to actually give back my experiences to my interns,” said Pan. “We value their strength and capability and assign them real projects they can work on and build their professional skills on. We treat the internship as a learning experience so they can successfully prepare for their future career.”
About the Bolton/Carothers Innovative Science Award
The Bolton/Carothers Innovative Science Award is named after Wallace Carothers, who is credited with inventing nylon in 1938, and Elmer Bolton, who helped encourage Carothers and commercialize the product. The award recognizes creative scientific invention or discovery that results in a recently commercialized new product, technology or business generating significant revenue with the potential for sustainable earnings.
StatLab provides statistical consulting services to UD graduate students, faculty, staff and researchers throughout the University, as well as non-University agencies and companies. The StatLab is jointly supported by the Statistics Program of the Department of Food and Resource Economics and Research and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Danielle Quigley
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