From the time he was growing up in Longmont, Colorado, Forrest Wold-McGimsey was drawn to Colorado State University’s renowned plant breeding and genomics program. He attended Front Range Community College in both Boulder and Larimer counties, and eventually transferred to CSU as a Wolves 2 Rams Scholar. This year, he’ll graduate with a degree in plant biotechnology, genetics and breeding from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
The National Science Foundation-supported Wolves 2 Rams program helps students like Wold-McGimsey successfully transfer from Front Range to CSU. As a W2R scholar, Wold-McGimsey received scholarships that allowed him to engage in undergraduate research. That research experience has further fueled his desire to someday improve and develop plant varieties for Colorado growers, and for industries focused on climate change mitigation.
“I knew I wanted to work with plant genetics since I was in high school and working with greenhouse and floral design,” said Wold-McGimsey, the third of four boys in his family and a graduate of Niwot High School. While he was competing in floriculture through Future Farmers of America, “I was growing many plants that I knew took a lot of breeding work to look the way they did, and I became very interested in breeding plants for the future through genetic modification.”
That’s exactly the course he pursued at CSU, joining the lab of Assistant Professor Stephen Pearce, an expert in wheat functional genomics, and learning to work with the genomes of wheat, potato and hemp using cutting-edge technologies like transgenics and CRISPR. He’s thankful to have worked on a project with his lab mentor, Karl Ravet, on hemp regeneration and genomics – his favorite part of his lab experience.
Ravett was Wold-McGimsey’s teacher inside the lab, “but also gave me great advice for life, academics and professional development.” He’s also very thankful to Pearce for the opportunity to gain valuable experience as part of his laboratory. Wold-McGimsey was the recipient of the Finkner-Hale award in 2020, which supported his start in the Pearce lab.
The 2020 spring semester got off to a rocky start for Wold-McGimsey as he, like everyone else, came to terms with a lingering pandemic. Though quickly learning how to adapt to learning online was a challenge for both students and professors, Wold-McGimsey has been surprised by the fun he’s encountered over the last two semesters, watching his instructors come up with new ways to keep students engaged.
What’s more, online learning has had the added benefit of humanizing his professors, he said.
“Seeing them in their PJs at home with kids and pets in the background reminds me that they’re just people here to help us students and reaching out to them has been less intimidating since the pandemic began and as we all make our through this odd time together.”