Indianapolis, IN | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2014
Carla Yerkes, B.S. ‘82, M.S. ‘85, Ph.D. ‘95, is a group leader, input traits biology, discovery research for Dow AgroSciences in Indianapolis. She was appointed to her present position in January 2012. She started her career as a research biologist specializing in weed management, discovery research, in 1995. “Carla Yerkes’ ability to contribute analytical depth across the broad scientific enterprise of Dow AgroSciences is remarkable,” said her nominator, Robert Joly, professor and head of Purdue’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. Yerkes has generously given her time and expertise to current Purdue students by leading workshops, participating in STEM conferences, and contributing each spring to the HORT 110 (Survey of Horticulture) course. “The power of her presentation as a role model, especially for young women, cannot be overstated,” Jolly said. “She speaks directly to students in a way that gives them a sense of the possibilities that could await them, in areas they have not yet imagined.” Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? Steve Weller of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture had the most marked influence on my professional career. Before meeting Dr. Weller and joining his research group, I really didn’t grasp the significance of basic research and its real-life applications. Dr. Weller gave me the perfect balance of direction and freedom, which prepared me well for the research world. Outside of Purdue, my grandfather taught me to love agriculture. My dad taught me the value of hard work Where was your favorite place on campus to study? Unfortunately, my favorite place to study was not the most effective place. I enjoyed studying in the student lounge, but I studied best alone in my dorm room. Were you a good student when you were at Purdue? I was a good student in high school and in college. I think I did well in classes during my freshman year because I feared failure. I came from a small high school and was intimidated by the breadth of education with which students from larger high schools were equipped. I did well in subsequent years and in graduate school because I loved what I was learning. What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Who gave you the advice? Whether the results prove or disprove the hypothesis being tested, a well¬ designed and executed experiment is successful. This message (paraphrased) was conveyed to me by Dr. Weller during one of our first meetings as graduate student and major professor. What is the best advice you have ever given? To whom did you give the advice? Having a career that you love will make you a success, not one that provides money without joy or satisfaction. That was my advice to my niece, Sara, when she told me she wanted to change her major.