COSAM News Articles 2020 February COSAM Alumnus Leads Technology and Science Division for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Federal Grain Inspection Service

COSAM Alumnus Leads Technology and Science Division for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Federal Grain Inspection Service

Published: 02/11/2020

By: Melanie Vynalek

Auburn University alumnus Dr. Ed Jhee combines hard work with leaps of faith as he takes on new challenges in his career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

After completing his undergraduate biology studies, Jhee stepped away from his original plan to attend medical school, taught two years of high school science, and began his graduate studies in Auburn’s College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM). In 2004, Dr. Jhee graduated from Auburn with a doctor of philosophy in biological sciences and an ecology minor.

Now, Jhee works in Kansas City, Missouri as the director of the Technology and Science Division for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS). However, getting to this spot required a lot of goal setting and dedication.

He recalls the challenge of navigating his career after first leaving Auburn, and the patience he acquired while waiting for the right opportunity to finally come along.

“I must have submitted a zillion job applications and the folks at the local post office even knew my name. I received an opportunity for a few interviews with environmental consulting firms in the D.C. area and received my first opportunity. I was able to use my degree for biological analyses for Environmental Impact Statements for the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health,” Dr. Jhee said.

This initial opportunity led him to a position with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in 2006. A few years later, he was promoted to begin a new program for the agency that focused on compliance assistance and outreach, and a few more years later, he was promoted to director of the Regulatory Operations Program.

In this previous role, Dr. Jhee oversaw the achievement of the goals and objectives of the program, as well as ensured employee engagement and met with staff, sister units within the agency, and members of the regulated community, he said.

He relocated from Washington D.C. to his new home in Kansas City for his current position with FGIS.

“Learning this side of the industry has been great and I know the level of responsibility will be important to ensure we meet our mission and goals, while staying on budget and ensuring taxpayers and stakeholders receive quality work,” Dr. Jhee said.

Looking back, Dr. Jhee recalls his time at Auburn as an experience that helped begin the path to his career.

While at Auburn, he worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, attended a study abroad trip with the Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica, and conducted a memorable research project at the Agricultural Experiment Station within the collard green fields.

Dr. Jhee recalls the impact his former mentor, Dr. Bob Boyd, made on his time as a graduate student, and the unforgettable classroom experience he cultivated. “I’m proud of Ed for making his career with the federal government,” Dr. Boyd said. “And I appreciate that he returned to Auburn in February 2018 to share his experience as a member of the SUCCEED Symposium for Career Development organized by Dr. Haruka Wada and Dr. Kimberly Mulligan-Guy.”

After more than a decade in his profession, he finds breaking up goals into manageable chunks and holding himself accountable to be most beneficial when taking on new projects.

“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Take the scientific inquisitive mind and ask questions. Think of the big picture and where you fit within it. In addition to looking at the forest, think of the trees,” Dr. Jhee said. 

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