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John Wellhofer

About John

  • Area of study: Controlled Environment Agriculture
  • Hometown: Blue Bell, PA
  • Fun fact about you: I can ride a unicycle.
  • View John's LinkedIn profile

What were you doing prior to your degree program?

I was working as a laboratory technician in a plant lighting laboratory. The work I did there is what inspired my MPS project on supplemental lighting for greenhouse hemp.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome in order to participate in the MPS program?

The biggest obstacle for me was overcoming the knowledge gap. My background is not in horticulture or even biology, so between my time as a laboratory technician and now in the MPS program, I had to get quickly up to speed on all things related to plant science. I love the work, though, so it makes learning the material much easier!

Why did you choose to pursue the MPS degree?

I think my path has always trended in the direction of controlled environment agriculture, even if it was not direct. When I graduated in 2018, I had the opportunity to change paths from engineering to plant science, and I took that opportunity. Getting an MPS degree was simply the next step in my path.

What are the strengths of your program, in your opinion?

The diversity of the program is its strength, both in people and opportunities, in my opinion. I have met a wide range of people from all walks of life who have come to Cornell to pursue an MPS degree. Hearing their experiences and how they ended up at Cornell has been a fascinating and valuable experience. The other strength of opportunities, is in the ability to make the program one's own. Just as each person in the program is different, so are the projects and the classes available. I have been able to tune my project and schedule to courses that will help me in my career goals, and I value that flexibility.

What were some of the most rewarding moments while in your MPS program?

 The most rewarding moment for me is when I go into the greenhouse and see the fruits of my labor. It's so extraordinarily satisfying to see the plants you raised from tiny four inch cuttings growing into enormous, beautiful plants. 

What are your short term and long term career goals?

In the short term, I am looking to get into the CEA industry and start my career in the plant sciences. In the long term, I want to become an industry leader and expert in CEA.

What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals?

It's difficult to pick one or two because I chose my courses specifically to fill my knowledge gaps. To choose two, I would say Biology and Management of Plant Disease and Ecology and Physiology of Crops. Plant disease is an area I had no experience in and that course opened my eyes to plant diseases and disease management. Physiology is important in a similar way, in that I have not had a formal college-level plant physiology course. Taking that class has given me a better understanding of plants that I can apply to my work. 

What advice would you give to your younger self embarking on the journey of graduate school?

Read more! There is an abundance of fantastic papers out there that are relevant to your work. It takes a while to get used to the jargon and fully understand what is being discussed, so start early! 

How has your MPS experience changed you, both personally and professionally?

It has given me more confidence in my own ability. I have proven that I am able to rise to the challenge of succeeding in a new field different from my previous experience.