“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” The words of this centuries-old adage are engrained in the mind and the life of Wes Lowe.
Lowe, a research associate III in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, is a two-time MSU grad on track to earn his Ph.D. In August 2019, he will receive his doctorate.
While Lowe has hit a few road blocks along the way, his hard work, perseverance and creativity have served him well in his journey as both student and staff member at Mississippi State.
Lowe—who has always been interested in the intersection between agriculture and technology—came to MSU in 1996 as an agricultural engineering technology and business major. Life, however, soon took him down a different path.
“I wasn’t necessarily a dedicated student that first go-round,” Lowe remembered. “In high school, I never developed the study skills required to succeed in a college setting.”
Lowe left MSU and went into the workforce, spending the next 10 years working in sales and technical positions for various industries.
“That time was like a re-evaluation of my life,” he said. “I found out what I liked and didn’t like. I learned I wasn’t a sit-behind-the-desk kind of person. I wanted to make a physical difference—something you could see, which drew me back to MSU to finish my degree.”
In 2006, Lowe returned to the land-grant institution—this time intent on finishing what he started and realizing his dream of earning an agricultural engineering technology and business bachelor’s degree. The stakes were a little higher this time. Married, he and his wife had their first child, a son (their daughter would come along a few years later). Meanwhile, Lowe worked in construction full time while pursuing the degree.
“I started the job in the summer shoveling dirt six days a week in the hot sun and it didn’t take my supervisor long to figure out if I could do that task, he could trust me to do other things. Pretty soon, I was operating heavy equipment and managing a crew,” Lowe said. “That’s when I started realizing I was capable of a lot more than I gave myself credit for.”
The first semester back, Lowe made all As—a big jump from his previous GPA. He said the accomplishment was a game changer.
“My goal the second time around was to do the best I could in class. So, my first semester back, I ended up with a 4.0, which is shocking to say the least, considering where I’d been previously. Once I got a taste of that, I knew I could do just about anything I wanted to do,” he said.
He graduated with honors in 2008 and went on to earn a Master of Science in Agriculture with an engineering technology concentration in 2011. From there, he joined the department as a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station research associate working in the machine shop. His first project was helping design a delivery system for a catfish vaccine.
While working at MSU, he opted to take classes and decided to pursue a doctoral degree.
“I recognized that I wasn’t through with learning new things. I also recognized that if I was able to get my bachelor’s after so long, then I could do anything in the world I set my mind to,” Lowe said.
He said his favorite aspects of the job are the people and the projects.
“I work with a great group of people, and the relationships I’ve formed within the university have been a huge asset to me,” he said. “Everything we do is collaborative. It’s never me; it’s always we.”
Lowe, who now runs the department’s machine shop alongside Assistant Professor Daniel Chesser, said he enjoys how each project is like a blank canvas and he can use technology to solve agricultural problems.
“It’s exciting when a scientist says, ‘Here’s where we are and here’s where we need to be. We need this piece in the middle, but we don’t know what it looks like. Help us create it,’” Lowe said. “Oftentimes, someone may not know much about technology or how to apply it—they just want it to work. I love taking rough technology and making it user friendly, so people without a technological background can enjoy the benefits of it without being intimidated or frustrated.”
Lowe said the sky’s the limit when it comes to helping scientists solve problems.
“We get to be as creative as we want to be and solve as many problems as people bring us,” he said.