Missouri State University

Jerri Lynn Dodson

Cultivating new roots in the field of hydroponics

“I related a research problem to something I saw a need for and fell in love with it.”

Graduate student Jerri Lynn Dodson was on a plane when she received the message that she took second place in the national Robert F. Barnes Graduate Student Poster Contest (Forage and Grazinglands division). “Forage research is a need in this area,” she said. “We must continue in the science behind it for the future of agriculture.”

Intrigue and opportunity

Growing up on a farm, Dodson paid little attention to plants. It wasn’t until college when she began to appreciate their colorful beauty, source of food and supply of oxygen.

Her decision to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in Environmental Plant Science at Missouri State University turned an appreciation into a fiery passion.

She remembered the moment when everything clicked. “I started learning about plants in class, and it just made sense to me,” she said. “It was intriguing, so I began to ask questions. Then I found out I could make a career out of it.”

During her last undergraduate semester, Dodson received a graduate assistantship with her advisor, Dr. Melissa Remley, and began running hydroponics experiments.

“Growing plants hydroponically is putting the roots in a solution of water and nutrients, and letting them grow in that alone,” she explained. “The basic concept is growing plants without using soil.”

Chasing a hypothesis

“When I began learning about plants, it changed how I saw the world.”

Dodson’s love for forages and her problem-solving hypothesis was the fuel behind the success of her research.

“My thesis looks at the effects of phosphorus in cereal grains which creates a metabolic deficiency in cattle,” she said. “Hydroponic systems allow me to see how different variations of phosphorus levels affect the nutrition in forages.”

Dodson’s analytical mindset flourished in the lab where she had complete control over the plant environment. 

“In the lab is where all the concepts come together,” she said. “I related a research problem to something I saw a need for and fell in love with it.”

‘Like a family’

Meeting the demands of the classroom, working in the labs and developing a thesis were overwhelming at times. Dodson relied on the “family atmosphere” from the Darr College of Agriculture for support.

“We are like family in Karl’s Hall," she said. "Professors and students are so supportive, and they will encourage and help you with anything.”

At 22 years of age, Dodson has an impressive resume that includes a master’s degree in plant science. Her desire to influence the field of agriculture has led her to her next quest: pursuing a doctorate degree in plant, insect and microbial sciences this summer.