Senior Spotlight: Michael McLaughlin

McLaughlin will graduate with a degree in plant sciences.

Senior Spotlight graphic featuring student wearing graduation gown and stole.

Michael McLaughlin’s first visit to the University of Missouri was an unofficial one, but that’s all it took for him to realize that MU was the place he needed to be. McLaughlin, who was 14 years old at the time of the trip, was visiting his cousin and saw numerous spots across campus. It was the final stop that sold him on Mizzou.

“We visited my cousin’s dorm and I happened to look out the window and quickly noticed the greenhouses on the roof of the Bond Life Sciences Center,” McLaughlin said. “I knew immediately that I had to come to Mizzou. I wanted to do everything I could to work in those greenhouses. That was my inspiration.”

McLaughlin said that he spent a lot of time with his grandparents growing up. His grandmother, who worked for Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, would take him to the laboratory as a child, which gave McLaughlin his first taste of science and research. When they got home, McLaughlin would spend time out in a greenhouse that his grandfather, a brickmason, built.

“So many of my days were spent seeing the projects my grandma was working on followed by playing around with plants in the greenhouse,” McLaughlin said. “I was fascinated by science and I loved working with plants. I knew that when the day came for me to go to college I wanted to study plants.”

McLaughlin, who is from Lone Jack, Mo., toured a couple more universities later on but said none of them gave him the same feeling he got when he saw the MU campus. When he officially arrived at Mizzou in 2019 he immediately declared as a plant sciences major.

“There are so many opportunities within this degree, especially if you apply yourself,” McLaughlin said. “This is such a great time to get involved in plant sciences at MU, too. There are new grants flowing in and we’ve updated a few labs. It’s an exciting time for sure.”

McLaughlin has spent his entire time at Mizzou working in a variety of greenhouses across campus. He actually reached out to Michelle Brooks, greenhouse coordinator, before his freshman year to secure a spot. McLaughlin was charged with multiple jobs while working in the greenhouses, including watering and scouting for pests or plant damage. He also helped with the integrated pest management strategies implemented throughout the greenhouses.

“We have great greenhouse facilities and it’s crazy to think that I’ve spent my entire collegiate career working in them,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve learned so much throughout my time and it’s been a really enjoyable experience.”

While McLaughlin was plenty busy during his time at MU, he was part of Marching Mizzou, too. He played the tenor saxophone in the band and said he was excited to end his time with the group at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“That opportunity was a goal I never knew I had,” McLaughlin said. “I spent years watching the parade and to have the opportunity to actually lead it was insane. We have so much support in the Columbia community, which always helps be at our absolute best.”

After earning his degree this month, McLaughlin will pack up and move to Hawaii where he has accepted a job as a production associate with Bayer. He said he will primarily be working with corn and will have an opportunity to visit multiple Hawaiian Islands through his job.

“I’m obviously very excited to get started,” McLaughlin said. “The opportunities in Hawaii are going to be phenomenal, and I’m ready to learn more about the culture and environment in Hawaii. From everything I’ve seen, there is such strong community involvement, which is something I’m really looking forward to. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.”

McLaughlin said that his job in Hawaii is the perfect way for him to begin his professional career. He added that he is hoping to pursue some other interests while he’s there, too. McLaughlin would like to work toward a doctorate degree, as he has an interest in eventually becoming a professor. He would also like to one day operate his own vineyard and run his own greenhouse.

“I’ve had so many great experiences during my time at Mizzou and established a ton of amazing relationships,” McLaughlin said. “It will be sad that those will look a bit different now, but I’m also excited to build new relationships in my new role.

“I do have a lot of interests that I want to pursue in the future. The plant sciences degree program prepared me to do just that. My professors genuinely cared about my success and my future, and they were always willing to work with me through any questions I had. They made me feel very thankful that I chose this path.”