The scientific method meets the Iowa MBA
Trevor Jones is a born problem-solver. As a senior biology major at Central College, he realized that the nitrogen fertilizer used in modern agriculture has major environmental costs—which many did not talk about. His discovery became a lifelong commitment to making change in the ag industry.
After beginning in a research role, within months he realized he didn’t want to spend his life in a lab. From there, he pivoted to a new path in business. From biotech and permitting, to licensing, to external affairs, Trevor’s trajectory saw him influencing many areas of ag-tech.
We use the scientific method to break down his journey:
Make an observation
Trevor knew that nitrogen feeds the crops that feed the world, and is responsible for over half of the world’s population. But since corn cannot naturally absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere like soybeans can, excess runoff was causing algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and impacting Iowa’s waterways. Plus, nitrous oxide emissions are around 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Ask a question
Trevor’s first question: “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?” His next: “Is there a way to focus my career on fixing it?”
Form a hypothesis
Trevor proposed two potential solutions: Breeding to develop a variety of corn that utilizes nitrogen better, or a GMO approach that uses biotechnology to explore pathways in the plant.
His hypothesis led him directly to a research job in the seed industry, then to various business roles with Pioneer and Corteva. But as he continued to explore his career options, he found himself at an impasse.
Make a prediction based on your hypothesis
After being passed over for a position where every other candidate had an advanced degree, Trevor realized he wasn’t going to move into a more fulfilling role without the credential.
“I had always thought about going back to school, he says, “but that was the catalyst.”
While the benefit to the degree seemed clear, Trevor wondered if he would be able to balance a full-time job with parenting his two daughters. His predicted solution? The Iowa MBA.
“I had two daughters when I was going through the program, and shared custody, so the more flexibility in a program the better,” he explains. “The Iowa MBA fit my needs from a personal standpoint. The reputation of Tippie and the flexibility of schedule were the big drivers in choosing this program."
He also predicted he’d need buy-in from his family to make it all work.
“My parents, sister, and girlfriend (now wife) were rock stars to help me figure out the logistics of life outside of school and work,” he laughs, “they were always kind of on call. I had them over to watch graduation on YouTube during COVID – I was like ‘this is for me, but you guys did a lot of work too.’”
Test the prediction
Even during the program, Trevor gave his new skills a test-run.
“There was a lot of good learning going on that I could apply right away,” he says. “I saw the return on the investment as it was happening.”
As his responsibilities grew, he ended up working on corporate initiatives and briefings for the CEO.
“In the program, I learned a lot about what they care about at the executive level, he says. “My classes were equipping me with the tools that I needed in the moment.”
Trevor’s career has taken him from research to biotech and permitting, to licensing, to external affairs—and finally to his dream job at Pivot Bio.
“I finished the MBA at the end of 2020, and I’d always viewed it as a remover of hurdles and an insurance policy,” he admits. “But my mentors were like, ‘that’s one way to look at it, but you should also leverage the hell out of it and try to catapult your career with it.’”
Their advice prompted him to consider Pivot Bio, a company he’d been drawn to for years. Not only was the company attracting high-caliber leaders from his previous job with Pioneer, they were also offering an alternative form of nitrogen, a perfect match for his background.
He came across a role that seemed tailor-made for his experiences and was hired within weeks of applying.
“It was a win-win for me because it was why I got into agriculture in the first place. It was a full-circle moment,” he says.