Melina Biron

Melina Biron

About

Degree & Grad Year BSc, 2000
Program Plant Science
Occupation Greenhouse Research Manager
Workplace Plant Care Services, UBC

What motivates you to volunteer?

As an alumna of LFS, it gives me great pleasure to give back for all the support and mentoring I received as a student. I had two outstanding mentors, Karen Needham, a forensic entomologist (now a curator at Beaty Biodiversity Museum), who really helped me understand the world of entomology, and Dr. Bob Copeman, a plant physiologist who is now retired (Professor Emeritus in Plant Science at LFS). I’ve stayed in contact with him through my whole career, honestly! Now I have a pretty specialized skill set which I feel is beneficial to share, for any students that are interested in controlled environment agriculture.

How do you feel benefit by volunteering?

The biggest thing that I can bring to students is a stronger awareness of plant physiology and responsiveness to environmental factors, where students may have a very simplistic view of a plant in space and time. I help bring the awareness of how that plant is engaging with the environment around, and how that environment is helping to shape the growth behaviour of the plant – something students don’t get in plant physiology classes. So I find that rewarding.

What is one message that you would like to share with students about how they can prepare for the world of work?

To get as much experience in as many fields of interest as possible before jumping full into a position!

How did you envision your career journey would be when you started university?

Very different than it turned out! I started at UBC planning to be a veterinarian and then changed my mind in second year after much experience in the field and with the help of a really great advisor in Animal Science. I decided it wasn’t right for me, and went with my other interest, which was plants. A big change, as the kingdoms are pretty different! I never envisioned I would end up one of the few female head greenhouse growers in the world.

Share one example of how your LFS degree experience has enabled you to differentiate yourself from other professionals?

I feel that my degree in plant science gave me reasoning skills to solve issues. I was taught to look at issues and use these skills to assess all the variables to find the right solution. So many times I was the one who offered the decision that ended up being accepted. I also had what seemed to be a stronger vocabulary when talking with colleagues. I felt UBC gave me all the right tools to succeed in the workplace and through life.

What is something that you are proud of that you have accomplished in your career?

I set a world record of production in greenhouse Tomato on the Vine, as a Canadian woman in a very male-dominated world. I did it twice, so I broke my own record! First in 2010, then again in 2012. As I said, female growers are rare, and I succeeded above and beyond at it. I never had to look for work once I entered the industry…jobs were offered to me.