University Distinguished Professor of Soil Microbiology
Partner institution: Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University
Dr. Rice grew up in Yorkville, Illinois which had a population of about 1,500 people at the time. Throughout the years he became involved in many aspects of 4-H. Rice received his B.S. in Geography from Northern Illinois University. He then completed his Masters and Doctorate from the University of Kentucky. Rice began his undergraduate work in biology but it was a honors geography water resource class that would lead him to switching his major. “I liked the courses and faculty in geography,” Rice said, “I switched over and never regretted it.”
After graduating, he took an internship doing research at Argonne National Laboratory and found his calling. His advisor encouraged him to expand his horizons and go to graduate school — and he ended up at the University of Kentucky, where he earned both his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Agronomy. Rice said the mentoring from faculty helped guide him to his current occupation. In 1988 Rice joined the Agronomy faculty at K-State. “It was a job that was a great fit,” Rice said, “I liked the University, faculty, the culture of the Department, and how people worked together.”
Rice specializes in soil microbiology, carbon cycling, and climate change. His extensive research has allowed him to gain helpful insight in order to help his students. Rice advises students to take international trips and have a lot of diverse experiences. “Enroll in courses that have nothing to do with your major, you never know,” Rice said. “Even my geography courses have benefitted me by helping me better understand other cultures during my international experiences.” There are many positive aspects to being specialized, but it is challenging to link that specialty to broader areas. “It is important to teach how a certain area of specialty, such as soil microbiology, has an impact beyond the local level and get students to think about the bigger picture,” Rice said.
Dr. Rice spends his remaining free time relaxing by doing the things that he enjoys most, reading and gardening. Rice said he likes the physical work from getting outside in the garden. “I enjoy seeing the results and accomplishments from my work in the garden,” Rice said.