My Winthrop Experience

Ernest Allen '03, '07
Charlotte, North Carolina
B.S., biology; M.S., biology
Division director, U.S. Department of Agriculture's Seed Testing and Regulatory Division

Ernest Allen '03, '07 may not carry a badge, but don't let that fool you — he and his team work hard to police the many seed packets found on store shelves nationwide.

"Seed Policeman," however, is an unofficial title. Allen, a botanist and certified seed analyst, works as director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Seed Testing and Regulatory Division located in Gastonia, North Carolina. He directs a team of 16 experts — who specialize in everything from genetics and plant morphology to seed marketing and regulation — to ensure that seed traders or distributors comply with the Federal Seed Act and state seed laws. Allen also supports and promotes the domestic seed market  the largest in the world with an estimated value of more than $12 billion  by representing the interests of the U.S. seed industry at international conferences that establish rules and policies for global seed trade.

Though the work of Allen and his squad tends to remain behind the scenes, he believes strongly in the importance of seed testing and regulation.

"Seeds play a tremendous part in our everyday lives," said Allen, pointing out that seeds impact every bite of the food we eat, the medicine we take and the clothes we wear. "Each day, everyone deals with something seeds have impacted."

The Greenwood, South Carolina, native came to Winthrop to pursue his interest in biology. Allen earned bachelor's and master's degrees in biology while working to pay his way through school. During his time at Winthrop, he found support from his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, as well as Department of Biology faculty.

Allen, who also met his wife, Tracie Doctor Allen '02, at Winthrop, explained that the variety of courses he took at his alma mater — genetics, microbiology, plant sciences, zoology and more — helped him build a valuable base knowledge of biology.

"I left Winthrop with a strong general education in the biology field it has been an educational experience that translated well for me in every job I have had."

 Photos Courtesy of: Todd Sumlin, Charlotte Observer