February 1, 2022

Agriculture and Applied Science

Seely-Hinckley Scholar Sustaining the Future of Agriculture

Justin Deakin


Justin Deakin knew he wanted to pursue a career in the agricultural industry since a young age. The experience of working on his family’s dry farm in Snowville, Utah, made him realize how much of a need there was for further research and education that would help farmers, including his family, increase agricultural productivity, improve sustainability and create economic efficiency and stability.

And when it came time to look at colleges, Deakin looked no further than Utah State University because of its known expertise in soil science and its many related fields. His excellence in high school provided him the opportunity to enroll at USU as a Presidential Scholar, with 100 percent of his tuition and student fees covered for four years. With the freedom to focus on his studies, Deakin immersed himself in college life as he worked toward earning a bachelor’s in environmental soil and water science in the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate.

After graduating in 2018, Deakin decided he wanted to further his education and he enrolled as a master’s student in soil science. While Deakin knew that enrolling in a master’s program was the logical next step, he also knew that it would be a huge time commitment.

“The master’s in soil science is an extremely research-intensive program,” Deakin said. “I spend the majority of my time in the lab conducting experiments and applying applications we have learned about in class.”

Knowing that such focus and commitment would be essential to his success in the program, Deakin explored scholarship options provided by USU at the encouragement of his professors. He applied for, and received, a Seely-Hinckley scholarship during the first year of his master’s program, and every year since, allowing him to focus solely on his studies.

“I am so grateful for this scholarship,” Deakin said. “I am often in the laboratory late into the night and on weekends or holidays to ensure the perfect conditions for my research experiments. While this research is quite fulfilling, the large time commitment involved makes it difficult for me to work outside the laboratory. The scholarship provides me the opportunity to focus on my research and coursework, without the need to worry about how I will cover tuition.”

The Seely-Hinckley Scholarship Fund at USU was initiated in 1985 by the families of Robert H. Hinckley and John H. Seely, both pioneers of their time. Recipients of awards from this fund are known as Seely-Hinckley Scholars. They are chosen annually from every college within the university according to the agreement that established the endowment. The annual scholarships are awarded to outstanding students majoring in almost any field at USU, four within each college and eight in the School of Graduate Studies.

For students such as Deakin, scholarships create opportunities for those who may have obstacles as they earn a degree. For many students, working a job can become an obstacle for academic success and can prolong the time it takes to earn a degree. Private scholarships, like the Seely-Hinckley scholarship, help students pursue a degree with less debt and stress and they are becoming increasingly important as they help fill the gap for students who may not qualify for need-based financial aid.

Deakin credits the Seely-Hinckley scholarship for his continued success as he works to further understand how zinc oxide nanoparticles affect drought tolerance in wheat. He has also been given the opportunity to become a lead co-author of a research paper featured in a prestigious journal and has been able to attend several different conferences, where he has earned several accolades, including the 2021 Soil Fertility Industry Impact Award at the Western Nutrient Management Conference.

According to Deakin, the combination of the hand-on research and variety of experiences he has had at USU will allow him to make a difference in the world.

“I want to be able to share my knowledge and help farmers succeed in all aspects, particularly in rural communities where farming is more prevalent,” Deakin said. “The ultimate goal is to be able to help low-income populations around the world find economic stability through the practice of sustainable agriculture.”

As for the after-graduation goal of becoming gainfully employed, Deakin was recently hired by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Idaho. While he finishes up his master’s thesis, Deakin has begun transitioning to his work at U.S.D.A., where he will help private land owners conserve resources, prevent soil erosion and conserve irrigation water.

“The knowledge I have gained, particularly from the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences, is going to help me immensely in my career,” Deakin said. “The application of varying scientific studies as they relate to agriculture, will be particularly helpful as I work to educate and assist those in need so that I can help sustain the longevity of this vital industry.”



Brandon Monson
Agriculture, Senior Development Director

Michelle Merrill
Extension & Botanical, Development Director

What’s Your Impact?

Submit Story