- September 2022
Extension Associate I
Coastal Mississippi Research and Extension Center
Years in Position: 3.5 years
Years at MSU: 3.5 years
Matthew Virden is part of a team of scientists who work to understand and solve problems related to coastal restoration across the entire Gulf Coast.
In his role as an Extension associate, Virden conducts research primarily with living shorelines and nearshore oyster reefs. A large portion of his activities includes working with drones and developing low-cost research equipment which allow his team to approach coastal research in a new way and to attempt large-scale environmental monitoring.
“That work includes mapping shorelines in multiple states across the Gulf Coast and even collaborating with the Mississippi Aquarium on work with dolphin research,” Virden said.
The variety of tasks is one of the elements Virden enjoys most about his job.
“I chose this career because I enjoy helping people and solving problems,” he said. “I am not stuck working on one problem or project every single day. One day I can be working with property owners giving them assistance with their shorelines. The next day I can be evaluating newly restored oyster reefs to determine their impacts.
“I also wanted a career where I wasn’t stuck behind a desk every day. This job allows me to get out in the field and do research that helps answer questions. I can then deliver those answers to people that need them most,” he said.
A recent drone purchase is helping his team make further strides in their work.
“This drone has a lot more capabilities compared to the ones we have,” he said. “The opportunities that are now available to us because of this equipment is very exciting.”
Although most of Virden’s days are spent in the field, there are days that are devoted to desk work.
“There is a lot of writing involved in this career,” he said. “People may not realize that. Whether it is writing grant proposals, reports, or analyses, at some point, you will have to sit down and write up everything you have done or plan to do in the field.”
Every part of the job requires attention to detail and flexibility.
“A lot of the work we do you have to pay attention to the details so that your results are as accurate as possible,” Virden said. “Sometimes things go wrong that you can’t control and so you must be able to adapt to make the best out of the situation instead of letting everything fall apart.”
The best advice Virden can offer to anyone who is interested in a career in his field is to get as much hands-on experience as possible.
“Even if the experience is just an unpaid volunteer opportunity, all the experience you get will help you know what you want to focus on in your career,” he said. “The skills you acquire and connections you make will help incredibly when you are trying to find a job.”
Virden is an avid Mississippi State athletics fan, especially baseball and football