Retiree James Mueller loves learning – about volcanoes in Iceland that disrupt global air traffic, NASA space projects, cultures and peoples of the world.
His love for learning grew in him as a child, evident in his keen interest in science. It continued when he joined the Air Force after graduating high school and studied to become a registered medical technologist. It found new expression in 1974 when he started as a laboratory analyst with Monsanto Chemical Company at the W. G. Krummrich Plant in Sauget, Illinois.
Over much of his career with legacy Monsanto, James worked in the Environmental Health Laboratory, where he helped conduct tests to ensure the company’s herbicides and insecticides products were safe for consumer use. The job combined his interest in helping protect people’s health and his interest in learning science. “We always had the ability to learn as we were working and were encouraged to take courses in the environmental and toxicology field,” he remembered.
During his tenure in this department, James’ interest in learning, computers and challenges led him to one of his proudest moments. He took on the task - on his own time - of developing a computer program to better analyze the data from the product safety tests.
“When I started with the group in 1979, there was no good mechanism to take the analytical data, sort it and report findings,” said James. The time-consuming process required manually calculating the data and transferring it from one form to another.
Over the course of 18 months, James taught himself computer programming and created a program that could complete the needed tasks more efficiently. The result - called the Analytical Chemistry Data Collection and Report Writing Program - cut the data analysis process time in half and became the standard for reporting test findings in the department. It also won James an achievement award from the company and the chance to travel to several locations to discuss the computer program.
James continued his interest in analyzing data in his next assignment as a research technician in the company’s Regulatory Science Department in St. Louis, Missouri.
When James retired from Monsanto in 1999, he was a research technician in the company’s Regulatory Science Department in St. Louis, Missouri. He was brought back to do more analytical work for the company in 2003. He retired for the last time in 2008 from what was then Monsanto Agricultural.
Looking back on his 30-year tenure with the company, James remembers well what he liked most about the experience. “The company was made up of brilliant scientists, chemists, engineers and research technicians all working together, not only to bring profit to their products, but to make sure those products were environmentally safe for all their customers,” he said.
After his first retirement in 1999, James and his wife Joan traveled to Canada and several countries in Europe. Now he’s spending his most recent retirement closer to home, enjoying time with his wife - who he refers to as the love of his life - their three children and four grandchildren.
And, of course, he still spends time learning. “I try to learn something new each day,” he said. “I’m trying to read all the good information that the Internet has to offer. I love all the new technology.”