DAFVM Spotlight Employees

The administration for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine (DAFVM) spotlights two employees each month. All benefits-eligible professional and support staff employees within the Division qualify as part of the pool from which employees will be chosen. Highlighted employees will be randomly selected and given his or her choice of a $50 prize from DAFVM to be claimed from specific vendors at MSU. See Guidelines.
David Howell

David Butler
August 2017

Machinist/Instrument Maker
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 19
Years at MSU: 19

Working at Mississippi State was a goal David Butler set for himself when he was still in college, and once he met it, he didn’t change his mind.

David grew up farming in Sturgis, and his dad suggested he take the machine shop course at East Mississippi Community College. David enjoyed the work, and once he graduated, he took a job at Taylor Machine Works in Louisville. After 7 years there, he worked at Starkville Tool & Die for 2 years before getting a job in the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

“I’ve been here 19 years and haven’t regretted it,” David said.

He enjoys the variety in his job as a machinist/instrument maker. He works primarily with faculty and staff testing lumber and wood products.

“We fabricate testing fixtures. One of our jobs is to test lumber by breaking it. So we create the fixtures we put the lumber in to do the breaking,” he explained. “There are all different types of machines. Sometimes they have blueprints for the fixtures they want me to make, and sometimes they tell me what they need to test and I build the fixture. I do a lot of repair on stuff that gets broken. Some of our equipment is obsolete, and you can’t get parts for it. So I make the parts.”

David’s skill with machines carries over into other duties. He oversees the vehicle fleet, operates the Wood Mizer sawmill to saw logs into lumber, and welds. He also conducts all of the boiler maintenance for the dry kilns and presses.

“I enjoy the interaction with faculty, staff, and students. I love having new challenges every day. I don’t have a set schedule for what I’m going to do each day – sometimes it changes every 15 minutes so the variety keeps it interesting,” he said.

David stays busy farming, gardening, and volunteering when he’s not at work. He is on the board of the Wake Forest Water Association and a member at Sturgis Baptist Church.

He and his wife of 28 years, Marsha, have four children, Lamar (26), Apryl (24), Ashley (12), & Daniel (9), and two grandsons, Bentley (5) and Jackson (1).

David Cross

David Cross
August 2017

Research Associate II
Department of Biochemistry,
Molecular Biology, Entomology
and Plant Pathology
Starkville campus

Years in Position: 13
Years at MSU: 19

David Cross merges his love of the outdoors with his passion for science as a research associate.

“This job combines my interests in the living world around us with the satisfaction of teasing out a few of Mother Nature’s secrets, even if the discovery process is sometimes happening only in small increments,” he explained.

David is used to working on a small scale.

“For several years our research has been looking into the genetics and temperature limits of invasive ants,” he said. “We’ve mostly been researching the imported fire ant and more recently, the tawny crazy ant. This crazy ant is a relative newcomer to Mississippi that has reached such high population densities in spots as to be very bothersome to homeowners and costly to industry.”

This research involves collecting samples, and recently allowed David to apply the skills used in one of his hobbies: woodworking.

“When we needed to collect many hundreds of a new pest ant, I couldn’t find an appropriate commercially available device. I tinkered in my shop and devised a mechanical aspirator from inexpensive parts that allowed us to get as many ants as we might possibly need,” he shared.

 David enjoys the variety his job affords.

“For weeks I may be hunkered down in the lab trying to map out genetic differences for the species of insect for our project. The next month, I may be presenting our findings at a conference or, more enjoyably, spending time collecting new material in the field, whether in the far reaches of Mississippi or nearby states,” he said.

He also likes hearing from students who are now involved in scientific careers.

“We have had more than our fair share of excellent student workers who have contributed their time and talent to the research done in our lab,” he observed. “Occasionally, I hear back from them how the experiences they’ve had here, or techniques they learned made them better biologists or medical technicians, etc. That’s always a plus for me.”

In addition to woodworking, David enjoys hiking, kayaking, photography and cycling. He has been happily married for 16 years to Juliet Tang.

  • The drawing for the DAFVM Staff Spotlight recognition will take place the last week of each month and be announced the first working day of the upcoming month.  Names are pulled randomly from a pre-populated Banner list.
  • To be the highlighted staff for any given month, the employee must have acceptable recent performance evaluations on file. Those evaluations will be reviewed prior to acknowledgement of the employee and awarding a prize. The evaluation itself will not be viewed but rather HRM will provide a general recommendation based on the employee’s past reviews.
  • The selected employees will be notified by letter from Dr. Greg Bohach, Vice President, DAFVM.
  • A required photo and a brief  interview of the recipients will be posted on the DAFVM Staff Council Web page www.dafvm.msstate.edu/advisory/spotlight/. This information will also be displayed on the monitors of the first floor of the Bost Building, as well as in other MSU locations and publications.
  • Each recipient can choose one of the following prizes:
    • $50 gift certificate to the University Florist
    • $50 gift certificate to the MAFES Sales Store
    • MSU apparel item ($50 value)

At each annual DAFVM Summer Celebration, the Staff Spotlight recipients from the previous year will be acknowledged. The DAFVM website will have an archive of all winners listed by month/date.

An employee cannot be chosen more than once during a two (2) year period.