Seed World

Magan Lewis Creates Sparks in Those Around Her


If there are two things Magan Lewis is passionate about, it’s people and driving agriculture research into the future. Growing up in rural North Dakota, Lewis remembers being encouraged at a young age to participate in science experiments at her father’s high school science lab while students worked on science fair projects. Both of her parents were dedicated educators and community champions, often referred to by others as “trailblazers”. The encouragement fueled her passion —she knew she wanted to continue that legacy into the future.

Lewis attended North Dakota State University to achieve her PhD before landing in Des Moines, Iowa, now as equipment and automated field sensing lead for Bayer Crop Science. There’s one thing she’s never left behind, the desire to be a strong STEM role model. This is a role she values for raising her young daughters and inspiring students worldwide.

“I aim to honor my parents with service and commitment to family,” Lewis, Seed World‘s Future Leader of the Seed Industry, says. “I’ve mentored young scientists globally through science and engineering fairs, launched ‘You Be the Chemist’ quiz competitions, hosted a STEM camp for elementary students with my husband, and discussed the importance of agriculture technology during Season 3 of CBS Mission Unstoppable.”

Now, at Bayer Crop Science, her goal is focusing on the next evolution of agriculture research. Lewis’ team strives to increase the global efficiency of data collection, while improving data quality and safety of field testing.  This is accomplished through the development, validation and global deployment of high-impact digital tools and sensors. Lewis is inspired by the role technology plays in the seed industry. “New technologies that we develop allow farmers to make their operation as sustainable and productive as possible, while protecting our natural resources,” Lewis says.

“We all have the same goal of designing the best seed for our growers’ particular field conditions,” she says. “Everyone needs to eat, so the work we do impacts the world every day! And it all begins with the performance of every seed, but it requires the input of many partners.”

During her journey from scientist to global people leader, she had to learn to lead a team into the future.

“My primary goal as a leader is to help all employees ignite their spark — what gets them out of bed and excited to tackle the day’s challenges?” she says. “Employees who have activated the best version of themselves become drivers of their own work and take ownership for their output.” Empowering this drive in employees has helped her develop teams, and has been a driver for her own success.

Lewis says emotional intelligence plays a critical role for those looking to obtain the skills to become a good leader. “It’s also essential for leaders to recognize that employee development and feedback is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she says. “Be ready to activate your active listening superpower and take the time to understand perspectives of others.”

It’s clear how Lewis impacts people around her. “Magan challenges the status quo and is a strong advocate for women and youth,” says Ana Maria Heilman, NDAES senior big data pipeline manager at North Dakota State University and one of Lewis’ nominators. “She inspires our future generation of leaders and is passionate about the agriculture industry. She always tells us to be green and growing, and she motivates us to activate our spark — but I’m happy to see her own spark activated.”