Mike Koziel ’73: He Was DX When Greek Wasn’t Cool

“Too much Miester Brau destroys brain cells,” recalls Mike Koziel ’73, when asked to recall any funny moments from his days in Delta Chi at the University of Michigan. “Besides, we were pretty busy studying and such and didn’t have time to go on funny escapades. It was a collection of good guys in a fraternity at a time when Greek institutions were out of favor. Personally, my experience didn’t match the negative stereotypes — some of which still exist today.”

After gaining his degree in zoology, Brother Koziel went on to pursue his professional conquests.

“Thanks to Nixon ending the draft that year (draft number = 34), my first job after graduating in 1973 was, fortunately for me, not digging fox holes in Vietnam,” Mike explains. “I landed an entry-level position with the Wayne County Road Commission mowing the grass on the sides of Detroit’s freeways. Maybe you drove past me! I had a great tan that summer. That quickly wore thin, so I bought a pool table and retired. Unfortunately, I was somewhat short of a fully financed retirement and had to look for a job with my still-fresh zoology degree from U of M.”

“After exploring the slim pickings of job prospects available with a zoology degree, I decided it was time to check out of reality and check back into school,” he says. “I went to Wayne State University (they had been impressed with how neat the freeway banks looked when I was mowing them). I got an M.S. and Ph.D. in plant molecular biology, having by then figured out that plants don’t bite and don’t bleed like mice and other zoological creatures. Initially, virology was my area of focus but I became more interested in introducing new genes into plants to modify their capabilities. That turned out to be an employable area as the new field of genetic engineering was dawning.”

“I have worked for small and large companies in the ag biotech area,” remarks the former DX brother. Starting his career with the International Plant Research Institute (the nation’s first ag bio company), Mike went on to work for Rohm and Haas (a staid chemical company, Ciba-Geigy (now Sygenta) as a scientist and group leader, Pioneer/DuPont as group leader and Athenix as CEO. His career moves took him and his family to the California Bay Area, Philadelphia, Raleigh and Des Moines.

“My typical ‘career unit’ was about five to six years before I got wanderlust or the company went belly-up (that would be IPRI, but it was a great ride until we hit the wall). Along the way, I was fortunate to play a role in developing several improved plant varieties that increase yield and reduce pesticide load on the environment, including the first transgenic corn in the U.S. (or elsewhere on the planet).”

These days, Brother Koziel enjoys a hobby of doing as little as possible, but don’t let that fool you; he is very much invested in keeping his family alive and afloat. The family consists of his wife of 35 years, Pam, along with their daughter, her husband and their son, age two. He also stays involved with a few small ag biotech companies.

A final parting word from Brother Koziel leaves us with a fair warning. “Don’t get a degree in zoology,” he laments.

Anyone wishing to contact Mike is encouraged to do so via email at [email protected].