Clayton’s academic career began at Parkland Community College where he then transferred to the University of Illinois. While at the University of Illinois in the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences he received two bachelors degrees in Agricultural Science Education – Teacher Certification and Crops Sciences - Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. Upper level classes completed in his Crop Sciences degree include Agronomy, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, and Biology. He also received a minor in Business from the College of business.
Clayton’s research career began early as he was named the National FFA American Star Farmer for starting his own business, The Sweet Corn Shack, while helping operate his own crop production enterprise. While engaged in production, he conducted personal research on the effects of insecticide on insect resistant GM crops. During his time at the University of Illinois - Champaign Urbana, he worked with the CRO Eurofins Agroscience Services as a research technician. He also worked in Dr. Brian Diers’ soybean breeding laboratory as a research technician working on high throughput genotyping by sequencing.
Clayton also worked as a summer intern with Dow Agrosciences LLC as a Field Scientist in the Northern Crop Protection Research Division under Dr. Kevin Johnson. While working with Dow he was able to research and present findings on the "Field Trial Performance of SmartStax® Hybrids on Sites with High Corn Rootworm Pressure."