I really appreciate everyone who has donated or participated in Targeting Excellence. I have been so grateful for the support. The last few years have been a particularly difficult time to be a student, and the financial support and recognition from Targeting Excellence is so valuable. Thank you!
I am an ag convert. I grew up on a horse rescue, and ingested every possible misconception I could be fed about the horrors of “factory farming.” It wasn’t until college at the University of Missouri that I got to experience production agriculture firsthand and realize how wrong my perceptions were. I did several, varied research projects in undergrad in both plant and animal molecular biology. I absorbed as much about agriculture there as I could possibly learn. Out of undergrad, I started at an agricultural biotech startup called Benson Hill. I got an immersive experience there in both bench science and agricultural business development. I absolutely loved the variety and intense pace of startup crop Ag. However, I ended up missing my animal roots and decided that I needed to start applying for grad schools to further my education. I am currently a PhD student at NC State in Dr. Matt Koci’s lab. It was here at State where I was first introduced to working with agricultural animals, and I have never looked back! My former lab focused on swine health and well-being. My MS projects revolved around measuring behavioral and molecular markers for local and systemic inflammation during low-intensity heat stress. That research evaluated the differences between first-time and repeated exposure to heat stress to broaden our understanding to stress adaptability in pigs. In my PhD, I am studying chicken gastrointestinal health and immunology. My projects pertain to diet form effect on the structure and function of the microbiota, as well as microbiome modulation with probiotics and the effect on immune energetics.
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with two of the most important agricultural elements in NC, the swine and poultry industries. I originally wanted to go to NC State because of its extensive network of industry partners, which I felt was an important lens through which I wanted to receive my education. I fully intend to return to industry when I finish my PhD Program. I get the best of nitty gritty basic science with my feet on the ground of real-world practicality, and I hope to return to industry as a scientist in a research and development role after graduate school. I am also fortunate to be a part of a PhD fellowship with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), whose funding originally spun out of the 2014 Farm Bill. Through this fellowship, I am sponsored by AgBiome, a microbial biologicals company. I am lucky to have a company like AgBiome nearby and NCSU and FFAR programs that have helped me build connections with them. I am excited to continue to immerse myself in the University learning environment and focus on developing myself in order to be an asset to the animal agriculture industry. I hope to be an ambassador for agriculture in the fight to keep up with global population demands. I can’t thank the donors and committee of Targeting Excellence enough for their continued support throughout my education.