Thank you TE Sponsors, Board and Committees. It is a great honor to receive this scholarship and I am very grateful that you are willing to support my education and passions. I love the animal agriculture industry and it was wonderful getting to network during the event at Drake Landing.
Animal agriculture is an extremely important commodity and, I feel, driven to contribute to the poultry industry because of its extreme value to our economy and the nutritional value it holds. I would like to work for a company that shares my passion and interest for the development of innovative alternatives to antibiotics and immunological research. I foresee myself working as a technical consultant for an animal breeding company, sharing knowledge to educate customers and helping formulate and develop areas of research and/or product development. I have a particular interest in the evolving, increasing antibiotic resistance. The poultry industry is slowly moving toward antibiotic-free production of meat and eggs, but that movement has had dramatic effects concerning outbreaks of certain diseases, which has on occasion limited production of poultry products in some companies. This is one of the driving reasons for my interest in researching immunology and, more specifically, antibiotic resistant pathogens. I have been working in the lab of Dr. Robert Beckstead, and currently for Dr. Chongxiao (Sean) Chen, for the past two and a half years, gaining hands-on experience and knowledge in immunology, pathology, nutrition and parasitology through their research on histomoniasis in turkey poults. The research is focused on histomoniasis or blackhead disease, a protozoan disease that can cause up to 100% mortality in turkey flocks. The research conducted in the laboratory endeavors to determine transmission methods, to understand immune responses to the disease, and to discover a viable treatment. I was trusted to help with a trial to detect the possibility of resistance to histomoniasis or blackhead disease in turkeys. This trial examined the antibody response within the surviving birds of a flock challenged three separate times with Histomonas meleagridis. The presence of an antibody response and recovery in the surviving birds would confirm that resistance is possible and offer the possibility of using genetic selection to reduce mortality, as opposed to the surviving turkeys simply never getting infected. I participated in the placement, tagging, cloacal infection, and termination scoring of these birds. I also learned how to perform ELISA tests as part of the trial. In my time with the veterinary team at Aviagen in Elkmont, Alabama, I noticed the lack of permissible antibiotics in the industry, making treatment limited and difficult. This opportunity not only brought me face to face with the issues the poultry industry is struggling with but also gave me actual practice in field taking viable cell counts, isolating bacteria, taking on-farm samples, preforming necropsies, and recognizing abnormalities in flocks and bio security procedures. I have also interned with Cobb Vantress, where I spent time on a pedigree farm, shadowing the geneticist and learning management practices from incubation in the hatchery to artificial insemination of breeders. I’m hoping that graduate school will give me the foundation and investigative skills necessary to contribute to the immunological research community and give me inspiration as I look for ways to support animal agriculture and continue to do research in this discipline.