College is by no means easy. My college experience has consisted of countless hours of studying, involvement in numerous organization, and working in a research lab. Yet, scholarships provided by organizations, especially Targeting Excellence, ease the burden of college students such as myself. And even though animal agriculture is not the most economically robust industry, currently, I am still inspired by the support and enthusiasm the Targeting Excellence sponsors, directors, and committees provides to us student. Thank you!
Reaching goals is never a straight line from “point A” to “point B”. There are always twists and turns and unexpected opportunities which cross our paths. One year ago, a professor I was working under offered me a position to continue my education and work on a master’s degree in his laboratory. Although I was not expecting such an opportunity, I could not refute how this step could positively impact my future career. Thus, I finished my undergraduate degree in December 2017 and am now in my first semester of my graduate program at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Animal Science..
This spring has already been a marvelous learning experience. Not only does the coursework dig into the mechanics of the ruminant animal, but the research I conduct allows me to visualize the mechanics in real time. My research focuses on how enzymatic feed additives effect in vitro rumen fermentation. As there are many enzymes which impact nutrient degradation, it is important to determine the interactions and differences among them.
Starting in my undergraduate career and now into my graduate, I have started to appreciate research in ruminant nutrition. I may be biased coming from a dairy farm, but ruminants are a unique and challenging set of species to research and produce. Their complicated and intricate ability to conduct rumen fermentation allows scientists and producers to manipulate their diets unlike a monogastric. This ability also allows us to use feed products, land, and other resources which would otherwise be wasted. These marvelous characteristics have attracted me to continue to work with ruminant nutrition research.
As I mentioned previously, I grew up on my family’s dairy farm. My love for animal agriculture is obviously rooted there. Moreover, I also gained an appreciation for the outdoors, working hard, and working as a team. In an ideal world, my future career would not only persist of conducting ruminant nutrition research, but to continue to work directly with farms. The idea of conducting research in a lab for my career does not suit all my strengths. The ideal career, which suits all my interests and goals, would be to conduct applied research on farms for a ruminant nutrition company.
However, after working in industry, and hopefully making a positive impact, I would like to return to the family farm. The dairy industry, as most agriculture industries, is in an economic slump, currently. Although it is an uncomfortable financial position, it provides producers as well as myself to find new and better ways to reduce inputs while maintaining production. I believe owning an operating a farm is one of the most rewarding and challenging endeavors available. Not to mention, it is a great way to raise a family as well as be connected to a great industry.
I can remember in grade school trying to develop a career plan. I can say I have gone in the right direction, but it was nowhere near a straight and easy path. Although I shared my career goals with you today, I do not know the new opportunities and challenges which lay ahead. What I know is that the animal agriculture industry will continue to be close to my heart and I will strive to better it every day.
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For questions please call: Rachel Virden 678-448-2368