Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NRES Courses and Agronomy Internship

It has been a great Fall 2015 semester! I am a natural resources and environmental science major and one of my favorite courses this semester was FNR 488 - Global Issues.  In the Global Issues course we discussed a variety of topics surrounding environmental issues.  In the course each student picked a particular country and did research on that country and its relation to the various topics discussed in the class.  We also had several discussions, where students could practice voicing and supporting their opinions.  This course is extremely helpful in developing an educated approach to voice your opinion.  I highly recommend it to students who want to gain an overall understanding on some of the major environmental issues and possible solutions around the globe.  Some of the topics in the course are: human population growth, biodiversity, energy resources, endangered species, nuclear power and waste, climate change, deforestation, genetic engineering, recycling, and pollution issues.

This semester I have continued my video internship with Purdue Agronomy, capturing footage of different events going on around the department.  I was also able to work on several videos profiling the excellent staff in the department.  The photo at the top is from a video profiling Katy Rainey and her research.  To watch the video click here!

Overall it has been a great senior semester.  I can't believe my time at Purdue is wrapping up.  When I think back to my freshman days, it's amazing how much I've been able to grow over the past few years.  I know that NRES and Agronomy have been the best programs for preparing me for the real-world and my career objectives.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Purdue Agronomy Club

I can’t believe the semester is almost over. Only 2 more weeks and I will be heading home for Christmas break. It is time for me to being preparing for finals. Here are my thoughts on one of the best clubs here at Purdue (I may be a little biased)….
Deciding to join the Purdue Agronomy Club was one of the best decisions that I have made since I became a Boilermaker. The Agronomy Club is full of down to earth people who all have a passion for making a difference through agronomy. We meet every week for a meal, a meeting or activity, and fellowship. We often go on tours. This semester we toured a Monsanto research center and the Diagnostic Training Center. We also invite guest speakers like alumni or people from the industry to speak; recently we had BASF come and share with us. We even do things like go bowling or go to shoot trap and skeet. The Agronomy Club is full of so many opportunities. I am going to tell you about a recent trip to California that I took with the club.
As a Purdue Agronomy Member we are also part of the national Students of Crops Soil and Environmental Science (SASES) organization. Every year they have a national meeting in the fall semester and a regional meeting in the spring semester. About a month ago we attended the national SASES meeting that was held in Long Beach, California. On October 31st at about 3:30 in the morning we headed to the Indianapolis airport for a trip that I will never forget. The first day there was open for exploration. We tried so great seafood, put our feet in the water at the beach, toured an aquarium, and finally got some sleep. 
This was at the aquarium 
At the Beach

Saturday we got up bright and early to go on tours that we signed up for. There were five different tours, and you could pick one to go on. The tours varied from seeing the wetlands of California, to seeing citrus, to cotton. I chose to tour the San Joaquin Valley. It was a two hour drive of seeing mountains after mountains. Once we got into the valley we stopped at a cotton gin to see how cotton is separated from its seed, cleaned and bailed to be sold. We drove by countless grape groves and almond orchards. Next we stopped at a field and got out to see lettuce being harvested. They got rain the day before so they had migrant workers harvesting the lettuce by hand. I learned that 10% of the world’s lettuce is produced right there in the valley. The lettuce that I saw being harvested was going to be on the shelves of a grocery store within the next 24 hours. Finally we stopped at a dairy operation. We learned about their total mixed rations (TMI) that they use, and saw their milking carousal being used. It was incredible the variety of crops that we saw on the tour. That night our president, Joe Atha competed against other schools in the president’s trophy competition.
Lettuce Fields being Harvested
The Cotton Gin 

 Sunday was a busy day of competing in competitions. We all participated in various competitions that varied from speech competition to poster contest, and from a crops judging to visual presentations and quiz bowl. We went away with 1st place in quiz bowl, 2nd place in the speech contest, 2nd and 3rd in visual presentations, and 4th in the poster contest. On the last day I ran for a national office and came home as the new SASES corresponding secretary. Some other things we did while we were there was hear a talk from the 2014 world food prize winner, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram and attend a Purdue reception where we got to network with alumni. 
The New SASES Officers 
Taylor, Baily,  and I Presenting our Poster 

We all came back to Purdue exhausted, but it was so worth the trip. I learned that California is much different form the Midwest, and seeing crops other than corn and soybeans broadened my perspective of the agronomy sector of agriculture. This is just one amazing experience that I have gained through the Agronomy Club. The club has helped me to make some great friend, build on my leadership skills, network with people in the industry, go on some great trips and see some amazing things all while learning about agronomy. I hope that if you decide to come to Purdue that I see you at Agronomy Club as I was recently elected as our new president. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Senior Status

I have had a busy semester since my first blog post and some of that activity doesn’t relate to agronomy, so I am going to talk about opportunities outside of the department in addition to some agronomy related news! The month of November has been filled with extraordinary networking opportunities for me. The first week of November was the Old Masters program. Old Masters is a Purdue tradition that brings back ten distinguished alumni to campus to honor their professional achievements, share their stories, and inspire the next generation of world changing Boilermakers. This was my second year of involvement with Old Masters and it has been my favorite campus organization by far. I was able to meet and interact with a former astronaut, the Chairman of the Purdue Board of Trustees, and multiple presidents and vice presidents of successful companies. I also got to meet some of the best and brightest student leaders on campus. The Old Masters shared a wealth of knowledge but were all very humble about their accomplishments and were genuinely excited to be back at Purdue, which was extremely rewarding.  Retired Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, Dow AgroSciences president Tim Hassinger, and the United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, also visited campus in the last month and a half and I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with all of them as a part of a small group of students. Not very many universities give students those sorts of opportunities to meet and interact with company presidents and politicians; Purdue Agriculture actively seeks out these meetings for the professional development of students.  

 Old Masters Publicity Officers with Honorary Old Master,
Interim Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Dr. Frank Dooley
    I study plant genetics, breeding, and biotechnology; my plan at Purdue has always been to work as a plant breeder for a private seed company like Dupont Pioneer or Dow AgroSciences. This job requires a Ph.D., a requirement of which I have always been aware. I finished my graduate school applications in mid-October and am now playing the waiting game to receive acceptance notifications. I applied to Cornell, North Carolina State, Kansas State, Minnesota, and Washington State. Yes, Purdue is not on the list. Purdue has an excellent graduate plant breeding and genetics program but I want a change of culture, landscape, and environment. Purdue Agronomy has been exceptionally good to me, but I am looking for a new challenge. I hope by my next blog post I will have an update and some more concrete plans for my area of research!
                I have also been busy working on my senior capstone project. Every Agronomy student is required to complete a senior capstone. This may be a research project in a lab, a written study or review of an agronomic topic, or a more classroom based project. I am looking at the effect of elevated temperature on high oleic soybean mutants and mapping unknown high oleic mutations. In layman’s terms, my research measures the effect of temperature on the oil profile of soybean seed to find a variety that produces higher concentrations of heart-healthy oleic acid. I am also doing some gene mapping and genotyping work. Progress is good and preliminary data is promising so that has been encouraging! I also spent several weeks helping with harvest at the agronomy farm. We were harvesting until mid-November which meant that it was freezing. Thankfully everything is out of the field now. My busy semester is (sadly) winding down which means I only have one semester left as an undergraduate. I have a lot left to do still, so I should have plenty to write about next time!

Daniel Sweeney, Senior, Plant Genetics, Breeding, and Biotechnology

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Purdue iGEM Adventures in Boston!

As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent my summer interning with the Purdue University iGEM Team. iGEM is an international organization of collegiate genetic engineering teams, founded at MIT in 2003. This year the Purdue team focused on increasing iron uptake in corn and soil via modified soil microbes, so I was able to combine aspects of agronomy with synthetic biology! This past month, the Purdue iGEM traveled to Boston to present our findings at the International iGEM Jamboree with over 200 teams from 32 different countries. It was an incredible trip with awesome science, interesting people, and a fun city. 

At the Jamboree, we were able to listen to teams present their projects, which included everything from designing bacteria to function like computer programs to bacteria that can be used to alternative energy. It was pretty incredible to see all the different applications teams researched!

At the poster session, each team prepares a poster and there is free time to ask teams about their project. Our project, "Minecrobe," attracted many iGEMers interested in our agriculture-based project, as well as our theme inspired by the popular video game "Minecraft." An iGEMer from UANL in Mexico showed special enthusiasm for our project and showed us a Minecraft figurine he had with him. It was exciting to have a fan!

In addition to all the awesome science, there was plenty of time to explore Boston. We toured the MIT and Harvard campus and ate "clam chowdah" at every restaurant we went to. 

And, of course, we visited Mike's Pastry Shop multiple times to satiate our cannoli cravings. So good!

The Jamboree trip was an incredible weekend filled with science, collaboration, site-seeing, and great food. The trip was a great ending to all the hard work we put into "Minecrobe" and was the perfect thing to inspire us for the new year! I now serve as Purdue iGEM's Vice President and we are working to expand the organization to provide synthetic biology skills and opportunities to all students interested in being a part of the iGEM community. Looking forward to more great experiences this year!

By Hailey Edmondson
 Plant Genetics, Breeding, and Biotechnology '17

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My experience abroad!

            Although I talked about it a bit in my intro post, I figured that I could blog a bit more about my experience abroad last spring. From January to May of 2014, I spent five months living, studying, and traveling in the beautiful country of Mexico. I lived in the city of Queretaro, which is about three hours north of Mexico City, putting me right in the center of the country. The central region is one of the most culturally diverse and safe regions of the country. In these five months, I learned and experienced many incredible things, and the memories will stay with me until the day I die.
            I chose to study abroad in Mexico mainly because I’m minoring in Spanish and I wanted to become as fluent as possible, but also because Mexico is an incredibly diverse country with an incredible history, diverse landscapes, and awesome food and culture. While in Mexico, I studied at Tec de Monterrey Campus Queretaro, which is one of the top universities in Mexico. While my courses there were mostly directed towards my Spanish minor and not my NRES major (and also entirely in Spanish), I gained a new perspective an insight on environmental issues and conservation through my daily life and travels. Mexico was much more environmentally conscious as a society than I thought they would be. Recycling and composting were relatively common, and there are a lot of grassroots conservation efforts throughout the country. I got to experience some incredible natural wonders that the country has to offer, which I’ll show off more in pictures later.
            I also grew and strengthened a lot of job-applicable skills in my time in Mexico as well. Aside from learning Spanish, my confidence, communication skills, and flexibility improved greatly. When you’re in a foreign country and trying to do something as simple as get a taxi in a different language, you have to keep trying and communicating to get a mutual understanding between both parties. Compared to difficulties such as this, things like an interview in English will seem like a breeze. I also gained a new appreciation for Mexico. As Americans, we have a huge influence from the culture and people of Mexico living within our borders, but we know very little about the country and its people. I now have the ability to connect much more deeply to a large portion of the US population and understand their country’s problems and points of pride. It’s hard to be close-minded when you live in another country.
            Finally, I got to experience some incredible places and things. I took the opportunity to travel often. Mexico is a gorgeous country where ancient traditions meet up with modern ways of life. In my travels, I got to do incredible things like climb the largest pyramid outside of Egypt, snorkel in coral reefs in the Caribbean, and explore vibrant and pulsating cities full of energy. Purdue has a fantastic study abroad program, and I cannot stress enough how great of an experience it is. It doesn’t matter where you study abroad, just do it. Going for an entire semester was incredible, but even if you can only go on a spring break trip, it would still be worth all of the time and money. And with Purdue giving out thousands of dollars in travel grants to its study abroad students, studying abroad has never been more affordable. Take the opportunity to travel while you can. You will never regret it!


Cathedral in my host city of Queretaro

Aztec Sun Calendar in the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City

The back of a humpback whale in the Pacific Ocean

Snorkeling through a cave to get to a hidden beach in the middle of an island in the Pacific ocean

At the top of the tallest pyramid in the Americas, the Pyramid of the Sun at the city of Teotihuacan

Underneath a waterfall at the Sierra Gorda Biosphere reserve in the mountain forests of the state of Queretaro

Only a few of thousands of monarch butterflies at their winter home way up in the mountains of central Mexico

Fish in the coral reef of the Caribbean coast of Mexico

A 12-foot crocodile in the marshes right off of the Pacific coast in the state of Oaxaca

A flock of flamingos in a lagoon in the Yucatan

Overlooking the colonial city of Guanajuato at night

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Undergraduate Research

Hi everybody! 

As winter is upon us, I hope everyone is staying warm. I know I am as I spend a large chunk of my time in the Lillly greenhouses each day. At the start of the school year and continuing on until the end of this school year, I am participating in undergraduate research. Even though I am an agronomy major, I am working under Dr. Young in weed science in the botany department. 

Through my research I am looking at the susceptibility and tolerance levels of different soybean varieties to two different herbicides. The two specific herbicides I am working with are commonly applied to soybeans in order to kill broadleaf weeds. In some weather conditions the soybeans can be affected by the herbicides but they will eventually grow out of it.By doing this, I hope to be able to identify what varieties will have the greatest amount of damage and to be able to rank each variety by the amount of damage. 

To be able to do this, I am conducting several different tests on the beans in order to rank them. The first one is pretty straight forward, plant the seed then spray the pots of beans the following day before they emerge. In 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the herbicide damage will occur and the susceptible soybean varieties will be evident. The next test includes soaking bean seeds in a herbicide solution then planting them. Observations of emergence number, height, and overall appearance are taken. 

With this data, I will be able to compile it and present it on a poster in different competitions. Doing undergraduate research is a cool hands on way to learn more about what you are interested in. It also gives students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in class to a real life situation. There are several ways you could become involved with research. You could develop your own project, work for a professor on their project, or work for a professor and work with their graduates students on their various projects. I really enjoy it and encourage anybody else who is interested to pursue it also! 

-Kathryn Graf

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

National Undergraduate Agronomy Meetings

Hello!  My name is Carl Joern.  I am a senior in Agronomy and will be graduating this December.  I recently accepted a position with DuPont Pioneer as a Production Agronomist within their Emerging Leaders Program.  If you ever have any questions regarding the Agronomy Department, the College of Agriculture, or Purdue in general, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

I would like to share with you my experience at the national agronomy meetings this month.  As a member of Purdue’s Agronomy Club, I had the opportunity to attend the national conference for Students of Agronomy, Soils, and Environmental Sciences (SASES).  The Agronomy Club and Department sponsored the travel, board, and several meals for a dozen of us undergraduates to attend!  The conference lasted four days and was in Long Beach, California.  Why go to these meetings?  It’s a great opportunity to meet other students, graduate students, professors, and industry professionals from all across the country.  4000 members, including our parent societies (ASA, American Society of Agronomy; CSSA, Crop Science Society of America; and SSSA, Soil Science Society of America) attended the conference!

Aside from various opportunities to meet and network with peers, we had the opportunity to compete in a number of contests.  Purdue had great success taking home awards for visual presentations, the speech contest, and winning the national quiz bowl.  Our members also participated in a crops judging contest and poster presentations.  We also took one day of the conference to go on a tour about local agricultural practices.  It was quite a change of scenery visiting avocado orchards in addition to celery and berry fields.  Other tours available were about conservation of soils, wetlands, and surface waters.  There was plenty of interesting local research going on in the area! 

The SASES meetings were not a whole bunch of work and no play by any means.  We had ample free time to visit the beach and swim in the ocean, visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, and dine at the local restaurants.  The conference also sponsored a casino night and dance.  While in California, Purdue hosted a networking event for the whole Purdue Agronomy “Family.”  A great time was shared by alumni from industry, faculty, and students.

The national SASES meetings provide yet another perk to studying Agronomy at Purdue.  We had the opportunity to listen a seminar given by this year’s World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram. Fellow ambassador, Michaela Turner came back from the conference as a national officer!  If I still have not sold you on attending SASES, please reach out to me directly or one of our other ambassadors.  Thanks for taking time to read our blog!

Our view of palm trees and the Pacific ocean was quite different from the corn and soybean fields we came from!

Strawberry production:  drip tape irrigation to mitigate local drought conditions and clear mulch to eliminate weed competition

Raspberry production in a hoop house