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

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall Semester is Winding Down!

Hello all!

Fall semester is coming to a close and winter is quickly approaching. This semester has been a doozy! As my last fall semester at Purdue (sad face), I have been busy with 18 credit hours, working, and planning my next step. You never really realize how busy you become until you start planning your future, going through all your options, and making decisions. Let me touch on some of the highlights of this fall!

Purdue football still is less than desirable but Purdue Agronomy and NRES are having a fantastic season! Our award winning Agronomy Club and Soils Team are just two of the awesome things you will be involved with when you become a Boilermaker. I am even finding success this fall by winning second place in the Ecological Science and Engineering Symposium Undergraduate Poster Competition. I designed a poster of a research project I am working on for my senior capstone (those of you in NRES, you will have to choose to either work on an individual project with a professor, take an EPICS class, or have an internship) and got to participate in my first poster competition!

It was such a good learning experience on how to communicate my research to the public, which is an important skill for all of us! Aside from working on a research project, I am still working for Dr. Keith Johnson and his bioenergy project. This summer I helped him design field days for October 28 and 30, and I was able to attend October 30. The name of the event was Forage Field Day, and we began at Wagler's Dairy learning about what they feed their dairy cows and what forage they use as cover crops over the winter. We then traveled to Zupancic Farm, where we learn about their hay operation and the equipment they use. We got to listen to their strategies for forage cover crops. Then we traveled back to the Trafalgar FFA center to talk about the bioenergy grass projects. Conversation covered a range of topics, from habitat, harvest, and production. I got to give a presentation on how to take a stand count, which is a research method used when the seed emerges in the spring.

Standing in a harvested section of bioenergy grass explaining how to take a stand count

Showing field research methods with Dr. Ryan Dierking

I am now working on graduate school applications and studying for finals! One thing I have learned this semester is to get outside of your comfort zone, it pays off and you may find something that you love something that you were never thought you would! 
Until next time.. BOILER UP! 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Final Moments at Purdue University

Hello All,

As my academic tenure comes to a conclusion in the next four weeks here at Purdue University, I look back on my last semester and the past four and a half years at such a highly respected institution.  I cannot praise enough how much I have enjoyed my last four and half years as a student at Purdue. The opportunities, and experiences that Purdue University and the Department of Agronomy has created for me are endless, and I cannot thank the faculty, staff, mentors, and any others that have helped me get to where I am in my life today. When I look back at my internships with the Purdue University Intercollegiate Athletics Sports Turf Crew, Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake, Major League Baseball team San Francisco Giants, and my overseas experience in Ireland with The Naas Racecourse, and The Curragh Racecourse, I just think about all the lasting relationships I have made with so many great people.  I will never regret choosing this place I have called home for the past four and a half years.  Out of all the universities that I was accepted to, I am proud to forever call myself a Boilermaker.  The College of Agriculture ranks sixth globally, and one of the highest in the nation year after year, which makes it a perfect environment for those who have high standards, and high career aspirations. I myself am a senior in Turf Science & Management and am currently looking to pursue a career in the professional sports turf industry. I am excited to make the next step in my young professional career and hope to stay as enthusiastic and passionate as I am now till the day I retire. I am looking forward walking across the stage to receive my B.S. in Agronomy in December, and wish the best of luck to future Boilermakers. Boiler Up! Ever grateful, ever true! 
(Pat Webb, Head Groundsman of The Curragh Racecourse and I at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby)

(Visiting with Head Groundsman of Croke Park, Stuart Wilson)

(Visiting with Head Groundsman of Aviva Stadium, Majella Smyth)

(Touring the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland)

Andrew J. Wilhelm

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Annual Hoosier Soil and Water Conservation Society Meeting

Another great example of the opportunities here in the Purdue Agronomy Department is the ability to join the Student Chapter of the Soil & Water Conservation Society. As a member of the chapter you are given the opportunity to meet people in the industry from NRCS and other organizations during the monthly meetings. Likewise each fall semester you are able to attend the annual Hoosier meeting. This year the meeting took place at Ball State University and focused on Soil Health Above and Below the Surface. We had different speakers from all over the state that present different topics for the members. We even had one of our very own professors, Dr. Graveel, from the department of Agronomy to talk about Aggregate Stability and soil microbes. 

 Another part of the meeting is the announcement of the annual Hoosier Chapter Scholarship Recipient. Each year the Hoosier Soil & Water Conservation Society will award a $1,000 scholarship to a student in the chapter. The Purdue Agronomy Students have long term been recipients of this award. Last year I was blessed with the opportunity to receive this award and now this year another student from Purdue was given this award, Ariel Kucera. Congratulations on receiving this scholarship! 

The Soil & Water Conservation is a great organization to get involved in while at Purdue. It allows great opportunities to network with people in the industry, stay up to date with current issues in the industry, and also stay connected with some of the previous professors and students from the Purdue Department of Agronomy and Natural Resources. I strongly encourage everyone to get involved. If this is something that interests you please join our next meeting at Purdue on November 18th at 5:45 in Lily 3-409. Everyone is welcome and feel free to bring your friends!

-Maggie Shoue, President of Purdue Soil & Water Conservation Society 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Things I'd Wished I'd Known

As a senior this Fall at Purdue I've had a lot of time to think about what I wish I would've know about college before I actually started. By my junior year I feel like I had a pretty good system going on how to manage my time and get the most out of my college career but I can only sit and think what it would have been like if I had known these things before my freshmen year. I'll list off what a few of these things are.

1) Use a Planner of Some Kind

I never used a planner in high school, not once, I never really needed it. I thought that this strategy would be just fine when I came to college; it wasn't. It was fine for about three weeks when there wasn't much going on besides a reading here and there and weekly assignments but once exams rolled around I was forgetting about things left and right unless I had them written down or by some miracle just remembered. Starting first semester of my junior year, at the beginning of every semester I write down my entire schedule that I know including exam dates, when weekly assignments are due, and meeting times so that I know I won't forget to do things and can stay on top of my work and possibly be able to work ahead as well.

2) Hold Leadership Positions 

Obviously the first reason I came to Purdue was to get an education but I also wanted to as well rounded of an individual and have gotten as many new experiences as possible while I was here. Most people, regardless of you schooling level, tell you to get involved in clubs and organizations so that you can get to know people and have fun and I completely agree, but what most people don't tell you to do is to actually be involved with those clubs. When you join an organization or club don't just go to the meetings to go, run for an office and hold a leadership position. Leadership positions within various clubs and organizations can get you valuable experience that you can use later in life as well as help you earn connections within the university and industry.

3) Get to Know Your Professors

This to me might be the most important thing you can do of the three tips I've given you in this blog. When I got to Purdue I didn't think this was important at all, I was extremely wrong. You're classes in the agronomy department may not be massive and everybody may pretty much know everybody but having a good relationship with your professor is crucial. Every professor is willing and able to help any student in any way they can you as a student just need to ask for it. Going to small review sessions, office hours, or emailing your professor and asking for a private meeting are all good ways to do this. Make sure your professor knows you're trying and that you want to learn about what they are teaching you. Being in good graces with your professors can benefit you in more ways than one and I highly advise that you strive to make it happen as best you can.

I know these three things sound pretty basic and I agree with you, they absolutely are, but if I would have listened when people told me these things before I came to school instead of learning the hard way halfway through my career.

Until next time!

John Hettinga

Become Involved

Hello again…First and foremost welcome to another edition of a Purdue winter where it starts early and seems like it will never leave!  As I write to you on what is most likely my last blog post as I’m graduating in December, I’ve recently been reflecting on my Purdue experience and all you can get out of this great University and Agronomy program.  As cliché as it may sound your time in college will fly by, I remember the very first day of class like it was yesterday and I’m sitting here now with only about a month left and I can’t believe it. At every visit I made everyone always told me this and I overlooked it but its so true!  Alongside that comment and what I really want to portray in this post, is the importance of becoming involved and doing it early in your college career.  Recently, I have been going through the interview process with multiple companies and it’s amazing how many questions they ask you regarding your leadership in clubs and how much those experiences set you apart as a candidate.  Tons of students come out of college with just the degree but it’s the ones that get into these clubs early and make an impression to the former members and take on leadership roles that sets you apart at the end of the day.  There are tons of clubs outside the College of Ag as well as within and specifically in the agronomy department.  As an older student now -even though I still feel young- I encourage every prospective student to do research on all the opportunities and clubs here, pick a handful and find a way into a leadership role.  It’s tough at first but take the risk and I promise you at the end of it all it will be something you are glad you didn’t overlook! Hope this helps and cheers…Brock