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