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

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