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Students Work with Faculty in Summer Fellowship Program
Kansas Ag Connection - 09/13/2017

Christina Bradshaw didn't mind that this Manhattan was in Kansas and not in New York City.

Bradshaw was one of four college students from different parts of the country who spent the summer at Kansas State University's campus in Manhattan with a common goal -- to hone their research skills by working with K-State experts. They spent two months on the campus as part of the K-State Research and Extension Multicultural Summer Research Fellowship Program in the university's College of Agriculture.

Bradshaw, a Washington, D.C. native and senior majoring in animal science at North Carolina A&T University, said her mother initially thought her daughter would be in Manhattan, New York for the two-month fellowship. But Bradshaw said the research she did studying muscle composition with K-State associate professor John Gonzalez coincided with what she has been studying as an undergraduate while bringing a different perspective to her education.

"The (K-State) directors were very helpful," said Bradshaw, adding that faculty members were willing to start with what the students knew and build from there.

"There was slight culture shock compared with my school which is predominately African American," she said. "Here, there's more of a mix."

Bradshaw had been aiming to go to veterinary school, "but my future slightly took a turn" and her interest turned to animal nutrition. She is now considering graduate school.

As part of the fellowship, she and the other students conducted hands-on research with K-State faculty who served as mentors, attended seminars, lived in a dorm and had social excursions such as bowling and hiking at the Konza Prairie Biological Station. Each gave a presentation on their work at the end of the fellowship.

"The fellowship program is a great way for our research mentors and mentees to collaborate on research topics," said Zelia Wiley, assistant dean for diversity and director of the summer fellowship program. "It also serves as a recruitment tool and collaborative effort with our 1890-, 1994- and Hispanic-serving institutions. Overall it is a mutually beneficial opportunity for all."

As part of her fellowship, Riann White, a junior in pre-med and food science at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (Florida A&M) worked in K-State's dairy lab with associate animal science professor Jayendra Amamcharla, also known as Dr. Jay. She studied cheese renneting, the first step in the coagulation process. White's project was looking at the optimal time to cut cheese curds. She plans to present her findings at the international Institute of Food Technologists professional meeting.

The Cleveland, Ohio native is planning to go to medical school and linking her interests in agriculture and medicine by educating about health through food.

"I didn't know that Kansas was this big in agriculture. That was news to me," White said, adding that she made good connections through the program.

She and Bradshaw were roommates in K-State's Moore Hall during the fellowship.

Lonnie Hobbs, a 2017 agricultural economics graduate of Prairie View A&M University studied the impact of a recent corruption scandal involving Brazilian meat companies JBS and BRF on meat companies and consumer meat prices globally, including how policies might change to prevent similar circumstances in the future. He worked with K-State assistant professor of agricultural economics Aleksan Shanoyan.

"It opened my eyes to see how different things going on in agriculture and companies can have an impact on consumers without them knowing," said Hobbs, who hails from Clarksville, Texas.

He intends to turn the summer project into a proposal for a thesis as he earns a master's degree at K-State. His goal is to become a professor of agricultural economics.

"Being a parent is helpful from a motivational standpoint," said Hobbs, who has a five-year-old son. "Providing for him keeps me on track."

At first glance, it looks like Dalia Sanchez of Liberal, Kan., made a big leap -- going from a bachelor's degree in chemistry (K-State '17) to a summer fellowship in food science working with Karen Schmidt, a professor of food science. But there's plenty of chemistry in food science, including Sanchez's project which involved studying the effects of non-fat dried milk on bread.

As an undergraduate, Sanchez said she considered changes to her own diet and started looking into ingredients.

"I took the 'intro to food science' class and fell in love with it. I didn't know food science was a career until Dr. Wiley mentioned it," Sanchez said. Once she started looking, she found numerous career options in the College of Agriculture. The fellowship provided a first opportunity for her to work in a food science lab.

Sanchez, who also works in K-State's College of Agriculture Diversity Programs office, said that seminars she attended as part of the fellowship helped nurture her interest in graduate school. She described her work with Schmidt in food science as "independent but part of a team."

A parent of a one-year-old, Sanchez, said being a parent while getting an education pushes her to plan ahead, but be flexible: "Parenthood has helped in that sense -- expect the unexpected."

More information about the K-State Research and Extension Multicultural Summer Fellowship Program is available at http://www.ag.k-state.edu/about/diversity/ksre-fellowship/ or by calling 785-532-5793.

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