Assistant Professor, 70% in BSE and 30% in Animal Science (housed in Chase)
My appointment is 60% extension and 40% research.
My focus area is in livestock systems and the environment, primarily manure management systems.
I am from the Midwest (Iowa) and after spending several years in Missouri and Mississippi in faculty positions, my husband and I wanted to get back to the Midwest. When the opportunity for a faculty position at UNL came along, we felt like the strong agricultural production industry here made Nebraska a perfect place for us. My husband is an animal science faculty member with a focus on beef meat quality so the strong cattle industry here fit his interests and where there are livestock operations, there is manure, so Nebraska fit my interests as well!
I enjoy including students in my research and extension/outreach activities. I think that a lot of very important learning goes on outside the classroom, which is why I like to employ students in my research lab. I also think it is very important for students to understand why I do the type of research I do, which is what my extension appointment is all about. Extension involves taking science-based information and recommendations out to the end-users (in my case, livestock and crop producers, primarily) to help them make informed management decisions that improve their environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Having undergraduate and graduate students involved in this outreach lets them see the real value in the research they are helping with and helps them envision what impact they could have on the livestock industry, the environment, and consumers in whatever career path they choose following graduation.
The most challenging parts of my job are: 1) balancing all of my work activities such that I feel like I am being successful and relevant in my research while supporting Nebraska’s residents through my outreach activities; and 2) balancing work and personal lives so that I feel like I am giving 100% while I’m at work and still being able to give 100% to my family outside of work.
The most rewarding parts of my job are: 1) seeing students who have worked for me as undergraduate or graduate student leave UNL and find a job that makes them very happy; 2) hearing from clientele throughout the state that the information I delivered through publications or presentations helped them make successful management decisions in their production systems; and 3) getting grants funded to continue supporting my research and outreach programs.
I started out majoring in aerospace engineering as an undergraduate student at Iowa State University, but switched to agricultural engineering after my freshman year because the job market for aerospace engineers was terrible at that time and I didn’t want to spend four or five years in college and not be able to get a job. I loved building model airplanes as a kid and even went to the U.S. Space Academy as a sophomore in high school, so my family was a little disappointed when I changed majors in college, but I think it was a good move and I’ve never regretted it.
My husband and I have two kids - a son named James who is fourth grader and a daughter named Charlee who is in kindergarten. Both kids are very involved in sports...baseball, t-ball, soccer, flag football, and basketball. I coach my daughter’s t-ball team and my husband coaches our son’s baseball team. We spend a lot of time at sports practices and games! Our son also attends Husker Baseball training camps during the winter, so that keeps us moving, too. During the summer when the kids aren’t in school, we try to take in a couple of St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, visit family in Iowa and Missouri, and connect with friends that we left behind in Mississippi when we moved to Nebraska a few years ago. My life outside of work is very busy and I wish I could take more time away from work to just relax a bit and hang out with family.
Don’t be afraid to explore career options beyond what you have been told you’d be good at! I never thought of any other college major or career beyond engineering because everyone told me that’s what I should be due to my math and science grades in high school. I don’t regret my career path, but I have learned about a lot of other really interesting options for careers since becoming an engineer and think it was kind of a shame that I didn’t have a chance to consider these other careers when I was deciding on a college major.
Visit your course instructors for help if you need it. I was kind of hesitant to go see a professor during my undergraduate program because I didn’t want them to know I didn’t understand something. When I taught in a previous faculty position, I was always more than happy to help a student get caught up or get a better grasp on something they hadn’t caught on to during a lecture. It showed me that they were willing to go the extra step to learn something and they weren’t too proud to ask for help.