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Crystal Jones-Sotomayor, a junior in genetics from Puerto Rico, has isolated a new mutation in a cancer gene using genome editing technology. She loves talking about her work with assistant professor Maura McGrail and tutors fellow undergraduates in genetics.

By Barbara McBreen

Finding a cure for cancer is Crystal Jones-Sotomayor’s dream.

It’s been a dream since she was a sophomore in high school in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico – after she lost her childhood friend to breast cancer.

“I remember asking Michelle what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said ‘I don’t know, but I want to be in the history books like Christopher Columbus,’ says Jones-Sotomayor, a junior in genetics. “My hope is to do that for her.”

Cancer develops when a cell’s DNA is damaged causing it grow out of control, form abnormal cells and invade the body. It’s that DNA or genetic code that interests Jones-Sotomayor. In fact, she keeps a diagram of a cell in her laptop and on her cell phone. The diagram illustrates the countless genetic pathways cancer can enter a cell.

Genetics has fascinated her since grade school when she learned about the Punnett Square. The square is a simple method to diagram inherited traits and determine the probability of those traits being passed on to children.

“I absolutely loved the Punnett Squares in elementary school because you could visually see the dominant and recessive traits,” Jones-Sotomayor says. “I have always been a curious person and science is about asking questions.”

After her friend died, Jones-Sotomayor began looking for a top-rated genetics university program in the United States. That search led her to Iowa State University and Maura McGrail’s research lab, which is filled with 40,000 zebrafish. The zebrafish allow scientists to do genetics research on a large scale but at a reduced cost compared to other animal models used in cancer research. (Read more about McGrail’s work on page 27.)

Jones-Sotomayor met McGrail at an ice cream social hosted by her adviser when she was a freshman. She knew immediately that she wanted to be part of McGrail’s lab because they both had a common goal – searching for a cure for cancer. McGrail describes Jones-Sotomayor, who has been a part of her lab for more than three years, as a forward-thinking creative researcher who started out doing basic genetic mapping.

“Crystal uses cutting edge genome editing technology to create specific mutations in genes,” says McGrail, assistant professor in genetics, development and cell biology.

Jones-Sotomayor isolated a new mutation in a cancer gene identified in zebrafish and found the fish that inherit the new mutation also develop tumors.

“This result was really critical, because it validated our initial discovery that mutation of this gene promotes cancer,” says McGrail.

When asked about the mutant gene, Jones-Sotomayor gets excited. She goes into great detail about cutting genes and watching for brain-tumor development in the fish. She explains how Transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN) technology, which is used to cut and introduce mutations in the DNA code, helped her isolate the new mutation. TALEN technology was developed by plant pathologists at Iowa State.

In a lab filled with small aquariums, Jones-Sotomayor points out the zebrafish she’s watching.

“The idea was to cross those fish to find one that would transmit the new mutant gene to their offspring. After crossing and screening the offspring from 260 fish, I found it,” Jones-Sotomayor says.

“At this point we don’t have enough information to say exactly how the gene is involved in cancer,” Jones-Sotomayor says. “What I’m doing now is testing how this gene connects with cancer genes that control cell growth or repair damage to DNA.”

During her short career she’s presented her research results at six conferences, including the national Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science conference in Los Angeles in October. She also won third place for a poster presentation at the 2013 Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation IINSPIRE program.

Research is what Jones-Sotomayor is about, she says her friends got tired of hearing about genetics so she started tutoring genetics students. She helps students with real life examples and videos because it’s a difficult topic to understand.

“It’s great because I get paid to talk about genetics,” Jones-Sotomayor says.

She also formed the iResearch club, a student organization for young scientists. She’s hoping the club will give her peers a place to share research, results and challenges.

Jones-Sotomayor has worked in McGrail’s lab since she first came to Iowa State three years ago. She has a natural talent for lab research, but was struggling with class work. She’s worked hard over the last three years and is now making the Dean’s list.

Last summer she worked as an intern studying the use of specific viruses to combat cancer at the University of Florida. That experience introduced her to a different approach to researching cancer and will add to her resume when she applies for graduate school.

Finding a cure for cancer won’t be simple, but she hopes researchers find some answers in her lifetime. And she’s hoping to make a discovery to contribute to that goal and honor her friend.


By Ed Adcock


In their packed schedule of club meetings, house functions, class and homework and church activities Adam (left) and Austin Fichter make time for playing on the Iowa State club baseball team.

Adam and Austin Fichter have a lot in common. The fourth generation agriculture and life sciences students from Shenandoah started off their freshman year excelling as scholars and leaders. You could say they were cast from the same mold, especially when you see them.

The identical twins have made the dean’s list every semester both majoring in agricultural business, international agriculture and economics, with minors in entrepreneurial studies and general business.

They both are:

  • seniors graduating in May
  • members of the Iowa State baseball team (Adam plays shortstop and Austin is an outfielder)
  • involved in the Salt Company student ministry, leading Bible studies in the Greek community
  • FarmHouse officers, with Adam serving as president last year and Austin this year.

Asked about their differences, they have to think:  Adam is right-handed, although he bats left, and Austin is a southpaw.

Going to college with a sibling has been a plus, they say.

“We take a lot of classes together, which I think is helpful having two people listening and picking up what the professor’s talking about and having somebody to study with,” Adam says.

The brothers grew up on a corn and soybean farm, but want to explore other career options besides production agriculture. Eventually, farming might be in their futures, but they’ve enjoyed summer internships with a grain cooperative and Monsanto.

“They could write their own ticket to the future and do anything they want,” says Ebby Luvaga, a senior lecturer in economics who serves as their adviser.

She also hired them as sophomores to be peer mentors for the agricultural business learning communities and as tutors for agricultural business students in microeconomics classes. Luvaga looks for role models with leadership skills.

“They’re very organized and responsible. There’s something about them. They just stood out,” she says.

Luvaga also likes their sense of humor. She says, “After Adam introduced himself to the peer mentor class, Austin would say:  ‘In case you didn’t know, we’re twins.’ ” They also took to wearing T-shirts saying, “I’m not Adam,” and “I’m not Austin.”

The brothers joined Luvaga’s group of students on a study abroad course to Argentina in their freshman year. Another travel course took them to Spain the following year. Those were the first trips outside the country for the Fichters.

Adam also went to Tanzania with the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative Program on a business development project with West Central Coop and Austin went to Australia with an economics and agronomy study abroad trip.

They are proud to say that, between the two of them, they have touched every continent except Antarctica.

Last summer, mission work took Austin to China and Adam to India, allowing Austin to turn 22 before his older brother (by five minutes) because of the time difference.

“I was 22 for a few hours before Adam was; the first time I’ve been technically older,” he says.

Leadership has been a part of their student experience since day one. Being members of the President’s Leadership Class helped them develop leadership skills at Iowa State. The class is open to 30 first-year students on the basis of co-curricular involvement, community and school services and academic achievement in high school. They met weekly at The Knoll to talk with university administrators, faculty and staff, and state and local leaders about leadership opportunities on campus.

They started the class when Gregory Geoffroy was serving his last semester as president and then had the chance to get to know President Leath during the transition.

“The other students who were in that class, you see now as heads of different organizations around campus. We have those relationships that were established freshman year,” Adam says.

Leadership within FarmHouse Fraternity occupies a lot of their time. Their grandfather and father were members – Albert Jr. “Corby” Fichter (‘52 animal science) and Albert III “Corby” Fichter (’80 agricultural business) – a legacy they wanted to continue. An uncle and cousin also were members.

As presidents of the fraternity, Austin enjoys the chapter operations part of being an officer, while Adam likes the alumni relations aspect. Both agree it’s played a huge role in their development as leaders, giving them the confidence and ability to tackle opportunities that have enriched their Iowa State experience. They say they have learned much from older members and are now giving back to the younger members.

FarmHouse has 99 active members and more than 1,000 alumni. The chapter, founded in 1927, is one of 29 nationwide and Canada. The Iowa State chapter consistently ranks among the top fraternities for academics, service and campus involvement and was presented the latest award for the top FarmHouse chapter.


By Barbara McBreen

MCB_0092-1.jpg-webEvery member of the 2013-14 Iowa FFA officer team was enrolled at Iowa State University last year. The nine students are from every corner of Iowa and they have some thoughts to share about FFA and their future dreams.

Josh Earll, junior in agricultural and life sciences education from Sibley, Iowa
Iowa FFA president, 2013-14

What is your favorite FFA memory?
My father is an agricultural education teacher at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School and I’ve always enjoyed spending time with him on FFA projects. Why and how does this organization benefit students? Whether it’s scholarships, class work or supervised agricultural experiences, students in FFA have many opportunities to grow as individuals. This is a student led organization. Every decision made in this organization is made by students. FFA is unique because of the opportunities students can pursue.

What is your dream?
I hope to pursue a career as an auctioneer, realtor or appraiser.

James Leonard, sophomore in agricultural business from Newton, Iowa
Iowa FFA vice-president, 2013-14

How does FFA serve others and how has it helped you become your best?
At the Washington D.C. Leadership Conference, I made lasting friendships, but I also learned a lot about myself and from students around the world. I had the chance to make a difference that week working at a battered women’s shelter. We helped clean the shelter and talked with the women at the shelter. My FFA experience also helped me conquer my public speaking fears.

What is your dream?
My goal is to pursue a career in agricultural business and accounting and ultimately go back to help manage my family farm in Jasper County.

Trey Forsyth, a junior in agricultural business from Charles City, Iowa
Iowa FFA north central state vice-president, 2013-14

How did FFA help you find your voice?
On our way to State Convention my adviser had me stand outside a restaurant to practice the FFA Creed to prepare for the state contest, while everyone else stood inside and watched. Everyone at the restaurant looked at me like I was crazy. Our chapter has carried on this tradition ever since.

What did that experience teach you about public speaking?
It taught me that sometimes the only way to get better is to go outside your comfort zone. If you never take new challenges—you will never grow as a leader.

What is your dream?
I hope to work for an agricultural business after graduating from Iowa State.

Brad Pickhinke, a junior in agricultural biochemistry from Sac City, Iowa
Iowa FFA reporter 2013-14

Is FFA just about agriculture?
FFA is about learning to be a leader and a communicator. FFA has taught me how to be an efficient communicator, leader and even how to swing dance. It excites me because of the passion and unity you see from every member across the nation. The blue jacket is sign of hard work, integrity and belief in the future of agriculture.

What is your dream?
To positively impact the lives of others at home and around the world through my work with agriculture.

Tony Moellers, a sophomore in agronomy from North Union, Iowa
Iowa FFA northeast state vice-president

What unique opportunities has FFA provided?
I would not have the skills or be where I am today without being in this organization. I have been fortunate to travel, lead and network through FFA. Being a state FFA officer has been the best experience of my life and every day brings something new. Even when you think you can’t, remember it is better to aim for the sky and miss, than to aim for a manure pile and hit it.

What is your dream?
It is my dream to use the skills I’ve learned through FFA to become successful in my career. I would like to work for Stine, Monsanto or Pioneer in the area of seed sales. I also hope to have a wonderful family.

Abrah Meyer, sophomore in agricultural business from Readlyn, Iowa
Iowa FFA state secretary

How does FFA build relationships?
I started working at the Iowa State Fair as a stage attendant for FFA during my sophomore year of high school. I met a few of my best friends there, and I will never forget the memories we shared. FFA has helped me form some of the greatest friendships in my life. I never thought that there would be so many experiences that apply to college, relationships and life in general. This year has provided me with an incredible opportunity to garner even more incredible relationships in and out of the blue jacket.

What is your dream?
Working overseas in an underdeveloped area of the world—is my dream. I hope to eventually be a source of service to people as a missionary for agriculture and faith beyond my time in the FFA.

Lauren Weirup, senior in agricultural and life sciences education from DeWitt, Iowa
Iowa FFA southeast vice-president

What do you enjoy about FFA?
FFA is about the journey. There is nothing better than a long road trip with fellow members. My favorite trip was the Washington D.C. Leadership Conference. I met people from around the United States, visited the presidential memorials and spent a service day in a garden gathering food for the needy. While achieving and serving, I developed business and speaking skills that have prepared me for the next chapter of my life.

What is your dream?
My dream is to finish my education and travel overseas to help bridge the gap in communication between the United States and other less fortunate countries. Basically, I want to help the transfer of technologies and methods from the United States to other countries to help even the playing fields and stop hunger.

Dylan Brockshus, sophomore animal science from Sibley, Iowa
Iowa FFA northwest vice-president

Why are FFA conferences important?
During my first semester at Iowa State I really enjoyed hosting several different conferences for FFA Chapter Officers and freshman members. My favorite memories involve meeting people, traveling to FFA events and participating in contests. The contests help students develop leadership and career skills for future endeavors. My favorite was the job interview event, which helped me build skills that I can use when I start my career.

What is your dream?
My dream is to have a lovely family and live in the country raising livestock and advocating for agriculture and agricultural education.

Logan Kelly, sophomore in animal ecology from Coon Rapids, Iowa
Iowa FFA southwest vice-president

Why Iowa State?
Iowa State is truly one of the best agricultural schools in the nation. When I am not learning about ecological systems, I break out of my daily routine and try new things. There is always something to do on campus, just being able to explore Iowa State is a journey all its own.

What is your dream?
My dream is to work in wildlife biology and work in the outdoors with America’s natural resources. I may get into teaching agriculture or get involved with FFA again as an adviser or alumni member.

NEWS FROM CAMPUS – Vol. 8 No.1, 2014


Jenna Tesdall, junior in global resource systems and biology, was elected president of the International Association of students in Agricultural and Related Sciences

Bailey Morrell, senior in agricultural studies, was elected national president of Students of Agronomy, Soils and Environmental Sciences


Mike Duffy, professor of economics, retired in April

William Edwards (’69 agricultural economics, ’71 MS, ’79 PhD), professor of economics, retired in June

Roger Elmore, professor of agronomy, retired in January

Cornelia Flora, professor of sociology, retired in May

Jan Flora, professor of sociology, retired in June

Hank Harris, professor of animal science, retired in January

James Kliebenstein, professor of economics, retired in May


Andrew VanLocke, assistant professor of agronomy

Georgeanne Artz, (’05 PhD economics), assistant professor of economics

Christopher Currey, assistant professor of horticulture

Shawn Dorius, assistant professor of sociology


Iowa State University has been ranked fifth in the world among universities in the area of agriculture and forestry by a Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. Last year, Iowa State ranked 10th among universities in agriculture and forestry.


Maynard Hogberg (’66 agricultural and life sciences education, ’72 MS animal science, ’76 PhD), professor and chair of the Iowa State University Department of Animal Science was honored with the 2014 distinguished service award from the National Pork Board for his contributions to the industry.


John Downing, ecology, evolution and organismal biology and agricultural and biosystems engineering, was awarded the Naumann-Thienemann medal by the International Society of Limnology. The award is the highest honor that can be bestowed internationally for outstanding scientific contributions to limnology.


William Edwards (’69 agricultural business,’71 MS agricultural economics, ’79 PhD), emeritus professor in economics, received the Carl F. Hertz Distinguished Service in Agriculture Award by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. Edwards also was awarded the Gold Quill Award.


Bob Rust, emeritus professor of animal science, received the 2013 American Meat Science Association R.C. Pollock Award. Rust is the first Iowa State professor to receive the award, which is the highest honor bestowed in the association and represents exceptional contributions to meat science and the organization.


Agricultural Business Quiz Bowl Team: first place

Block and Bridle Club: first place, pride of schools: first place, chapter year book; third place, club activities; third place, webpage, National Block & Bridle Convention

Crops Judging Team: second place overall: first place, Ag Knowledge Bowl, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Crops Contest

Dairy Judging Team: fifth place, National Dairy Cattle Judging Contest

Fisheries and Wildlife Club: first place, Wildlife Society Midwest Student Conclave Quiz Bowl

Food Products Development Team: second place, Dairy Research Institute’s new product competition

Livestock Judging Team: first place, Iowa Beef Expo; first place (reasons division), Nebraska Cattleman’s Classic; second place, Sioux Empire Farm Show; third place, National Barrow Contest

Meat Judging Team: first place, Southeastern Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest; fourth place, ISU Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest

National Agri-Marketing Association: second place, NAMA Agri-Marketing Competition; first place, John Deere Signature Award; second place, Outstanding Student Chapter Award

Pre-Veterinary Medicine Club: hosted the National American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association Symposium


By Barbara McBreen


Alexandria Harvey spent one semester in Venice studying soils. During her four years at Iowa State University, Harvey traveled to Austria, Italy, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia.

What happens when your plans change from attending a college in E

urope to Iowa State University? Texas native Alexandria Harvey would describe it as a whirlwind of opportunity.

Not only did Harvey (’14 environmental sciences and global resource sy

stems) learn about farming in Iowa, she also learned her great grandparents had farmed in Iowa. Last fall she visited the farm where her great grandparents farmed near Le Roy, Iowa, which is the second smallest town in Io

wa with 15 residents.

“When I came to Ames I found connections to my roots,” Harvey says. “My great grandparents lived and farmed in Iowa. I also learned that my aunt and uncle (Mike Harvey, ’88 animal science) met here and got married under the campanile.”

Enid Reyes, a minister in Rockwall, Texas, says having her daughter in Iowa wasn’t the plan. Harvey had planned to attend college in Europe, but found that Iowa State offered numerous study abroad opportunities and scholarships.

“Iowa State offered the best of both worlds, so I enrolled without ever seeing the university,” Harvey says.

Reyes can’t imagine her daughter anywhere else. She’s been so impressed by Iowa and the university’s service to students and parents, she heads north as often as she can.

Reyes recently set up and opened Grace Center for Family and Community Development in Rockwall. She was pleased to see her daughter follow a similar path of community betterment in Ames.

For the past year Harvey has served on the Ames City Council as the ex-officio student representative between the city and Iowa State University. Harvey says she was excited to see one of her projects make the two-year list of goals for the city.

“I sent out rental housing surveys and sat in on planning sessions. Addressing housing issues is listed as one of the goals for the City of Ames,” Harvey says. “I was excited to get that on the list as one of the city’s tasks.”

Serving on the council seemed like a fun thing to try, but she says it changed her perspective and her career path.

“It’s shaped my future. It’s crazy, because now I’m really interested in the role local government plays when it comes to resources. If you have good government everything else follows,” Harvey says. “The biggest indicator of food security is good government.”

An interest in food security led Harvey to an agronomy internship with Rafael Martinez-Feria, a graduate research assistant. Part of her internship involved collecting and comparing data on the effects of cover crops on erosion. She’d never worked with soil and plants before landing the internship.

“I didn’t know a major like agronomy existed,” Harvey says. “I got involved with the student organic farms. I did research at the Agronomy Farm, and I really enjoyed it.”

Mentoring also is something Harvey found at Iowa State. For the past three years she’s worked with Pat Miller, Iowa State Lectures program director. That’s how Harvey found out about the student position on the Ames city council.

“Alexandria quickly learned how important it was to take advantage of her opportunities to interact with visiting scholars, public officials and professionals,” Miller says.

The Lectures Programs hosts more than 130 speakers on campus each year. As a member of the University Committee on Lectures and co-chair of the World Affairs Series planning committee, Harvey says the program helped her build confidence.

“I got to talk to and have dinner with my idol Michael Mann, climatologist and Penn State Earth System Science Center director,” says Harvey.

Since graduation, Harvey has spent the summer in Texas. Next fall she will begin a fellowship to work on her master’s in public administration and a professional master’s in environmental science at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“I think water resource management will be the next big issue. It plays into every segment of development and agriculture. Water is central to everything,” she says. “The professor I want to work with has research in Latin America and works with municipalities, so I feel like it will be a good transition.”

Harvey says she’ll miss Iowa State and Ames, but the roots she discovered here have helped her move on to a world of opportunity.



Iowa State University supporters Maury and Martha Kramer are among the donors who fund the Borlaug-Thomson internship. Pictured with a statue of Borlaug in Cresco are (left to right) Ann Staudt, Iowa Learning Farms; Matt Helmers, agricultural engineering; Jason Geiken, Iowa State University Foundation; Wendy Wintersteen, dean; Maury Kramer (‘65 MS agricultural education); Martha Kramer; David Acker, associate dean; Christina Riessen, Borlaug intern; and Dan Doeing, Borlaug intern.

By Christina Riessen and Barbara McBreen

Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his role in alleviating hunger worldwide. For the past six summers, Iowa State University students have interned at Borlaug’s boyhood home to preserve the grounds and share his story.

The story is inspiring. Borlaug (1914-2009) was an Iowa native and agricultural scientist who grew up on a farm near Cresco. He developed disease resistant wheat, which saved millions of lives during the 1960s and ’70s.

Last summer Dan Doeing, (’13 agriculture and life sciences education), received the internship and spent his summer sharing Borlaug’s story.

Along with planting and maintaining the garden at the farm, Borlaug-Thomson interns assist with the Howard County Fair, lead Borlaug farm tours and work with both the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation and the Iowa State University Howard County Extension office.

The Borlaug-Thomson internship is funded by Jack and Fran Thomson and Maury (’65 MS agricultural education) and Martha Kramer—friends of Borlaug and supporters of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation.

“Working to preserve the legacy of such an accomplished individual made the internship rewarding,” Doeing says.

Borlaug’s belief that every child in the world should be well fed and have the opportunity to pursue an education was a key message in Doeing’s presentations to visitors to the Borlaug farm. One of Doeing’s favorite stories involved Borlaug’s choice between baseball and forestry.

Borlaug wanted to be a high school science teacher and athletic coach. He also dreamed of becoming second baseman for the Chicago Cubs, but he chose forestry.

“I remember vividly the day when I finally decided that I had to do one of two things—play baseball or be a forester because we had afternoon laboratories in forestry. You couldn’t do both,” said Norman Borlaug, as told in an audio history by Wessel’s Living History Farms.

“The first child yelled ‘Worm!’ which quickly became a victory cry that echoed through the garden,” Doeing says. “I was ecstatic that so many kids were interested in learning about Borlaug and agriculture. These are the future leaders of our world and it is essential that they understand the basics of agriculture.”

The student interns play an important role in Inspire Day, hosted by the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation Board. The interns facilitate a teaching station about Borlaug’s life at the program, which attracts more than 200 children from regional schools. The day is held in conjunction with Cresco’s annual Borlaug Harvest Fest and teaches students about agriculture, science, history and Borlaug’s life.

Inspire Day was started by Barb Schwamann, president of the Iowa Borlaug Heritage Foundation, seven years ago.

“Barb’s tireless leadership for the Inspire Day has meant a lot to me and our faculty who have participated in hands-on educational activities for local fifth graders,” says Wendy Wintersteen, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Inspire Day allows young people who come to Dr. Borlaug’s farm to catch the excitement of a future that may include walking in this great agricultural scientist’s footsteps,” Wintersteen says. “In the end, that’s the success of the partnership— measured by the wonderful faces of the students who visit the farm. Their thank-you notes are unforgettable.”

David Acker, associate dean of academic and global programs, says it’s important for students to know about Norman Borlaug.

“This internship provides an opportunity to inspire the next generation of agricultural scientists, which was a passion of Norman Borlaug,” Acker says. “It is one of the most prestigious internships offered in theCollege of Agriculture and Life Sciences.”

The internship introduces students to Borlaug’s legacy and helps them share that legacy with others. Only students in Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are eligible for the internship. The awardees receive a $3,000 scholarship, a housing stipend and an eight- to 10-week paid position.


By Barbara McBreen

Celize Christy, a junior in animal science, helped students in the George Washington Carver Internship program feel at home while at Iowa State University including at this research poster presentation.

Celize Christy, a junior in animal science, helped students in the George Washington Carver Internship program feel at home while at Iowa State University including at this research poster presentation.







This summer Celize Christy helped students from across the United States follow in the footsteps of George Washington Carver as they explored agricultural science in research labs at Iowa State University.

For eight weeks Christy, a native of Dallas, worked with Theressa Cooper, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences assistant dean for diversity, to coordinate the program.

“I was asked to assist with the programand it fit with what I wanted to do,” Christy says. “It was fun to watch these young adults learn together and connect as friends.”

Christy says she was looking for a professional position for the summer and Dean Wendy Wintersteen helped connect Christy with Cooper.

“She is so personable and offered valuable guidance,” Christy says of Cooper. “She shared her experiences and helped me move ahead and grow.”

As the coordinator for the George Washington Carver Internship Program, Christy, a junior in animal science, helped manage 13 high school and 22 college students. The program, which is sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, introduces students to various areas of research. Seven of the students are part of the Science Bound program at Iowa State that recently received a grant from DuPont Pioneer. Cooper says Christy was a valuable asset this summer.

“She was engaging, pleasant and humorous, which helped the interns feel like they were part of the Iowa State community,” Cooper says.

Careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will increase 17 percent through 2018 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Cooper says the internship program bridges the gap between access and opportunity for multicultural populations.

The 2013 summer class was the second largest class of interns since the program started in 1997. The students were mainly from Iowa, but also included students from Puerto Rico, Texas, Illinois and Alabama. Since the start of the program faculty have mentored more than 300 interns.

From getting nightly updates about their daily experiences to hosting students at a barbecue, Christy says coordinating the program was an eye-opening experience.

“Some of the students were in programs they hadn’t thought about exploring and it opened their eyes,” Christy says. “Three students had just graduated and decided to go to Iowa State to pursue their master’s degree because of this experience.”

For Ellen Tisdale the internship provided more than a summer experience. Tisdale, who is now a graduate student with a research assistantship in genetics, says she was introduced to a caring community that encouraged her to pursue a graduate degree.

“When I got to Iowa State, I met some extremely wonderful and helpful people,” the interns in any way possible and often went out of her way to make sure we were ok.”

While she was introducing interns to campus, Christy says she also was learning more about the college.

“I met several professors and mentors and I learned from them about how they successfully pursued their careers,” Christy says.

Next summer Christy plans to study abroad and has applied for the college’s Service Learning Program in Uganda. She has been accepted into the Agricultural and Life Sciences student ambassador program. She hopes to work in international rural development after she graduates.


Meet the 2013 George Washington Carver Interns in this video


Although the exact year and date of George Washington Carver’s birth is unknown, most historians believe he was most likely born in 1864. That’s 150 years worth celebrating.

In 2014, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will honor Carver for his many scientific discoveries, achievements and his contributions to the social justice and civil rights movements. “Celebrating the Life and Legacy of George Washington Carver” events during the year will include a lecture series, seminars, student research opportunities, food tastings, displays and artistic performances.

Carver was the first African American to enroll at Iowa State in 1891. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1894, his master’s in 1896 and then became the first African American faculty member at Iowa State. As one of our most distinguished alumni, Carver went on to become a brilliant scientist and educator at the Tuskegee Institute, helping farmers with ideas he worked on when he was a student and faculty member at Iowa State. His research changed how we look at crops. His life and teaching continue to inspire millions.


The renovated office suite of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Career Services was dedicated Aug. 31 in honor Roger Bruene (’56 agronomy), the former director. A group of alumni, including Roger Underwood (’80 agricultural business), led a fundraising initiative to raise funds to name the offices on the ground floor of Curtiss Hall. Bruene is pictured with Underwood and Dean Wendy Wintersteen at the dedication. The hour-long ceremony is available to view on YouTube.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University recently released the updated Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. The Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is a science and technology-based approach to assess and reduce nutrients delivered to Iowa waterways and the Gulf of Mexico. The strategy is designed to direct efforts to reduce nutrients in surface water from both point sources, such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial facilities, and nonpoint sources, including farm fields and urban areas, in a scientific, reasonable and cost effective manner. More

Advances in soil science necessitated an update in the Corn Suitability Rating (CSR), a system for rating the crop-growing productivity of Iowa soil. Originally established in 1971, the CSR was created in response to county assessors who needed a measure to help assess the productivity of farmland. Today, the CSR is used in many additional ways, including developing land use plans, determining land values, predicting yields and negotiating cash rents. More


1,250 pounds of cooked bacon
1,076 attendees
248 days of preparation
100 pounds of bacon donated to a local food pantry
60 student organizers
16 student organizations participated
9 vendors: 3 restaurants and 6 companies or organizations
3 title sponsors: Iowa Select Farms, Elanco, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
1 motto: Life, liberty and the pursuit of bacon

See photos and video


By Barbara McBreen

Two summer internships in Uganda helped Sean Lundy, a senior in global resource systems, under¬stand the importance of working with youth in achieving sustainable international development.

Two summer internships in Uganda helped Sean Lundy, a senior in global resource systems, under¬stand the importance of working with youth in achieving sustainable international development.

Sleeping at the base of a 2,000-yearold Redwood inspired Sean Lundy to seek a career in international development. Opportunities at Iowa State University are helping his dream grow.

The summer after graduating from high school, Lundy, a senior in global resource systems and nutrition, worked for the Student Conservation Association as part of a six-member crew in Redwood National Park. Students participating in the program are sent to national parks to restore trails indigenous flora and cultural landmarks to better understand environmental conservation. For five weeks, Lundy camped in the Redwoods and hiked five miles to work carrying up to 60 pounds of gear.

“I had a lot of alone time out there to think, and I walked away knowing I wanted to do something in college that would make a difference in this world,” Lundy says.

That’s what brought him to Iowa State University.

The trail he’s since blazed led him to Uganda twice, Panama and Washington D.C. Each internship, he says, has contributed to understanding the politics, cultural influences and funding mechanisms that affect international development.

Lundy’s international experiences were fueled by scholarships. The Manatt Scholarship, Crawford Student Support Fund and “Peacemaking Award” from his home church made it possible for him to go abroad.

Tailoring International Development

In 2010, he was selected for the Uganda Service Learning Program sponsored by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL). He remembers his advisers emphasizing six-weeks seemed like a long time to students, but the key to successful development work is long-term sustainability.

“Our program is approaching international development in the correct way,” Lundy says. “We aren’t taking a blanket approach to a whole country. There are cultural differences in each region. We are tailoring our efforts to meet the needs of the Kamuli District.”

Lundy went back to Uganda the next summer to work with a non-governmental organization called Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns (VEDCO). He and Brian Castro, also a senior in global resource systems, spent the first few weeks collecting basic health data on children in the Kumali district who were participants in a school feeding program. The two then chose 20 families to conduct more in-depth nutritional and socio-economic case studies.

“We went to their homes and we got to know the children really well,” Lundy says. “We wanted to understand how these children lived their lives. We walked to school with them, ate the food they ate and got to know their families.”

In the Kumali district, Lundy says families as large as eight live in homes with earthen walls the size of the living room in his college apartment. Most are subsistence farmers relying on plots less than an acre. Lundy says their data indicated improvements in the nutritional status of children as a result of the school feeding program.

“The servings of extra bean porridge at the school, which is ultimately what we assessed, was extremely effective when we compared the data from 2010 to 2011,” Lundy says. “Good nutrition affects cognitive ability, physical growth and it helps children to be more successful.”

Communication Key to Sustainability
During the summer of 2012, Lundy planned to continue work on child nutrition in Haiti. Those plans had to change because of the 2010 earthquake. Iowa State would not permit students to travel to Haiti because the U.S. State Department issued travel warnings. Lundy quickly made other plans.

David Acker, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences dean of academic and global programs, contacted Jose Pacheco (’92 ag studies), a senior Panamaniam official, to help Lundy and Castro develop an internship with the Panamanian Ministry of Agriculture Development (MIDA) and UNICEF. The framework for the internship was modeled after their research in Uganda.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen when we landed in Panama City, but it was a phenomenal experience,” Lundy says. “The MIDA advisers did everything they could to show us what was going on in Panama and enabled us to be effective in the field.”

In Panama they focused on assessing the nutritional impact of a dairy goat project on children in eleven nutritionally deficient communities. The project’s purpose was to improve child under-nutrition through supplemental dietary goat milk.

Lundy says the goats were supposed to be sent to West Africa, but that project fell through. As a result, the Panamanian government received the goats from the United Nations and implemented a program addressing nutritional issues in remote rural areas of Panama.

“MIDA did a good job developing the project, but goats are not indigenous to Panama, so most of the farmers had no idea how to integrate goats into their agriculture practices,” Lundy says.

The results of the project highlighted common issues within sustainable development Lundy says. The need for good communication with communities is essential. Lundy and Castro provided recommendations to MIDA and UNICEF officials, who welcomed the feedback and changed the program on a national scale.

“I left Uganda two years earlier thinking I had not made as big of a difference as I had hoped. That was frustrating, but it motivated me to find other experiences that would help me build on that first trip. I think we made a tangible and quantifiable impact in those Panamanian communities,” Lundy says.

Focusing on Policy at Home
During the summer of 2013 Lundy served as an intern for the Unites States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. This provided an opportunity for him to be involved in the Farm Bill legislative process.

“It’s cool to see where all the decisions are made and observe the central nervous system of our federal government,” Lundy says. “The agriculture committee worked well together. I know agricultural policy is in good hands.”

Working in Washington D.C. offered him valuable insight to the role politics plays in international development.

The internship also presented several networking opportunities, such as lunch with Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Tina May, profes­sional senior staff for the Senate committee, says Lundy was articulate and understood international development.

“Senate Agriculture Committee interns are a critical part of the team. It isn’t easy to get one of these internships, especially not in the middle of passing a five-year Farm Bill,” May says. “Sean’s application and subsequent work on the Committee exemplified all of the qualities we expect of our interns. We were continually impressed with his work and expect to see Sean doing great things in the future.”

A Life Worth Watching
Lundy lives by advice given to him a while ago, “One day your life will flash before your eyes—do something worth watching.”

To that end, Lundy has served as presi­dent of MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere), an organization that coordinates mobile health clinics in Latin America. He is also vice president of the Global Health and AIDS Coalition, which he co-founded. The coalition advocates increased access to medication and healthcare. It also promotes aware­ness about the resource constraints and disparities in global health.

Lundy wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he came to Iowa State, but majoring in global resource systems and getting involved in clubs allowed him to make a difference at home and abroad.


By Barbara McBreen

From BaconFest to Block and Bridle to the Iowa Statehouse, Kristin Liska, a junior in animal science, is known as an "energized leader." She met with Iowa legislators as part of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association Young Cattlemen's Leadership Program.

From BaconFest to Block and Bridle to the Iowa Statehouse, Kristin Liska, a junior in animal science, is known as an “energized leader.” She met with Iowa legislators as part of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program.

Kristin believes everyone involved in agriculture needs to understand the policy discussions at the local, state and national level.

Liska, a junior in animal science, believes in proactively telling the story
of agriculture. That’s the message she shared in an animal science class preparing to tour Midwest farms and agricultural industries this summer.

“It’s important for producers to under- stand the discussion behind the issues and provide input because it can affect their operation,” Liska says.

Being selected for the Young Cattlemen’s Leadership Program was an important achievement for Liska, who says she couldn’t wait to participate. In March, the group met at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines to learn how to approach Iowa’s policy leaders. The group holds informational meetings throughout the year.

This summer Liska has an internship with a company that fits into her advocacy goal. She’s working for CMA—a public relations company in Kansas City that reviews agricultural topics, gathers expert opinions and publishes stories.

“The groups that produce negative articles about agriculture are not talking to farmers, they are talking to consumers,” Liska says. “That’s what we need to do. We need to share our story and show consumers that we care about animals, we care about water quality and we care about the land.”

As she enters her senior year, Liska plans to continue her ambitious schedule. Last semester she helped organize the 93rd National Block and Bridle convention—the first time the event has been held in Ames. This fall she’s co-chairing the first annual BaconFest event, which will be held on campus in October.

“The BaconFest is challenging because we normally have a final report from the previous year to help plan an event, but this is a first time event,” Liska says. “We just have
to grab it by the horns and go.”

The toughest choice Liska’s made is changing her career focus. She grew up thinking she would be a veterinarian, but figured out that she was more interested in communications and advocating for agriculture.

Curtis Youngs, an animal science faculty adviser, says Liska is an energized leader who exudes enthusiasm. During his 23 years of academic advising, Youngs consistently shares a message with his students—be passionate about what
you do.

“That’s what I preach to students,” Youngs says. “They will spend most
of their lives at work, so it’s important to find a career which they can passionately pursue. Kristin has found that in agricultural advocacy.”

Liska received a Legacy Scholarship as both of her parents graduated from Iowa State. Her parents, Bob (’87 agronomy) and Stephanie (’87 public service and administration in agriculture), live in Wayne, Nebraska.

The 93rd National Block and Bridle Convention, the first one ever to take place at Iowa State University, was held in April. The Iowa State Block and Bridle Club hosted the event. More than 500 students attended and participated in industry tours throughout Iowa. John Lawrence, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Maynard Hogberg, professor and chair of the animal science department, spoke at the awards banquet. Iowa State placed first in the yearbook competition, fourth in chapter activities and Adair Boysen (’12 agriculture and life sciences education) was named Outstanding Senior. Visit 93rd National Block & Bridle Convention Facebook page for to view photos from the conference.



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