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The college’s Agricultural Weekend Experience (AWE) gives students majoring in agriculture and life sciences the opportunity to interact with Iowa families and the agriculture community. Participants spend the weekend as guests on a working family farm. This fall, 11 students participated in the AWE program. Carly Martin, student intern in the college communications office, coordinated the program. The ISU Agricultural Endowment Board and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences sponsor AWE. Participants say the program helped broaden their understanding of agriculture.

“I saw that farming is not as cheap as I thought it was. It made me realize that you never know how something is until you get out there and experience it, which is what this program has allowed me to do.” Khadija Brown, a freshman in animal science pre-vet from Chicago.

“The weekend answered many of my questions with first-hand examples like allowing us to use the equipment.” Chawn McGrath, a freshman in animal science from Pennsylvania.

“This program is very beneficial for any student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Whether a student has a farming background or not, it can give someone a new perspective on how farms are operated.” Katelyn Gardner, a junior in public service and administration from Vinton.

“The AWE program showed me what a true Iowa family farm is like and it was interesting to see all the hard work and challenges that go along with farming.” Kelsey Regan, a junior in agricultural biosystems technology from Davenport.


Four of the five student-recipients of the ISU Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award were from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The award recognizes outstanding seniors who display high character, outstanding achievement in academics and university/community activities and promise for continuing these exemplary qualities as alumni. CALS recipients for 2012 were: Sam Bird, global resource systems and economics; Sagar Chawla, biology and global resource systems; Scott Henry, agricultural business, finance and international agriculture; and Amy Peyton, agricultural business, economics, public service and administration in agriculture and international agriculture.


Danielle Hamilton, a senior in agricultural and life sciences education, was elected president of the National Postsecondary Agriculture Student Organization and Logan Lyon, a junior in agronomy, was elected president-elect at the group’s national meeting in November. Rachel Owen, a senior in global resource systems and agronomy, was elected national vice president of Students of Agronomy, Soils and Environmental Sciences at the American Society of Agronomy in October.


Four women from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences were honored by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics on the sixth annual Women Impacting ISU calendar. Molly Heintz (right), a senior in animal science; Alejandra Navarro, a senior in animal ecology; Sharon Bird, associate professor of sociology; and Shelley Taylor, assistant director of Global Agriculture Programs were selected to appear on the 2012 calendar.


Write your story and continue the adventure you started in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: That was the advice of convocation speaker Ashley Dermody, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in December. Hear her complete address and see a photo slideshow online at www.cals.iastate.edu/stories


June 15, 2012 Students No Comments

Bart Howard

Bart Howard was known on campus for the costumes he wore to class around Halloween — and for being an excellent student.

He donned a cap and gown when he graduated magna cum laude in December with degrees in forestry and agricultural business. Howard was selected to represent the college at commencement as its student marshal to honor his accomplishments.

He also was a letter winner on the track team and was selected to represent the student chapter of the Society of American Foresters at its national convention last fall. Howard had impressive internships every year of his college career, and is working as an arborist for Ryan Lawn and Tree in Kansas City.

“Bart is constantly on the move,” says Richard Schultz, university professor of natural resource ecology and management, who served as his escort as marshal, and led a study abroad trip to China that Howard completed.

“I’m most proud of my family; how my parents raised me and how close I am with my sisters, Holly and Hannah,” Howard says.

The three siblings had majors in natural resource fields and lived together while going to school. Holly graduated in 2010 (animal ecology, environmental studies and biology). Hannah plans to graduate in fall 2013 with a forestry degree and spring 2013 with an animal ecology degree.

They were by his side to celebrate his graduation.


Informed consumers make healthier choices eating in or dining out.

Understanding the nutritional content of food is important, says Lauren Mitchell, a senior in dietetics. She summarized current research as part of her “Fast Food Findings” presentation in a food science and human nutrition communications class.

Mitchell found that about half of fast food restaurants provide customers with nutritional information, but not on the menu. She found that customers don’t look at the nutritional information if it’s not on the menu.

In fact, the studies she reviewed showed that only six people out of 4,311 actually read the information posted on walls or the counter before ordering. Her solution—post the calorie content beside each menu item.

“I think people will still eat out even if the calories are posted, but they may choose smaller serving sizes,” Mitchell says.

The articles she reviewed indicated that most families choose fast food because it’s convenient, inexpensive and they like the taste of the food. She also found that 25 percent of Americans eat out every day and spent 49 percent of their food budget outside the home in 2006.

The key to eating nutritional meals, Mitchell says, is planning. If you do eat out, she suggests choosing healthier options, smaller portions and reading the nutritional information. Although she eats fast food on occasion, she prefers to cook her meals. She believes there’s a general misconception in today’s culture that it’s difficult to cook.

“If you can read a recipe, you can cook,” Mitchell says.

She attributes her love for food to her large family and nine years of cooking and exhibiting food projects through 4-H. She’s also a proponent of taking time to eat three meals a day.

“Eating is more than nourishing your body,” Mitchell says. “When people talk about their favorite memories, most of those are tied to food.”

Since she transferred from Iowa Central Community College she’s visited a Meredith test kitchen and volunteered at the Food and Wine Expo in Des Moines. She also became one of the first peer mentors in the food science and human nutrition department’s transfer student learning community.

This year, Mitchell is excited to work as a teaching assistant for the Pasta Pasta Cooking Workshop. She’s also been involved in Collegiate 4-H, the Student Dietetic Association and the culinary science club.

Mitchell says she’s undecided about her plans after she completes her internship next year. She has an interest in serving as a community-based dietician, which means she would be working to change eating behaviors at the community level or helping people understand the nutritional information on labels and in restaurants.

Click here for Mitchell’s Italian cream cake recipe


Dakota Hoben is a recognized leader on campus. And it’s not just because he was elected president of the Government of the Student Body. With four majors, the senior in agricultural business, international agriculture, economics and political science says he seeks out leadership opportunities to serve others.

“If you want to see things change for the better you need to be involved and be in a position of influence,” Hoben says. “In any leadership position it’s about giving back and as GSB president it’s about working for the students.”

The GSB position was something he pursued after a two-year stint as a GSB senator. He’s lightened his student load this year to meet those duties and engage his fellow students. His campaign goals include improving access to funds for student organizations, establishing financial literacy programs and improving dead week policies to reflect the purpose of the week, which is to prepare for final exams.

Getting involved and taking charge is something Hoben learned in high school and through his 4-H and FFA activities. His school was fairly small, which meant students could be involved in several activities.

Hoben says sometimes leading involves being in the right place at the right time. In 2007 he received the Governor’s Meritorious Life Saving Award along with 11 other Grandview high school students for their quick response after a tornado hit their hometown. As soon as it passed the boys began checking homes to see if anyone needed help. They found a 91-yearold woman who was trapped and was rescued by Hoben and four other boys.

“We happened to be where we were needed,” he says.

That sense of caring and service to others has continued throughout his college career. Hoben served on the search committee to select a new Iowa State University president and was one of 12 students nationwide to be selected for the International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership Program to study international trade and marketing in Panama and Columbia. He also is an active ambassador for the college helping recruit high school students. Hoben served as the alumni chair and says he enjoyed networking and interacting with alums.

Other leadership opportunities have taken him around the world. Hoben worked as a summer intern in 2010 at the Iowa Agribusiness Export Partnership in Des Moines. He helped plan and lead a group of agricultural entrepreneurs to China to explore business opportunities.

“You hear about the growing middle class market in China and businesses think they can go to China and start making money,” Hoben says. “But that’s not the case. The businesses making money now were there 20 years ago. It takes a long time to grow a business in China.”

As far as the future, there are no limits for Hoben. He’s especially interested in international agriculture and helping the industry navigate through global change.

Click here for Hoben’s brownie recipe


Nate Looker was on his way to his research station in the cloud forest above Guatemala City when the rainy season arrived early. The excess rains washed away the road forcing the VW pickup carrying Looker and two fellow researchers toward a ravine of mud. Fortunately they saved themselves and the vehicle, but the only road to his data station was left impassable.

Undeterred, Looker, a senior in global resource systems, returned to Guatemala City to remap his research strategy.

Last spring Looker spent the semester studying the ecohydrology of Guatemala. He can talk for hours about the discoveries he made during his internship experience. Along with a rich understanding of the culture and ecosystems, he unearthed a few adventures.

Looker came to Guatemala to measure the water intake of tree species in two different ecosystems in the Sierra de las Minas mountain range. The range stretches 100 miles along southeastern Guatemala and supplies water to 10 percent of the country.

The native Iowan found the mountainous ecosystems fascinating. The mountain ridges support an elfin forest of windblown vegetation averaging three feet tall. The cloud forest, a contradiction in terms, forms just below the mountain ridge. Covered by fog most of the time, the water-rich ecosystem has little sunlight creating stunted vegetation and epiphytic growth, which means many plants, like moss, grow on top of other plants.

“The cloud forest ecosystem, which is rare to begin with, is particularly vulnerable to changes in climate and land use,” Looker says. “It’s important to understand how these changes impact ecosystem services, such as water output.”

The lower elevations support a pine and oak forest, which is where Looker moved his sensors after losing access to the cloud forest. He built 32 sap-flow sensors to monitor the water intake in trees. The research is part of a World Wildlife Foundation project that is monitoring hydrological patterns throughout Mesoamerica.

“The sensor is a device you stab into a tree. It establishes a heat pulse to measure changes in sap flux,” Looker says. “The idea is to understand how water use relates to species and climatic conditions.”

This year Looker was the first Iowa State student to be named both a Udall Scholar and a Goldwater Scholar. The Udall Foundation awards scholarships to students who study environmental and American Indian issues and show promise of making significant contributions through scientific advances, service or community action. Goldwater is the nation’s premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

Despite setbacks and a shortage of materials for the sensors, Looker described his internship as an awesome experience. He plans to pursue a doctorate in landscape ecology and a career doing research for a university or an international research institution.

He says he’s mesmerized by the forests and pointed out that Guatemala means “the place of trees.” For Looker this adventure included a glimpse of what those trees, ecosystems and mountains mean to Guatemala.

Click here for Looker’s Indian rice pudding recipe


Breaking egg protein molecules into smaller structures isn’t as simple as separating the yolk from the whites.

Himali Samaraweera, a doctoral student in meat science, is studying the characteristics of phosphopeptides, smallersegments of protein, which are taken from the phosvitin, a main protein in egg yolk.

“I’m researching methods to break down phosvitin to produce phosphopeptides for use as supplements, nutraceuticals and antioxidants materials,” Samaraweera says.

The goal of the research is to add value to protein separated from eggs. Dong Ahn, Iowa State University animal science professor, is overseeing the research. His group developed methods to separate the phosvitin from eggs on a larger scale for industrial use.

Since Iowa is the top producer of eggs in the United States, Ahn says finding ways to separate and breakdown phosvitin could add value to eggs and benefit producers. Phosvitin costs $1 a milligram and there are 200 milligrams in an egg.

“If we can find ways to break phosvitin down to small pieces using organic agents we would increase the value of eggs,” Ahn says.

A phosvitin molecule is difficult to separate without using solvents or chemicals, which can’t be used in products used for human consumption. Samaraweera is testing and analyzing methods to crack the phosvitin structure using organic materials with some pre-treatments.

“I’m using six different enzymes to break the protein down into small peptides for various functions,” Samaraweera says.

One function would be to use those elements as binding agents in iron and calcium supplements.

“This supplementing agent would allow 90 percent of the iron and calcium absorption in humans as opposed to the 10 to 20 percent that we see now,” Ahn says.

Samaraweera came to Iowa State from Sri Lanka in 2008 after hearing about the meat science department’s excellent reputation. Professors at the University of Peradeniya, where she will join the faculty after she graduates next year, also recommended it.

Along with research and lab work, Samaraweera currently works as a teacher’s assistant in two labs and has moderated meat science short courses. She says she enjoys overseeing the labs and looks forward to teaching after she graduates.

She’s also been involved in club activities, serving as treasurer for the meat science club and helping with club fundraisers. Samaraweera also is a member of the Sri Lanka Association and helped bring Buddhists monks to Ames as guest lecturers.

Click here for Samaraweera’s recipe for rice milk cake


Andy Edson is always looking for ways to take his farming operation to new heights.

Even though he’s managing a farm two hours away from Ames while tackling a full class schedule, Andy Edson doesn’t see himself as an entrepreneur.  He says it’s how you approach business that defines entrepreneur.

“Some people think that anyone who starts a business is an entrepreneur,” says Edson, a junior in agricultural business. “An entrepreneur is someone who is innovative and tries to do things differently.”

Edson, who is part of the fifth generation to grow up on his family farm, plans to partner with his dad and perhaps run the operation in the future. It’s a transition they have slowly begun. Edson started farming 14 acres three years ago on their farm near Nashua, Iowa. In 2009, a neighbor asked him to farm another 600 acres.

“Paying rent and writing bigger checks was a new experience, but that’s how I learn,” Edson says.

Variable rate planting, auto-steer and field mapping analysis are just a few of the technologies Edson hopes to set up on his family’s farm in the future.

“There’s a lot of room to grow with technology and that’s what I’m hoping
to bring to the operation,” Edson says.

This year Edson attended the Beginning Farmer’s Conference where he learned about the Ag Decision Maker program.  It offers numerous decision-making tools to help calculate cost, returns, markets, outlooks and prices.  He says the conference is just one of many resources offered at Iowa State.

“It gives you the tools to evaluate the most profitable options,” Edson says.

Although he’s had to cut back on club activities, he’s continued to stay active in the National Agri-marketing Association. In April, the team attended the national competition in Kansas City and presented a marketing plan for a sub-clinical mastitis treatment. Edson says the product doesn’t contain antibiotics, so dairy producers wouldn’t have to dispose of milk after applying the product.

Edson also gained marketing experience during his summer internship at Insta-Pro International. The company sells oilseed processing and dry extruder equipment throughout the world.

“I collected data on existing markets and investigated possible ways they could expand their markets,” Edson says.

Edson’s story isn’t typical. Less than 15 percent of the college’s graduates plan to go into production farming. For students who want to farm, the Beginning Farmers Network student club offers resources and opportunities to meet with farmers and experts.

“There is a lot of interest in the student club,” says Mike Duffy, economics professor, director of the Beginning Farmer Center and club adviser.

More than 50 percent of Iowa’s farmers are over age 55. Duffy says resources like the Beginning Farmer Center and the student club are important because they can help retiring farmers connect with students like Edson and others who want to farm.


Alle Buck, her parents, Roger (’75 farm operations) and Nylene, and her grandparents, Don (’49 farm operations) and Ruth recently restored their 120-year-old barn listed on the Iowa Barn Foundation All-State Barn Tour.

In 1894, Alle Buck’s great, great grandfather got off the train near Rhodes, Iowa and bought a farm with his brother. Today, Buck calls it home.

“We’ve farmed this land for over 100 years and it’s in my blood,” says Buck, a senior in animal science.

Buck is proud of her fifth-generation farm and even more proud that she’s a third-generation Iowa State student in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.  Her grandfather and grandmother met at Iowa State and together they raised six children who all attended Iowa State, but she’s the first woman to pursue a career in agriculture.

“My three uncles and my dad majored in agriculture,” Buck says. “It wasn’t easy for women to pursue degrees in agriculture back then, like it is now.”

After graduation this summer, Buck plans to build and run a swine finishing facility with her brother-in-law. Raising livestock has taught her about life. The key, she says, is putting their needs first. “If you take care of them, they’ll take care of you,” Buck says.

She knows farming isn’t an easy business to get into, but it’s what she’d like to pursue.  The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative helped Buck understand the importance of global markets, creative thinking and innovation.  The initiative also helped her apply for a Beginning Farmer Loan to rent grazing pasture for her cattle.

“It’s not work to me,” Buck says.

“All my life I’ve spent the day doing something else and then I got to go home and farm. It’s a way of life and it’s what I love to do.”

Her sense of community is evident.  Walking across campus, she greets several students she’s worked with in clubs, learning communities and judging teams.

She’s also a known volunteer. She has dedicated a lot of time to the Block and Bridle club, and this spring she served on the college’s strategic planning committee.  She felt strongly about providing input, especially from the student’s perspective.

“I really care about Iowa State and I have a vested interest in its future,” Buck says.

Coming to Iowa State opened doors for Buck. She credits the learning community experience for connecting her with lifelong friends. Last summer she traveled to Greece with the entrepreneurship group and also visited Rome, Paris, London, Frankfurt and Munich.

“I’ve traveled to 15 states and five countries and I’d never been on an airplane before I came to college,” Buck says.

Buck says she’s found her college experience rewarding because she’s developed leadership and organizational skills, met with agricultural leaders and gathered a community of friends. It’s an experience and a community that she calls, “priceless.”


“When you put on Cy’s costume, it transforms you. It’s hard to describe, but you instantly perform.”- Matt Burt

Cy isn’t shy. Cy dances, hugs and throws high-fives to enthuse and entertain Iowa State University fans.

Matt Burt, a junior in agricultural business, has been watching Cy all his life. His parents and older brother went to Iowa State, and he grew up attending Iowa State games.

Burt always knew he would be a Cyclone.  He never guessed he would be Cy.

Last year he went to the mascot squad tryout so he could try on Cy’s suit just once before he graduated and say he’d been Cy for 15 minutes. After attending a meeting before try-outs he decided to take the challenge and compete.

“They gave us directions on how to plan a five minute skit,” Burt says. “It was very competitive.”

Along with running with the Iowa State flag and performing the Cy strut, Burt and his friends put together a winning skit. They had Cy working out to the theme song from the Rocky movie; challenging rival fans to arm wrestle, a tug of war, a race; and finally beating a University of Iowa fan in football.

After making the elite team of seven students, his first performance was a two-day tour promoting Iowa State with the athletic department’s coaches and administrators. Traveling in a first-class tour bus around the state, Burt says, “was amazingly cool.”

Cy the Cardinal, which is the mascot’s official name, first hit the field at a 1954 Iowa State homecoming game. Cy was the winning idea in a nationwide contest to find a mascot to fit the “Cyclone” role. Cy performs at every Cyclone sporting event and several off-campus special events.

Mascot squad members don’t get paid or receive special recognition, says Mary Pink, Iowa State University associate athletics director for marketing. She appreciates volunteers like Burt whose dedication and enthusiasm make Cy shine.

Squad leader Noelle Lichty, a senior in marketing, also appreciates Burt’s performances.  “I can always tell when Matt is in the Cy suit because he interacts with fans and he is always entertaining,” Lichty says.

Once students qualify to perform as Cy they are eligible to keep the position until graduation, which means Burt will perform the Cy dance until he graduates in 2012. He says he was looking forward to attending the games, but was surprised how different it feels to be on the field and part of the game.

“It’s fun and you feel more involved in Iowa State athletics as the mascot,” Burt says. “I traveled to the Kansas State football game and I thought it was amazing walking into Arrowhead Stadium.”

Burt’s most memorable moment, “crowd surfing,” Burt says. “My friends picked me up and I was passed halfway up the student section.”  Burt has tried to do the Cy dance for friends without the costume, but it just isn’t the same.

“When you put on Cy’s costume, it transforms you. It’s hard to describe, but you instantly perform,” Burt says.

When Matt Burt, a member of Alpha Gamma Rho, isn’t suited up as Cy he is involved in Greek Week and ISU Dance Marathon raising money for children’s charities.

Burt has also put his dance moves to work for a good cause. He was part of the Alpha Gamma Rho team during the ISU Dance Marathon held in January to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network and the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. The event raised more than $260,000 for the charities.

“It was special to hear the kids’ stories and how the money is helping their families,” Burt says.

Although he’s never auditioned for any other role, he has had experience in showmanship. The Marshalltown native was raised on a farrow-to-finish and row-crop farm and has shown livestock at the Tama County Fair and the Iowa State Fair.

Check out more photos of Matt Burt strutting his Cy Stuff.


Krista McCarty learned to love baking at an early age, making bread each Saturday with her mom.

Mixing, kneading and smelling the aroma of baking bread in the farm home where she grew up is a special memory for Krista McCarty.

It’s how she remembers her mom, who died of cancer when McCarty was just 11 years old.

“ We would spend Saturday mornings baking bread, just the two of us,” McCarty says.  In part, those memories inspired McCarty, a senior, to pursue a major in food science. She thought about becoming a nurse, but discovered food science after taking a tour of General Mills when she
was 13 years old.

She’s continued her focus on grains into her college career. This spring McCarty and the Iowa State University Food Product Development Team entered a gluten-free item into a national product development competition to be held in June.

McCarty came up with the idea, which must be kept top secret until after
the competition, after taking a glutenfree cooking class.  She says people with Celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, don’t have as many choices in the marketplace so products like this could have a competitive advantage.

“Our challenge is finding the right formula of flours and leavening agents to replicate the properties of gluten,”McCarty says.

Last fall, she and another product development team took a probiotic gum product to the American Association of Cereal Chemists competition The team took fourth place in the final round and gained the interest of several companies.  The gum was developed with a corn zein, a protein found in maize, which is environmentally friendly and promotes oral health.

“I love going to the grocery store to find the latest products,” says McCarty. “I can’t resist buying those products because I want to know what’s in them.”

She monitors the latest twitters on new food products, intellectual property, recalls and industry news. To satisfy her insatiable appetite to understand food product development, she’s planning to attend graduate school.

Next year McCarty will serve as co-president of the Iowa State University Colleges Against Cancer Organization.  This year she led the advocacy and education committee for the Relay For Life in March. McCarty worked on displays for the event and one display included a paragraph from committee members about why they participate.  McCarty posted this:

“I Relay for my mom.  She passed away from her three and a half year battle with cancer when I was 11.  I Relay for all children, so they may never experience the loss of a parent to cancer.  I Relay for all families who must go through the fight of having a family member with cancer.  I support the fight against cancer because I do not want anyone to go through the struggle of being told, ‘You have cancer.’  I Relay to encourage everyone to have hope because one day we will find a cure!”



10 Dec 2014


This fall you don’t need to look far to see difference makers among our students, faculty and staff for our community, state and planet. Students in the Sustainable Agriculture Student Organization have been growing and cooking fresh garden produce for a program that provides free meals to hundreds of the …

FOREWORD – Fall 2014

10 Dec 2014


  I should probably get a new pair of boots. Mine are over 30 years old.  They belonged to my sister who died when I was four.  She was fourteen when she last wore them. I grew to have the exact same sized feet.  The brown suede is worn and …