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Campus Chatter - November 22, 2017

New U of I degree melds agriculture and data tech

URBANA, Ill. — Technology and data are increasingly integral to agriculture, and the University of Illinois’ Department of Computer Science and College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) have introduced a first-of-its-kind major built on that relationship.

Starting in the fall of 2018, students will be able to enroll in the new CS + Crop Sciences undergraduate program at the university, one of a growing number of CS + X degrees at U of I. According to German Bollero, professor of biometry and head of the Department of Crop Sciences in the College of ACES, agriculture’s growing reliance on technology is producing vast amounts of data – from molecular genetics, the study of weather and the climate, GIS-based data gathering and the many applications of drones.

“The generation of huge data sets has expanded the demand for people with the skills to integrate computer science and agriculture,” Bollero said.

The new degree is expected to be in high demand among students, and has the potential for high impact, said Lenny Pitt, associate head of the Department of Computer Science and its director of Undergraduate Programs.

“When we talk about this partnership, it has an opportunity to really impact the world, in terms of food production, high-tech farming techniques, the environment and costs and efficiency,” he said.

Ag tech companies are taking notice of the new program. “Syngenta located its first Digital Innovation Lab at the Research Park to gain better access to a wealth of student talent and a world-ranked research university. This decision is continually solidified through news of programs such as CS + Crop Science. I'm excited to interact with a new batch of students who seek to bring engineering skills to the burgeoning field of agriculture,” said Brandon Dohman, innovation lead for the Syngenta Digital Innovation Lab at the U of I Research Park.

CS + Crop Sciences plans to begin with 5-10 students next fall before eventually enrolling 60-80 students. The deadline to apply for the fall is Dec. 1, 2017. Students can apply at

NCGA offers valuable college scholarships – apply today

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — The National Corn Growers Assoc. (NCGA) and BASF Corp. are accepting applications for five $1,000 scholarships to be awarded to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in an agriculture-related field during the 2018-19 school year.

While these scholarships are open to any NCGA members and their children or legal guardians, all submissions must be postmarked on or before Dec. 1 for consideration.

"Building the leaders of tomorrow is essential to NCGA's work to build a productive, sustainable and profitable corn industry," said John Linder, chair of the Engaging Members Committee. "Our partnership with BASF helps ease the financial pressures these students face in pursuing their degree and, in doing so, helps ensure the brightest minds remain engaged in agriculture."

Applicants for the NCGA William C. Berg Academic Excellence in Agriculture Scholarship Program must be entering at least their second undergraduate year or any year of graduate study, and they or a parent or legal guardian must be an NCGA member.

Recipients will be selected in early 2018. Recipients and a parent or guardian will enjoy travel and lodging to attend the 2018 Commodity Classic in Anaheim, Calif., to be recognized at the NCGA Banquet and have the opportunity to learn more about modern agriculture.

This is the 11th year for the partnership between BASF and NCGA. Complete rules and application can be found at

Merck announces increase for veterinary scholarships

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Merck Animal Health (MAH) has announced an increase of $115,000 in funding for its Veterinary Student Scholarship Program. The program will provide $300,000 in scholarships to outstanding second- and third-year veterinary students in the 2017-18 academic year.

This increased funding will support an additional 22 scholarships for students focusing on companion animals in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

The MAH Veterinary Student Scholarship was established in 2013 in partnership with the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF). Scholarship recipients are selected annually based on academic excellence, financial need, leadership and area of interest within the profession. MAH provided $185,000 to the scholarship program in the 2016-17 academic year.

“These students are our future visionaries and will become the leaders of the veterinary profession,” said Norman Stewart, DVM, livestock technical services manager for MAH. “Through this program, we are reinforcing our longstanding commitment to education, personal development and the science of healthier animals. It also allows us to help support the cost of veterinary education, as well as recognize and celebrate the next generation of leaders.”

The AVMF, the charitable arm of the American Veterinary Medical Assoc., has supported the education and training of veterinary students for more than five decades.

The application process for 2017-18 scholarships is open through Dec. 31. Completed forms must be submitted by midnight then and scholarship recipients will be notified in March 2018. All veterinary students in the classes of 2018-19 are encouraged to apply. Visit for application forms and more information.

Alltech extends deadline for Young Scientist competition

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Alltech Young Scientist (AYS) program is considered the world’s most prestigious agriscience competition for university students. Rising agri-scientists now have until Dec. 31 to register for the 2018 competition.

Undergraduate and graduate applicants will compete first within their home regions of North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific or Europe/Africa. Regional finalists will be invited to attend an all-expense-paid Alltech Young Scientist Discovery Week May 17-23, 2018, in Lexington, where they will compete in the global contest.

Global winners will be announced during ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference on May 23. The prizes include a fully funded Ph.D. position and $5,000 for the global undergraduate winner and a fully funded postdoctoral position and $10,000 for the global graduate winner.

“Lifelong learning is a core value within Alltech, and we are proud to invest in young, bright minds through our Alltech Young Scientist program,” said Dr. Aoife Lyons, director of educational initiatives and engagement. “It provides a global stage for students to present their research and have the opportunity to further their education and join the Alltech team.”

Students must be nominated by a professor in order to participate and may submit scientific papers on topics such as animal health and nutrition, crop science, agriculture analytical methods, food chain safety and traceability, human health and nutrition and other agriscience-related sectors. Paper submissions may be completed online through Dec. 31, and regional winners will be announced in March 2018.

For more information and to register for the Alltech Young Scientist program, visit

HU’s Haupert Ag Institute receives AFA Growth Initiative

HUNTINGTON, Ind. — Huntington University’s Haupert Institute for Agricultural Studies has been selected as one of six schools in the U.S. for Agriculture Future of America’s (AFA) University Growth Initiative.

Along with HU, the 2017 class also includes Tennessee State University, University of Maryland-College Park, Murray State University, University of Tennessee at Martin and Texas A&M University. As a University Growth Initiative school, each received funding to send three students and a member of the faculty or administration to the 2017 AFA Leaders Conference in Kansas City.

“We are thrilled with this opportunity to connect our students with the AFA, which is one of the premier organizations in the arena of leadership development of agriculture students at the collegiate level,” said Dr. Raymond Porter, director of the Haupert Institute for Agricultural Studies.

Porter traveled not only with the three students covered by the University Growth Initiative, but also two additional HU students who applied and were accepted to go to this conference. Agriculture students attending the conference for the first time were Rebekah Peterson (Monticello, Ill.), Bailey Rothrock (Monticello, Ind.), Karley Hockemeyer (Decatur, Ind.), Makayla Mobley (North Manchester) and Megan Schroeder (Albion).

In addition, Madison Riley (Goshen) attended the Leaders Conference for a second time as HU’s AFA Ambassador and as a recipient of an AFA Leader Fellowship.

USPOULTRY, PSA Foundation announce student career fair

TUCKER, Ga. — The U.S. Poultry Harold E. Ford Foundation and the Poultry Science Assoc. (PSA) Foundation are pleased to announce the jointly sponsored inaugural M.S. & Ph.D. Student Career Fair, which will be held during the International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE), scheduled for Jan. 30-Feb., 1, 2018, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The Career Fair will be held Jan. 29, in conjunction with the International Poultry Scientific Forum (IPSF). This unique program is designed to better serve U.S. Poultry & Egg Assoc. member companies and allied suppliers, particularly involving, but not limited to, technology-driven companies such as those in genetics, health, pharmaceutical and nutrition.

“Utilizing the strengths and resources of PSA and the USPOULTRY Foundation, this new program will target post-doctoral and Ph.D. students,” said Jerry Moye, USPOULTRY Foundation incoming chair, who also serves on the PSA Foundation Board. “This is a great service our two organizations can provide to the poultry and allied industry, particularly those with needs in genetics, health, pharmaceutical and nutrition fields.

“Further, this opportunity is provided in one place at one time in conjunction with the IPSF, conveniently benefiting these exceptional students and industry companies seeking talented employees to provide for their next generation of scientific leadership.”

Microbiologist sought for algae cultivation startup

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — The National Algae Assoc. announces that a Los Angeles algae startup focusing on spirulina cultivation is looking to expand operations to a full-scale production facility in the Palmdale/Antelope Valley region of California.

Further, its aim is to diversify and expand operation into cultivation of other algal species. It is seeking applicants for the position of microbiologist. An ideal candidate is someone who embraces change, strives for continuous improvement, understands the importance of commitment and is passionate about expanding their knowledge base.

The startup is looking for someone who can transition from a part-time employee to a full-time team member over the course of the next year. If interested, candidates are asked to email their résumés to

Agricultural education faculty earn national recognition

URBANA, Ill. — Two agricultural education faculty at the University of Illinois – Drs. Kari Keating and Erica Thieman – recently earned national recognition for outstanding achievements in teaching and research.

Thieman, an assistant professor in the Agricultural Education Program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, was honored with the Outstanding Early Career Member award from the North Central American Assoc. for Agricultural Education (AAAE). Recipients of this award have demonstrated excellence in teaching, significant contributions in research, scholarly writing pertaining to agricultural education and service in professional organizations at the community, state, and national levels.

The predominant focus of Thieman’s research is determining how stress impacts teacher proficiency and retention. She received the award during the North Central AAAE annual conference in September.

Keating, a teaching assistant professor in the program, was recognized as one of the best educators in the nation, as a recipient of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) Educator Award. NACTA is a professional society dedicated to scholarship in teaching and learning in agricultural disciplines.

As someone who focuses on the people-development aspect of agriculture, Keating prepares the next generation of industry leaders and agriculture teachers in the agricultural leadership and science education program. Keating received the award during the NACTA annual conference in July.