Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.
Education: BS and MS in animal science at North Carolina State University; currently pursuing Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Q. What is your background in the swine industry?
A. Although I have been surrounded by the allure of a career in the swine industry my entire life, whether though my family, 4-H, FFA or the National Junior Swine Association, I never felt more convinced to pursue a career in the swine industry more than when I was studying swine genetics during my sophomore year of college. During that time, I began taking all the introductory classes in varying animal science disciplines (physiology, nutrition and genetics) when I realized that I truly enjoyed livestock breeding and genetics.
Q. Tell us about your internship experiences.
A. In 2015 I had the opportunity to intern at The Maschhoffs in Carlyle, Ill., where I was assigned to work with the genetics department. I worked on projects centered around the development and improvement of the genetic data pipeline, data accuracy, collection, and husbandry practices of genetic sow farms which were new to the system. In 2017, I interned at Smithfield Premium Genetics in Rose Hill, N.C., studying big data management and analysis. My projects focused on the development of genomic data analytic skills and the improvement in the genetic analysis of economically important traits to SPG.
Q. Did you take part in undergraduate research?
A. During my undergraduate degree I worked all four years for the NC 4-H Livestock Specialist, Brent Jennings. While working in the 4-H livestock program of North Carolina, I helped coach state 4-H livestock judging teams, taught livestock judging, skillathon and swine showmanship clinics across the state. I also helped plan all state-run livestock judging contests, developed tests for state administered skillathon contests, composed questions for quiz bowl contests, along with helping to prepare for and organize state 4-H leadership conferences.
Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
A. My first real experience with pigs, that I can remember, took place when I was 3 years old at the Michigan State Fair. I exhibited a pig my grandfather raised in the open show. Since then I have shown pigs in various competitions across seven states, raised pigs to show, studied swine genetics exclusively for the past 4 years and presented my research at state, national and international scientific meetings. All of my experiences with the swine industry have shaped who I am today, and I hope to help future youth have the same opportunities that I was given.
Q. Tell us about your current research.
A. My dissertation project investigates genetic prediction strategies in commercial crossbreeding swine production. Traditionally, geneticists predict the performance of crossbred commercial hogs based upon traits with economic importance and relationships expressed by their great-grandparents. Rather than looking at the phenotype and/or genotypes of the great-grandparent animals, my research explores the benefit, or detriment, of including commercial pig phenotypes and/or genotypes in commercial crossbreeding systems. I’m striving to find the most effective way to select great-grandparent animals that are most likely to produce the best future commercial crossbred generations to come, with the goal of providing a better pork product at a higher premium for the everyday swine farmer.