Faculty honored for years of service

Each December, the Department of Animal Science recognizes faculty and staff for their years of service to the department. On Dec. 17 at the department’s annual Christmas Party and Holiday Luncheon four faculty members were recognized for either 25 or 30 years of service and presented lapel pins. This included Drs. Gordon Carstens, Rhonda Miller, Stephen Smith and Tom Welsh. The longevity, drive for excellence and expertise of the animal science faculty significantly contribute to the overall success of the department and help make Texas A&M a leader in animal science research, teaching and extension. Read about this years’ service award honorees and how they’ve built a successful career in animal science.

– 25 Years of Service –

Dr. Gordon Carstenscarstens
An associate professor of animal nutrition, Dr. Gordon Carstens teaches animal nutrition courses and conducts research on energy metabolism and growth and development in ruminants. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University, Carstens worked for a major pharmaceutical company prior to pursuing his advanced degrees. He then completed his master’s and doctorate at Colorado State University.

Do you have a career highlight and/or a specifc event you feel has been a crowning achievement?
The research accomplishments and career successes of former graduate students.  Early research in the U.S. to establish residual feed intake as a key metric to quantify inter-animal variation in metabolic efficiency of beef cattle, and working with beef producers that have adopted technology to measure feeding efficiency in their cattle.

What is your favorite/most rewarding part of your job?
Working with undergraduate and graduate students as they develop a passion for careers in animal agriculture.

What advice do you give to your graduate students to keep them motivated and excel in their studies?
The key to a successful graduate career is to first discover the discipline or area of study that you are passionate about. Seek opportunities (e.g., student worker positions, internships) and visit with professors and other graduate students to help identify the area of study you wish to pursue. Always continue to explore new learning opportunities both on campus and off, and remain focused on how your research accomplishments will eventually have a positive impact on the animal agricultural industries.

Dr. Rhonda Millermiller
A professor in the meat science section in the Department of Animal Science, Dr. Rhonda Miller teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in meat science and sensory science. In addition to directing the Sensory Testing Facility within the department, she conducts research on the quality, quantity, safety and usefulness of meat and meat products. She is a three-time graduate of Colorado State University.

How or when did you develop a passion for meat science?
I knew that I would be a meat scientist when I participated on the 1977 Colorado State Meat Judging Team. I grew up on a livestock/crop operation in northeast Colorado. I loved cattle and horses.  My career plans were to stay on the live side of the beef/horse industry; then I walked into the beef cooler at the Monfort plant in Greeley, Colo. on an early Saturday morning and I knew that I was home.  If I was willing to get up early on a Saturday morning, spend my Saturday in a 32°F cooler grading carcasses and every time I left the cooler about 300 men hooted and howled words I can’t repeat, I must be destined to be a meat scientist.

What is your favorite/most rewarding part of your job?
I came back into academics because I missed teaching and being with undergraduate and graduate students.  I had the research challenges in industry, but working with young people and experiencing their growth and excitement for knowledge was missing in my life.  I love to either be in front of the classroom, or working with my graduate students on research projects.  They keep me thinking and they challenge me every day.

What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is simple: make it interesting and show my excitement for the material and they will become engaged.

– 30 Years of Service –

Dr. Stephen Smithsmith
A regents professor of meat science in the Department of Animal Science, Dr. Stephen Smith teaches meat science, nutrition and physiological nutrition courses. He also conducts research on the growth and development of adipose tissue, particularly in the bovine species. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology at California State College, Bakersfield, and his doctorate in metabolic physiology from the University of California, Davis.

How or when did you develop a passion for your field of study?
I was an art major for my first two years in college. I soon discovered that, being color blind and unable to compose pictures, art was not for me. Then I took a biology class where I could draw what I saw in the microscope, and decided that would be a great career choice.

Do you have a career highlight or a specific event you feel has been a crowning achievement?
In 1991, Dr. David Lunt took me to Japan for the first time. I discovered that, not only do Japanese Black (Wagyu) cattle deposit more marbling that any other breed type, their marbling also contains the most oleic acid. That began my passion for studying the development and composition of marbling in beef cattle in Pacific Rim countries.

What do you feel is unique about our department and/or being a faculty member at Texas A&M?
I have been lucky to be a member of the meat science section for the last 30 years. This increased my exposure to scientists with similar interests and introduced me to a vast number of really great meat science graduate students. It also has helped me to focus my research to address important, practical issues in meat animal production.

Dr. Tom Welshwelsh
A professor and Texas A&M AgriLife Research Faculty Fellow in the Departments of Animal Science and Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, Dr. Tom Welsh is the physiology of reproduction section leader and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in growth, stress and reproductive physiology.  Welsh’s endocrine physiology laboratory team has studied the hormonal regulation of growth, reproductive and stress processes in various farm, zoo and laboratory animals. Welsh earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and doctorate in physiology/biochemistry from North Carolina State University, and was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California-San Diego.

What is your favorite/most rewarding part of your job?
An enjoyable part of my position is seeing our students develop their ability to generate and apply new knowledge and progress into leadership roles in their profession and community.  The success of students after their graduation should be a most rewarding aspect of a professor’s career. If we do our job right, presumably we will develop a generation of scientists and educators whose contributions will exceed ours.

What do you feel is unique about our department and/or being a faculty member at Texas A&M?
The department members have always been highly collegial and supportive of me, my family and my professional activities.  Fortunately for me, a series of administrators has allowed me the latitude to undertake a variety of educational and research activities. The support and encouragement from my personal family, my lab team family, and my departmental family have been instrumental.

Do you have a career highlight and/or a specific event you feel has been a crowning achievement?     
It has been my good fortune to interact with Dr. Ron Randel at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Center in Overton since my days as a graduate student at NCSU. Upon my joining the department in 1983, Dr. Randel and I began development of our on-campus/off-campus partnership to mentor graduate students and undergraduate research interns. Graduate and undergraduate research scholars are the conduit to link research groups. The physiology of reproduction section’s philosophy and record of interactive development of undergraduate and graduate students continues to be an important aspect of our program.



 For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Courtney Coufal at cacoufal@tamu.edu or (979) 845-1542.

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