Presenting at the Capital of Texas Undergraduate Research Conference

By Hector M. Menendez III and Madeline E. Rivera

At Texas A&M University, there are many opportunities for students studying animal science to participate in hands-on research.  Unfortunately, many students are unaware of research opportunities.  We hope that by encouraging our students to engage the public through research presentations, that they inspire others to be ambassadors to communicate the importance of innovative and transformational animal science research.

During the fall of 2019, Dr. Tedeschi’s undergraduate students actively participated in their own research projects.  Undergraduate students were mentored by Dr. Tedeschi and his graduate students Madeline Rivera, Genevieve D’Souza, and Fernando Batista, and research associates Drs. Aaron Norris and Hector Menendez to present their data at the Capital of Texas Undergraduate Research Conference in Austin, TX. Blake T. Roach, Appointments Manager, from the Office of the Governor Greg Abbott paid the students a special visit to engage these future leaders of Texas agriculture.

Here’s what the students had to say about their research and experience at the conference:

Edgar Montoya
Junior Animal Science Major; Mentored by Genevieve D’Souza

Edgar Montoya

Liver abscesses cause billions of dollars of loss to the beef cattle industry. Efforts are being made to improve cattle health and feed efficiency by researching active dry yeast additives to lower the counts of bacteria that cause liver abscesses. In presenting a summary of the results of this study, the audience consisted of individuals who had no prior knowledge of beef cattle or very minimal experience. They asked questions such as: Why is this issue important to others who are not involved in the beef cattle industry? How are these animals affected by liver abscesses?

Jordan Adams
Senior Animal Science Major; Mentored by Dr. Aaron Norris

Jordan Adams

The livestock industry is continuously seeking methods to improve the sustainability of beef cattle production.  The comparison of indigestible components as markers to accurately estimate digestibility is a crucial aspect of improvement.  We determined that acid detergent insoluble ash (ADIA) provided more accurate and greater digestibility estimates than both indigestible dry matter (iDM) and indigestible neutral detergent fiber (iNDF), implying ADIA was a suitable method to estimate feed digestibility for beef cattle.  Ultimately, utilizing ADIA to estimate digestibility will assist in proper diet formulation and contribute to more sustainable production.  Although I was expecting a more professional audience, the Capital of Texas Undergraduate Research Conference was an excellent opportunity to gain experience presenting research.  Very few people that attended were familiar with animal science research, so when asking questions, the audience was more focused on the animals themselves rather than the science and implications of the study.  I would recommend attending this conference as it provided an excellent opportunity to gain experience presenting research to a non-technical audience.

Nicholas Free
Senior Animal Science Major; Mentored by Dr. Hector Menendez

Nicholas Free

Attending the conference was a blast! The conference provided an opportunity to present my research on transformational educational teaching methods using virtual reality. My research project was the development of a virtual cattle handling edugame (CowSim;  freenicholas.wix.com/CowSim), to teach people how to handle cattle in a controlled environment. Throughout the conference, audience members would approach and discuss CowSim, asking questions like “how effective is the training simulation?” and “what kind of mechanics ensure the player learns. In the future, I hope that CowSim will be used as a base platform to transform and enhance other educational disciplines. If you are a student and you have an idea you want to research and follow, challenge yourself to talk to professors and gauge interest. You never know when a little bit of courage can change your life and provide research opportunities.

Morgan Jackson
Morgan Jackson
Senior Animal Science Major; Mentored by Madeline Rivera

Morgan Jackson

Attending the Capital of Texas Undergraduate Research conference in Austin was unlike any other experience during my time as an undergraduate at Texas A&M. I was there to present research on using condensed tannins to decrease total gas production using in vitro gas production techniques. At the conference, there was a broad range of people present, parents and graduate students were there in support, and undergraduates from the arts to the sciences presented their research. The majority of those I spoke with about the project were fellow undergraduates. The audience had questions such as “What is the next step for this project?”, “How does each tannin type affect gas production?”, and my favorite “Why does that cow have a hole in its side?” Truly, I would recommend anyone interested in research to attend this conference, even if it is only to attend. There was something there for everyone, which allows attendees to connect with others with the same interests and to learn something new!

Chris Johnson
Senior Animal Science Major; Mentored by Fernando Batista

Chris Johnson

Attending the Capitol of Texas Undergraduate Research Conference was an excellent opportunity to share with a new audience what research efforts are being made to help mitigate the growing greenhouse gas crisis. At the conference, there was an apparent disconnect between consumers and the food they are consuming. Many questions addressed the anatomy of cattle, why we chose the in vitro gas production technique, what the cannula is, and why we used that method for rumen extraction. Spectators in the audience were not familiar with the cattle industry, or some of the procedures we used to keep the cattle’s comfort in mind. I feel that the conference allowed for Dr. Tedeschi’s brilliant undergraduate research students to disseminate ongoing research efforts to make a positive impact on the industry by engaging a non-agricultural demographic.

Post presentation smiles. Left to right: Jordan Adams, Hector Menendez, Nicholas Free, Madeline Rivera, Edgar Montoya, Chris Johnson, and Morgan Jackson

We are so very proud of Edgar, Jordan, Morgan, Nick, and Chris for their accomplishments.  We cannot wait to see what the future holds for these bright young students.

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

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