Three animal science graduate students recognized for their outstanding achievements

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, like many other groups, the Department of Animal Science was unable to hold our annual awards ceremony. Regardless, awards were still given to several outstanding individuals.

Luiz Fernando Dias Batista was named the 2020 Outstanding Master’s Student, Nicky Oosthuizen was named the 2020 Outstanding Doctoral Student and Rafael Martinez was awarded the 2020 Ronnie L. Edwards Teaching Award.

Dias Batista is a master’s student in the department focusing on beef cattle nutrition under the instruction of Dr. Luis Tedeschi, professor, animal nutrition. More specifically, Dias Batista is focusing on the development of strategies (additives, management practices, etc.) that contribute to decrease the environmental impact of beef production, in particular greenhouse has emissions and contribute to enhance animal performance.

Dias Batista has a unique educational background that suits the needs for future research related to animal agriculture sustainability. He was raised in the metropolitan area of the largest city in South America, São Paulo city in Brazil, where he often visited his family’s beef ranch near the city. These frequent visitations allowed him to get initiated and acquainted with agriculture, building much of his appreciation for the livestock industry and its relevance to the human food supply. Thus, he understands the mindset of the majority of students at Texas A&M University (TAMU) that comes from urban areas.

“I believe that Luiz Fernando is a highly capable student that can make a difference…He has experienced the lifestyle and agriculture needs of tropical and subtropical countries. However, he wants to expand his cultural horizons by going to other continents and learn their agriculture problems and help them to find solutions. He wants to become an Aggie Ambassador. Thus, helping him to fulfill his goals will be at the same time meeting one of the core missions of Texas A&M AgriLife that is to serve the people of Texas, the nation, and the world through education, research, and outreach to create essential environmental and societal benefits,” said Tedeschi.

Oosthuizen is a PhD in the Physiology of Reproduction degree program and a native of Pretoria, South Africa. She is advised by Dr. Cliff Lamb, professor and head of the Department of Animal Science.

Oosthuizen has an outstanding academic record (GPA of 3.91), publication record (she has already published seven refereed manuscripts as primary author and three additional co-authored manuscripts). In addition, she has presented 12 abstracts at national/international meetings and co-authored an additional 20 abstracts.

Her commitment to teaching and Extension are exceptional. Not only has she played an active role in teaching since she has been at Texas A&M, but she is also committed to understanding the scholarship and pedagogy to become a better teacher. Oosthuizen was also the 2019 recipient of the Ronnie L. Edwards Teaching Award.

In addition, Oosthuizen has actively participated in the Future Faculty Academy presented by the Center for Teaching Excellence, where she received high marks from her mentor (Dr. Katie Dunlap) for her efforts in improving the educational experience for her students.

“Nicky is organized, motivated, is a tremendous leader (served as the President of the Animal Science Graduate Student Association), and has the ability to connect and interact with students, faculty, and administrators,” said Lamb. “Nicky also has been a highly visible ambassador for the department, where she has represented the department at NCBA and TSCRA events. She also has served on the department social committee to help organize the annual tailgate. I have found that Nicky has the capacity to take on more than almost any other student that I have mentored. She does this, because she is well organized and bright. She simply gets things done!”

Dr. Ronnie L. Edwards, as Associate Head for the Department of Animal Science, spent over two decades working with the graduate program. One of his major activities was coordinating the teaching assistantships for the department, helping to ensure the best graduate teachers possible for the courses taught.

As a way to remember his love for graduate students and his commitment to excellence in graduate teaching, the Department of Animal Science established the Ronnie L. Edwards Graduate Teaching Awards in Animal Science. This award recognizes the important contributions of graduate student teaching in the Department of Animal Science to the overall undergraduate student experience.

Martinez is a PhD student in the Department of Animal Science focusing on equine nutrition and reproduction and is expected to graduate in December 2021.

Martinez has played an active role in teaching ANSC courses serving as a teaching assistant for ANSC 221: Equine Safety and Handling, ANSC 311: Equine Behavior and Training, ANSC 333: Reproduction in Farm Animals, and ANSC 420: Equine Production and Management. Additionally, he has also assisted with Parsons Mounted Cavalry, part of the Corps of Cadets, since 2017. He has also been actively involved in courses outside his teaching assistant assignments, providing guest lectures for many different courses in the department.

Something that sets Martinez apart from other graduate students in the international teaching experience he has developed. He has conducted seminars in Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico in conjunction with the American Quarter Horse Association, the largest horse breed association in the world.

Martinez is not one content to only do what is required of him. For instance, this spring the ANSC 420 Production and Management course was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This transition meant graduate teaching assistants would bear a heavy load in not only developing course videos, which will have lasting, positive impacts to the equine curriculum, he also provided weekly project updates for students in the ANSC 420 course and was instrumental in the daily care and overnight foal watch (12 mares and foals).

“Mr. Martinez represents the qualities expected of a great teacher and is very deserving of

recognition of these attributes. All said Rafael Martinez is a tremendous asset to our department and to Texas A&M University. Mr. Martinez is the type of Graduate Teaching Assistant that Dr. Edwards wanted in front of students,” said Dr. Jessica Leatherwood, assistant professor of equine science.

An example of his teaching impact is from one of his students who has been in multiple of his classes.

“Mr. Martinez is not only an instructor, but a teacher and leader that goes above and beyond for his students. He takes real world experiences from the equine industry to teach his students valuable tools…Along with being a remarkable teacher, Mr. Martinez acts as a mentor and continues to encourage me and other students to get involved in our department and in the industry. Because of his help and encouragement, I am currently looking into a graduate degree program.  Rafael sets the bar high for other educators because of his hard work, humble demeanor, horsemanship, passion for his work and ability to share his knowledge with others.”

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