Students, faculty and staff, and administrators from the 1890 Land-Grant Institutions, including Fort Valley State University, recently gathered for the 20th Research Symposium of the Association of 1890 Research Directors in Atlanta, Georgia.
FVSU served as the host institution this year, with President Dr. Paul Jones and Dr. Ralph Noble, dean of the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology (CAFST), welcoming attendees to the state of Georgia.
The year’s theme was “The 1890 Research and Innovation Agenda: Pathways to Build Back Better.” This biennial meeting provides a platform for researchers, students and staff to interact, share knowledge and build connections for expanded collaboration. In addition to networking opportunities, the ARD Research Symposium shines a light on the many talents and achievements of the 1890 community.
Another highlight of the annual conference is that many students earn awards for outstanding oral and poster presentations. More than 45 FVSU students and faculty participated this year, with four students taking home awards.
Graduate students Nnamdi Eneh won third in Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, and Vernita Smith won second in Plant Health and Production and Plant Products. Undergraduates Kearis Ivey won third in Family, Youth, Community and Economic Development, and Kayla Staten won second in Plant Health and Production and Plant Products.
Eneh, who is a plant biotechnology major, presented a poster on “Use of Cellulose Nanofiber Aerogel Obtained from Cellulosic Biomass Waste as a Carrier for Drug Delivery.” His research is based on using cellulose nanofiber aerogel obtained from biomass waste (energy cane) as a vehicle for drug delivery. One of its potential impacts is to create a value-added product out of something that is waste.
“Winning this award proved to me that everything I have done to prepare – early mornings, late nights and hours of research – has been worth it. This conference was my first ever and winning gave me a huge feeling of validation, because I honestly didn’t expect it,” Eneh said.
He added that his adviser, Dr. Hari Singh, associate professor and FVSU Biotechnology Graduate Program coordinator, has been an excellent teacher and wonderful motivator.
“He is continually helping me sharpen my research and communication skills and shaping me into a formidable scientist,” Eneh said. “I’ve been able to learn a lot from him while working together, and I'm grateful for his guidance.”
The native of Enugu State, Nigeria, pursued a degree in agriculture because “everything we use and need for our health and nourishment comes from agricultural advancements.”
After graduation, his goal is to make a huge impact on his community and the world by pursuing a doctoral degree and taking what he has learned back to his home country to revolutionize the agricultural systems there.
Award winner Ivey of Knoxville, Georgia, is a junior majoring in agricultural economics. She gave an oral presentation at ARD on “What is Driving the Demand for Goat Meat in the U.S.?”
“It means a lot to me that I was rewarded for my research,” she said.
For her project, Ivey devoted weeks to researching the different factors that drive the demand for goat meat in the U.S., which she concluded were education, age, ethnicity, gender and race.
The purpose of her research was to provide information to producers, sellers or traders, and policymakers who are interested in the goat meat industry.
“The information is quite helpful because it shows what types of people would mostly purchase goat meat, so producers know who to market their products to,” she noted.
Ivey credits her adviser, Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, agricultural economics professor and associate dean for academics for FVSU’s CAFST, for guiding her through the research process. She also appreciates Nalini Pattanaik, research assistant and adjunct instructor, who was instrumental in helping her.
“They answered any questions that I had during my research,” Ivey said.
The agricultural economics major decided to pursue a career in agriculture because she has always liked anything related to nature and the environment.
“I knew that agriculture has a lot of great career opportunities, so I thought a career in agriculture would be good for me,” she said.
After graduation, Ivey is considering continuing her education to earn a master's degree. As an intern in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pathways Internship Program, she also looks forward to starting her career with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.