Sources: Caleb Wurth, cewurth@k-state.edu; and Leland McKinney, 785-532-4082, lelandm@k-state.edu
Hometown interest: Kansas City, Mo.
Editor's note: Caleb Wurth is a 2009 graduate of the Pembroke Hill School.
Photo available: http://www.k-state.edu/media/images/mar12/wurth0312.jpg
Cutline: Wurth during his trip to Panama.
News release prepared by: Tyler Sharp, 785-532-2535, tmsharp@k-state.edu 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Opening doors: Developing Scholars program helps student from Kansas City find success through undergraduate research

MANHATTAN -- Caleb Wurth is only a junior at Kansas State University, but his resume already reads like one even a graduate student would covet: multiple internships, extensive international travel and a diverse research record.

All has been made possible through Wurth's participation in the university's Developing Scholars Program, or DSP, which pairs student scholars with expert faculty to conduct research projects. The junior in feed science and management from Kansas City, Mo., has been part of the program since 2009.

"I consider DSP as one of the major factors in my success here at K-State," Wurth said. "The program created the initial connection between me and the research community on campus."

Wurth has been conducting his research with Leland McKinney, associate professor and extension leader of grain science and industry. The duo's shared passion for research and discovery has made them a natural fit, Wurth said.

"We often sit down to brainstorm possible questions within the feed industry that we can help answer at K-State," he said. "Together we have published articles in popular magazines, such as Feed Management magazine, and scientific journals."

Among their projects has an evaluation of the logistics associated with transporting pelleted corncobs versus non-pelleted corncobs to the point of processing for ethanol production. Wurth and McKinney were able to significantly decrease net shipping costs while maintaining -- and even enhancing in some cases -- the sugar extraction for ethanol production.

Currently, Wurth and McKinney are researching the effects of extrusion on organic acid preservatives used in aquaculture feed, looking at what factors affect the retention rates of the preservatives in the feed's production. The safety of the feed can often be compromised by mold during transoceanic shipments. Cargill, an international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services, has partnered with the university to develop the inclusion rate parameters to better ensure the safety of feed leaving the U.S. 

Wurth has played an important role in the research.

"He has been instrumental in designing the experiment and working with the feed industry to obtain extramural funding for the project," McKinney said.

Cargill has provided the funds for all of the feed and preservatives used in Wurth and McKinney's study.

Wurth's research experience has paved the way for several internships with Cargill-affiliated companies. He served as an engineering intern for Horizon Milling, a joint venture between Cargill and CHS Inc. that operates several mills in the U.S. and Canada. Wurth also has interned with Cargill Animal Nutrition and Frontier Commodities, a private company that trades independently at the Kansas City Board of Trade. This summer, Wurth will return to Horizon Milling as a merchandising intern.

"I chose Cargill because of the personal relationships they have built with me," Wurth said. "They have given me the best opportunity to be flexible and build an internship that catered to my passion and direction I want to go in my career."

Wurth has also broadened his knowledge through two trips to South America. He traveled with the university's agronomy department in 2010 on a 10-day trip to learn about the production systems of central Argentina. Agricultural production was also the focus of the second trip, this time to Panama and Colombia. Wurth and fellow participants in the National FFA Organization's International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership, or I-CAL, Program, conducted a SWOT -- strengths, weaknesses/limitations, opportunities and threats -- analysis of the two countries' agricultural production. Wurth calls each international experience invaluable.

"It was amazing to see both the production and cultural differences of these countries compared to ours," he said. "In our global economy, it is important to gain experience abroad so you can be a more well-rounded and competent business person."

Research isn't Wurth's only on-campus activity. He is an officer of several organizations, including: Pi Kappa Alpha, a Greek fraternity; Minorities in Agricultural and Natural Resources; Alpha Mu, the department of grain science and industry's honorary society; and the College of Agriculture's College Council.

Wurth plans to graduate in May 2013 and pursue a career in commodity trading.

"So many doors were opened for me because of DSP," he said. "I only took advantage of the opportunities."