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Beef Cattle Institute Summer Scholars program engages students and mentors in beef industry research

Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017

Yang "Jeanne" Liu

Yang "Jeanne" Liu, a doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, presents her research project as part of the Beef Cattle Institute Summer Scholars program at Kansas State University.


MANHATTAN — Do bad headlines really hurt beef sales? That topic was among the issues researched by students in the Summer Scholars program, which is coordinated by the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University.

The scholars, five students from different academic colleges at the university, each teamed up with a faculty mentor who helped guide special research projects related to sustainability in the beef cattle industry. Brad White, director of the Beef Cattle Institute, said students were encouraged take their projects further by looking for opportunities to make presentations at national conferences and submitting peer-reviewed publications.

"The Beef Cattle Institute Summer Scholars program is an opportunity to bring together students and faculty from multiple disciplines to generate information on a specific beef industry issue," White said. "This year, student projects focused on sustainability and provided research in economics, marketing, environmental impact and health management. One of the real benefits of this program is the synergistic relationships developed between faculty and students in different areas of study to create answers that will help the beef industry."

The summer program began May 22 and included special guest speakers and a producer panel on sustainability. On Aug. 10, the students gave final research presentations about their projects at the conference room in the Kansas Department of Agriculture building in Manhattan.

Among the scholars was Rachael Walker, junior in industrial engineering, Manhattan. Her project was "An investigation of the effects of health-related media reports on the demand for beef." She was mentored by Doug Walker, associate professor of marketing.

"I learned a lot about an industry I had no knowledge of, and now I feel like I'm more aware of what so many people live their lives for in Kansas," Rachael Walker said. "Everyone involved was very helpful and supportive, which was greatly appreciated. We hope that the results we found will be useful and interesting for those in the beef industry. I feel like I got to experience and learn a lot of great life skills that I can incorporate in my academic and, eventually, career life."

"The project gave Rachael a much fuller understanding of everything that is involved in academic research, and introduced her to mathematical modeling, data collection and cleaning, statistical analysis, coding and presenting," said Doug Walker. "Our findings suggest that negative stories primarily hurt the beef industry by putting downward pressure on prices, with demand essentially flat, which results in lower revenues."

Also serving as Beef Cattle Institute Summer Scholars were the following students:

• Kainoa Johnson, third-year veterinary student, Manhattan. Johnson's project was "Unmanned aircraft-based thermal remote sensing applications in cattle feedlot systems." He was mentored by Deon van der Merwe, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.

• Inneke Sarwono, doctoral student in human ecology, St. Marys. Sarwono's project was "Development of a web-based communication platform for monitoring sustainable beef supply and demand in northeast Kansas." She was mentored by Junehee Kwon, associate professor of hospitality management.

• Christopher Hall, senior in animal sciences and industry, Udall. His project was "Development of rapid, on-farm test for methemoglobin." He was mentored by Jaymelynn Farney, assistant professor at the K-State Research and Extension office in Parsons.

• Yang "Jeanne" Liu, a doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, China. Liu's project was "A review of life cycle assessment on carbon footprint of beef production in the U.S." She was mentored by Zifei Liu, an assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering.

"Working with the Beef Cattle Institute on the summer scholars program was a great experience for myself and my mentee," Farney said. "The interactions, educational activities and support of research projects will continue to make Kansas State University a prime destination for continued education."

The mission of the Beef Cattle Institute is utilizing collaborative multidisciplinary expertise to promote successful beef production through the discovery and delivery of actionable information and innovative decision support tools.


Brad White


Beef Cattle Institute

News tip

Manhattan, St. Marys and Udall

Written by

Joe Montgomery