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Colby Freeman is a second-year student in biological engineering with an environmental focus. Originally from a town outside of Atlanta, Georgia, Colby has learned so much and broadened his horizons during his undergraduate career which has expanded his interests. He came to MSU because of MSU’s extensive agricultural research and has since found his passion within his major.
Colby has been a member of the Energy Club where he is a part of the Solar Decathlon team which has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his time at MSU. With the Energy Club, Colby notes, “We have designed attached housing with solar panels and sustainable technologies to achieve a net-zero energy balance and will compete as finalists in the design competition this upcoming April."
"I applied what I learned in my favorite class, Biosystems Simulation with Dr. Anna Linhoss, to create a simulation giving us data on tank sizing for a rainwater harvesting system to incorporate into the design.”
He believes that this experience has helped him in receiving a research internship with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for Summer 2021. “There, I will be able to apply the unique combination of biological knowledge and engineering skill I have gained here to code a metabolic model of algae for use in biofuels,” Colby says.
Following graduation next year, Colby hopes to continue researching agriculture, sustainability, and energy systems in graduate school. Colby believes, “Bringing together these issues is the only way we are going to be able to solve them all. I know that as a result of my time here, I will be well prepared for whatever endeavor I choose to pursue.”
Cristina Griffith is an ABE senior double majoring in Agriculture Engineering Technology and Business (AETB), with the Enterprise Management concentration, and Agribusiness, with the Production concentration, and minoring in Spanish and International Studies in Agriculture. A native of Horn Lake, MS, agriculture has always been Cristina’s passion, making Mississippi State University the obvious university for her.
Cristina chose her major after studying abroad in Santa Marta, Colombia with MSU during Spring Break 2018 with Dr. Gina Rico and Dr. Sandra Guzmán. Having been an Agribusiness major, this was her first exposure to Precision Agriculture. Upon return, she began searching for what opportunities MSU had to offer to further her Precision Agriculture education. Finding AETB, she decided to double major, and she has taken advantage of the academic diversity and broad faculty reach since.
“My favorite part about being in multiple departments is the connections that are made between students and professors."
Cristina says, "I have learned so much from people with different backgrounds and passions; it has definitely helped shape my goals beyond graduation. Dr. Joel Paz and Dr. Randy Little have been so instrumental in helping me balance and succeed in both of my majors.”
Cristina is also a part of The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), Women in Natural Resources, National Agricultural Marketing Association (NAMA), Agricultural Economics Club, and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. As a member of multiple organizations, Cristina says, “Not only have department organizations helped me meet older and younger students, but they have given me the opportunity to hear from people in industry, gain advice about graduate school, and have the chance to meet the supporting professor on a more personal level.” She also serves as president of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS). As a result, the supporting professor of SWCS, Dr. John Ramirez, initiated her semester-long exchange with la Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL) by creating a new partnership between MSU and UNAL, his undergraduate university in Bogotá, Colombia.
Working as an undergraduate researcher, the College of Agriculture and Life Science allowed Cristina to have a professor from each department, Dr. Wes Lowe and Dr. Jeff Johnson, to support her research on the Adoption of Precision Agriculture Technologies by Small Farmers. This experience has been very insightful for her graduate school research in the future. Cristina notes, “I am equally thankful for my internships with Townsend Crop Scouting, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), and Helena Agri-Enterprises to prepare me for my career after studies.”
After her undergraduate education, Cristina plans to attend graduate school with the ultimate goal of working with international development through Precision Agriculture and business in Latin America. While completing the Precision Agriculture Certificate from the ABE department Cristina decided to earn her FAA Part 107 sUAS license to commercially fly drones from Dr. Amelia Fox's class.
Because of her hard work and dedication, Cristina’s future has begun to take off. She was invited to the XXII Congreso Colombiano, III Congreso APIA Andino de Ingenieros Agrónomos precision agriculture conference with la Universidad del Magdalena to present Uso de Drones en la Agricultura (Use of Drones in Agriculture). She is also thankful to Dr. Ganesh Bora and Dr. Xiaofei Li for their friendship and guidance through international presentation preparation.
Speaking of the ABE department, Cristina says, “The ABE department proves that it cares for their students and every faculty member strives to help students reach their goals. I am thankful for the open-door welcome from each professor and personal relationships built over the years.”
Raul Osorio, originally from Quito, Ecuador, is a Ph.D. student majoring in Biological Engineering with a Water Resources concentration. Before coming to MSU, Raul received his bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Development Engineering from Zamorano University in Honduras and his master’s degree in Natural Resources with a Forestry concentration from Kansas State University. Raul came to MSU because of the outstanding reputation of the Bagley College of Engineering and because MSU is a leading research university. Speaking of his choice of major for his Ph.D., Raul says, “I chose Biological Engineering because my career goals have always been oriented to the conservation and restoration of the environment."
"Therefore, I have been interested in understanding and finding solutions to the problems that hydrological systems are facing due to human activities and climate change effects.”
Most importantly, Raul is motivated in finding sustainable engineering solutions to problems related to the everyday changing environment. He says he was fortunate to meet Dr. Anna Linhoss whose research interests and ideal aligned with his.
Raul’s current research project for his Ph.D. focuses on evaluating the efficacy of a coastal restoration technique called marsh terracing in coastal Louisiana, using remote sensing and wave modeling approaches. Marsh terraces are segmented berms of soil that are built in inland, coastal ponds. They are designed to increase marsh area, dissipate wind driven waves, and encourage marsh expansion.
The objectives of his project are 1) assess the longevity of the restoration technique and identify factors related with marsh deposition and erosion using remote sensing; 2) evaluate how marsh terraces reduce wave energy and identify an optimal marsh terrace design using a wave model. Raul is very passionate about his project and says, “The overall goals of the project are to deepen our knowledge on marsh terracing performance and suggest the best implementation practices to restoration organizations to improve the application of this technique with the certainty of achieving their main purpose of reducing wetland loss in Costal Louisiana.”
During his time at MSU, Raul has really enjoyed working in a multidisciplinary project under Dr. Linhoss and other professors and students from other departments. Raul notes, “It is interesting and valuable to hear different inputs from different disciplines trying to solve a common problem. Outside of academics, I love the warm weather, the food in Starkville, and the unique environment during sports events. I also consider myself lucky to have met great people that have become close friends during my PhD program at MSU.” Raul has also been involved on campus. During the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019, he was the graduate representative of MSU’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers (SHPE). During 2020, he was the president of MSU’s chapter of the Zamorano Alumni Society. Both experiences were valuable as he acquired leadership and organization skills that help him to succeed during his Ph.D. program.
Raul has also experienced struggles during his time at MSU. He notes, “The major struggle is being far from home. I miss my family and going to the stadium every Sunday to support my soccer team with my dad. However, my wife has been my everyday support here and together we have been able to make Starkville our home away from home.” However, his biggest success he notes is having the opportunity to participate in various scientific conferences during his Ph.D. program. He was able to get two recognitions, one as best oral presentation and a winner of an academic challenge in the Young Coastal Scientists and Engineers Conference (YCSEC) of the Americas in Merida-Mexico in 2018. He also received 1st place in the student oral presentation in the Mississippi Water Resources Conference (MWRC) in Jackson, MS in 2019.
In the future, Raul hopes to become a professor after spending some time working as an environmental conservationist. Raul says, “I come from a family of professors; my mother is university faculty member in Ecuador. Therefore, I hope to follow her steps one day soon. However, I would also like to have some experience working in an environmental conservation organization or NGO, hoping to conduct restoration projects worldwide but most importantly in underdeveloped countries.” Raul plans to use the skills developed during his Ph.D. program to better the environmental and the world around him.
Madison Taylor, a native of Fulton, MS, is a senior biomedical engineering student. Madison came to MSU because of the proximity to her hometown and MSU’s reputation as a friendly campus with a family-like student body. Madison was also interested in the new biomedical engineering program and wanted to attend an amazing engineering school. Referencing her choice to major in biomedical engineering, Madison says, “I loved biology, chemistry, and math, but Biomedical Engineering encompasses more than just the study and familiarity of topics; it is the improvement and creation of new medical solutions which involves many fields of study. It is also a very broad area of study, and while I was initially drawn to it because I wanted to learn about prosthetics and medical devices, I was so fascinated to learn about tissue engineering and biomaterials research.”
During her time at MSU, Madison’s favorite part of her undergraduate career has been becoming involved in the Biomedical Engineering Association of MSU (BEAM). She believes that being engaged in this organization has presented her with numerous opportunities and has been the highlight of her college experience.
“I would not be the person I am without it, and it has allowed me to meet and work with so many wonderful people.”
In addition to serving in several officer roles in BEAM such as President, Vice-President and Fundraising/Community Service Chair, Madison has also participated in Global Medical Brigades since 2018 where she is now the Treasurer. Additionally, she has participated in undergraduate research in Dr. Elder’s lab since 2019. She has also completed a bioengineering REU at the University of California San Diego in 2019 and worked as a research assistant with MSU’s Department of Sustainable Bioproducts in 2018.
During her time with the department, Madison notes, “I have two favorite professors, Dr. Simpson and Dr. Elder. Dr. Simpson is our B.E.A.M. advisor, and Dr. Elder is my research advisor. They are two professors that believe in the potential of their students and give them the resources to excel. Anything that I have been able to accomplish is mainly owed to them and what began with their confidence in me.”
Madison notes that her biggest success while at MSU has been her own personal growth. “I pursued all the opportunities that I wanted and worked hard in the ones that were presented to me, and it allowed me to become better and learn so many things. I think that I would have been very surprised if I saw where I am now four years ago,” she says. Madison’s hard work has paid off as she will be graduating in April 2021. She hopes to start in a post-bac position at the National Cancer Institute before she continues her education by applying to dual M.D./Ph.D. programs.
Katelin Waldrep, a native of Cherokee, Alabama, is a senior in the ABE department pursuing a degree in Agriculture Engineering Technology and Business (AETB) with a concentration in Precision Agriculture. Katelin chose MSU because of its hometown feel and welcoming atmosphere.
Referencing her decision to attend MSU, Katelin says, “Coming from a very small town, I knew that I wanted to be somewhere that I didn’t feel like I was lost in the crowd. The faculty, staff, and students were more down-to-earth than any of the other colleges I toured, especially those that were part of the ABE Department."
"From the start, they always allowed me to feel like an individual rather than just another number.”
Never one to tie herself down to just one option, Katelin chose AETB because of the broad nature of the major. “Through AETB, I am able to learn about the technical side of the agriculture industry while still learning how to run a business efficiently. I love the hands-on experiences that I’m able to take part in and feel as though they have all been very beneficial in preparing me for the workforce,” she says. Katelin believes that AETB allows students to put the material they’ve learned into real life situations, rather than just learning the material for a test. Her passion lies within improving the agriculture industry and helping those farmers who work so hard to feed the world everyday, and she feels as though she is in the right place to do just that.
Speaking to being a woman in a predominantly male field, Katelin says, “One of the biggest challenges I face in general is being a young woman in agriculture, especially being in a major predominantly made up of young men. I feel as though at times you have to work harder to prove yourself, being a girl in a “boy’s world”. With the stereotype of agriculture being mostly male, it is easy to be underestimated as a woman in the industry. I am thankful to have always been treated equally by all of my professors within the ABE department, and I am thankful for them always believing in me and my abilities. I am most proud of myself for making it this far, and not letting discouragement get in my head or in my way. I am proud to be a woman in agriculture, more specifically an agricultural engineer, and I hope to show younger girls that it’s okay to take the road less traveled and to have courage to take charge in a “boy’s world”.”
Outside of her academic studies, Katelin serves as a CALS Ambassador, current 2nd Vice President of Sigma Alpha (a professional agricultural sorority), a member of the collegiate FFA where she has served as both secretary and President, a clinical sciences student worker in the College of Vet Medicine-Animal Health Care clinical, and an undergraduate research assistant with the School of Human Sciences. She also has served as a business and administration student trainee remotely last summer as a part of her internship with U. S. Forestry Service.
Katelin has enjoyed her experience at MSU and is sad to see it come to an end when she graduates in April 2021. In the future, Katelin hopes to use her degree to grow and change the agriculture industry starting with helping farmers run their operations more efficiently as a precision agriculture specialist, crop advisor, or in the research field. Speaking of her future goals, Katelin says, “ I hope to bring light to the agriculture industry in a positive way in order to work towards bridging the gap between producers and consumers, as well as the gap between farmers and digital agriculture. My biggest goal (or dream, rather) is to one day run my own row crop farm and beef cattle operation, so I can have my chance at feeding and clothing the world.”
Jay Warren, a native of Gulfport, MS, came to MSU because of the overall sense of community and the welcoming atmosphere he experienced during his official tour of the campus.
“The sense of community has remained evident throughout my time here, and I know that I made the best decision when choosing where to earn my degree.”
Jay became interested in pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering because it would serve as way to explore his love of math and passion for the sciences while developing and exercising his analytical skills. This degree would serve as a starting point to pursue a degree in medicine.
During his time at MSU, Jay notes, “My favorite part about MSU has been the same thing that brought me to MSU in the first place—the people. I have enjoyed making new friends, interacting with my professors, and navigating my college experience alongside a diverse student body.” MSU has a wealth of opportunities for its students to get involved on campus, and Jay strongly believes that each student can find an organization that aligns with their goals and values. Jay has served on New Maroon Camp staff, where he worked alongside other students to plan and conduct week-long camps for incoming MSU students.
Jay is a member of Alumni Delegates, an organization that serves as the liaison between the Alumni Association and the student body. Jay has also been involved in the Shackouls Honors College as both a Provost Scholar and an Honors Ambassador, and has volunteered in the Starkville community through organizations such as the Brickfire Mentoring Program and Beta Upsilon Chi. Jay believes, “Though students are by no means required to get involved to be successful at MSU, I am confident that the experiences gained through my involvement served to greatly enhance my overall college experience.”
Within the department, Jay names Dr. Steve Elder as his favorite professor in the department who has served as both his research professor and mentor since his sophomore year. Jay says, “Beyond the classroom setting, he has taught me to be a creative, effective researcher, and he has remained a valuable source of guidance and wisdom.”
Jay’s biggest academic success has been the development of a 3D-printed kartogenin-conjugated PLGA scaffold for use in cartilage regeneration. Kartogenin is a compound that has been shown to induce mesenchymal stem cell differentiation into healthy cartilage. His project has focused on integrating kartogenin into a PLGA scaffold, which is commonly used in tissue engineering as a vehicle for drug delivery. This bio-functionalized scaffold could be used as an augmentation to microfracture, which is a common surgical procedure used to treat cartilage deficits. Speaking about his project, Jay notes, “I have been working on the project for about 3 years, and there have been quite a few failures during that time. Throughout the process, I’ve learned to view failure not as an indicator of incapability, but as a powerful motivator and learning tool. The years of work have paid off, and I hope to defend an Honors Thesis on this project later in the spring.”
After graduation in Spring 2021, Jay will be attending the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Fall 2021. Jay says, “As a physician, I hope to utilize the principles that I have learned in my biomedical engineering curriculum and develop novel methods of healthcare delivery.”