Every year, the annual Harold and Katherine Guy Graduate Fellowship is awarded to outstanding students in the Iowa State University Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE). This year, five ABE students received the fellowship: Laura Alt, Tim Neher, Lindsey Hartfiel, Grace Carey and Sam O’Brien.
This fellowship was established to promote research in soil and water conservation while opening new doors of opportunity for the students receiving the award. Students awarded the fellowship had to show ‘outstanding academic potential’ and be researching an area within soil and water conservation.
“This achievement allows me to pursue new academic opportunities like attending more conferences to share my research, or attending workshops to build new skills,” Neher said.
All five fellowship recipients have different skills, passions and research projects that qualified them for this award.
Carey is a second year doctoral student in the Interdepartmental Microbiology program. Originally from Southwest Virginia, Carey pursued her undergraduate degree in environmental horticulture from Virginia Tech. Now, Carey is a part of Dr. Adina Howe’s Genomics and Environmental Research in Microbial Systems Laboratory. Her current project in the lab involves tracking antimicrobial resistance indicators in the root systems of prairie plants in prairie STRIPS planting. Carey has a goal to work in the biotechnology industry to design sustainable agriculture that is accessible and profitable for farmers.
Alt is a fourth year doctoral student, co-advised by Howe and Dr. Michelle Soupir, head of the Water Quality Research Laboratory and associate chair for research and extension. Her research is focused on characterizing microbial communities in agricultural land and water resources in order to understand the impacts of agricultural management and practice on environmental quality. In the future, Alt wants to continue to contribute more information to the already extensive list of benefits the integration of prairie strips has been shown to exhibit.
Neher is a doctoral student conducting research with Soupir, focusing on the fate and transport of antimicrobial resistance in the environment. Neher was born in South Dakota, and has lived in seven different states and two countries since. Similar to Carey, Neher pursued his undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech, and after working for the US Geological Survey for two years, came to ISU ABE and became a doctoral student.
Hartfiel is a doctoral student from Central Wisconsin. Growing up on a dairy farm, she developed a passion for agriculture and water quality. Advised by Soupir in the research lab, her research is focused on an edge-of-field technology called a denitrification bioreactor, used to reduce nitrate loading to downstream surface waters from subsurface tile drainage.
O’Brien is currently in his first year of the concurrent masters program in ABE. Working with Dr. Jacek Koziel, his research focus is researching the mitigation of odor from swine manure, as well as researching potential agricultural applications of biochar. O’Brien has worked with Koziel since his freshman year of college, first as an undergraduate researcher, and now as a student.
Receiving this fellowship is a great honor and opportunity – two thirds of the award is applied to the student’s university account, and the remaining one third is applied to research expenses that the students may need funding for.
“I had received the fellowship once before, and the fact that it helps alleviate the financial burden of paying student fees for a year, on top of providing funds that can be put toward your research, is a really powerful thing,” Alt said. “Last year, I was able to put some of the funds toward travel to a conference where I was able to present on two projects I’d been working on and have some great networking opportunities. Receiving the fellowship again this year, combined with the fact that travel is beginning to open back up a bit, means there are a lot of great opportunities for professional conferences and workshops that I can consider attending without having to worry so much about costs and fees.”
“The funding this fellowship provides is helping me not only continue to pay for my education here at Iowa State, but will also allow me to improve my research through the funds provided,” O’Brien said. “Whether through paying for equipment costs or publication costs, this fellowship helps open more doors in my research that were previously unavailable.”
All five students have one thing in common – a passion to improve agriculture and sustainability practices.
“Everyone needs food and water to live,” Hartfiel said. “Being able to contribute to soil and water conservation through my research is extremely exciting to me since it really is needed for everyday life. I hope to be able to make meaningful contributions to soil and water conservation to ensure the sustainability of our natural resources for generations to come.”
With this fellowship, the students can continue to conduct research, pursue their educations and attend conferences with their passions in mind – sharing their research with communities and industries to design a more sustainable environment.
“I loved to play out in the fields, streams, and mud as a kid,” Carey said. “Now, through research, I can help protect our environment so other kids can enjoy a cleaner, safer world.”