Poultry Ph.D. students important to industry growth

The impact that Ph.D. or graduate students can have on students is critical to building the foundation of the next generation of poultry scientists.

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The poultry industry is dependent on the next generation of professionals to move the sector forward.

However, if poultry professionals are not helping guide undergraduate students to poultry classes, internships and other opportunities, the industry will not be able to advance as quickly as it needs to.

According to Purdue University Postdoctoral Research Assistant Sara Cloft, those pursuing Ph.D. or graduate degrees in poultry should take on a large amount of this responsibility.

Poultry scientists with or obtaining higher education should be trying to reach undergraduate students through resources already available to us, and creating new resources if they do not exist, explained Cloft at the 2024 PEAK conference.

What needs improvement?

Cloft believes there needs to be more Ph.D. students that know how to effectively perform outreach to undergraduate students. “For undergraduates, there is a lack of information on where to go for poultry experience, especially for international students.”

Additionally, mentoring students who want to go into poultry science is extremely important, especially for students who may only take an introductory course to satisfy a credit, or who only hear about poultry in an animal science class.

Poultry Ph.D. and graduate students should take opportunities like these seriously to reach undergraduates early in their degree because it may be their only exposure to the industry, she explained. Students who are juniors are often too late to reach, making early exposure critical.

“It doesn’t have to be just animal science students that we mentor to. For example, we can mentor to biology students,” she said.

Once students are in a poultry class, an impactful way to encourage them to stay is through peer connections, she said. For example, peer connections can be made through poultry clubs at universities or industry sponsored programs. Often times, Ph.D. and graduate students oversee or are involved in running these programs.

At the end of the day, it is important for anyone in the industry to be positive, approachable and ready to answer questions. I agree with Cloft and think that the industry can do more to support its future professionals. However, it starts at universities, and because Ph.D. and graduate students are often a bridge between undergraduates and the industry, they are a great place to start.

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