Student interns learn about high-tech ag at Neogen

Published: Jul. 24, 2018 at 9:56 AM CDT
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A summer internship program at Neogen GeneSeek provides students with a great opportunity to learn.

Renae Sieck is an intern at Neogen GeneSeek. The company is the world's largest agricultural genomics testing lab. "This means that anybody that is doing genetic improvement on an animal, they are sending samples in for testing," Neogen Data Services Manager Sabreena Larson said. "We are taking that tissue or sample from that animal, we are running genetic tests on it. For some people, we are sending that data on and they do their own calculations to improve their process. For other people, we are doing the calculations."

For Renae Sieck, being a lab intern at Neogen for the summer is exactly where she wants to be. "I've learned a lot about the chemistry of what happens between sending a sample into the lab and then getting the data out to customers," Sieck said. "There's a lot of different reactions that we have to do to make all of that possible." And her interest in an ag career comes naturally. "I grew up on a cow-calf operation near Crete, Nebraska. So, my family raises multiple breeds of cattle," Sieck said.

Megan McFadzean is another intern who is also spending some time this summer in the lab. Like Renae, she's getting some key experience in DNA extraction. And she, too, has an strong ag background. But her home is in Scotland. "I grew up on a dairy farm in Scotland," McFadzean said. "I have a large family. My great-great grandfather actually played a role in the invention of the modern milking machine." Megan is interested in either an academic career or industry career in relation to agriculture. Her internship has opened her eyes to life in the lab, but also life in Nebraska. "It's amazing the vastness of the farms and ranches here, and the feedlots. I went to see a feedlot and that was an experience compared to home. So yeah, I've learned a lot in the lab, but also about how another country does agriculture as well," McFadzean said.

The intern program at Neogen is not only helping interns like Renae and Megan zero in on what they might want to do in the future. It's also a great chance to see how agriculture is changing, and how genomics testing can fit in. "We know that the world population is booming and the amount of land space to feed it is shrinking," Larson said. "So it's important to have better producing animals on less space, less food, less water. That is one of the goals of Neogen is feeding the world."

Both Renae and Megan are excited to come from a farm background, and now learn about new careers in high-tech ag-related businesses. And this Neogen internship is only serving to inspire them more to get involved in an ag-based career. "You don't have to just run a farm to make a big impact in the ag industry," Larson said.