U of S student in research competition finals

A research report submitted by Collin Letain has put the third-year animal sciences student among eight finalists from around the world in animal nutrition company Alltech’s Young Scientist competition.

By Michael Robin

Letain was one of nine undergraduate students working under the supervision of graduate student Jolet Kohler in the research group of Tim Mutsvangwa, an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science.

Letain's report, and those of his fellow undergrads, analyzed foundation data for Kohler's thesis work. After noticing Alltech's call for entries online, he decided to submit his work.

"This was totally independent of the school," he said. "I just felt I put my full effort into the project and felt confident in it, so I submitted it to the company."

Kohler's project is looking at how rotating crude protein in diets at different intervals with dairy cattle might affect nitrogen emissions in manure. While nitrogen (usually in the form of nitrates) is an important plant nutrient, excess amounts can get into runoff and cause problems such as excess algae growth in water ecosystems.

Although Letain contributed only one part of the data for the study and doesn't yet know its results, the experience gave him an intriguing first-hand taste of research.

"It was a mini look at it, but a good one, from start to finish," he said. "It definitely piqued my interest with regard to research."

Letain is now considering how to incorporate graduate school his career aspirations in veterinary science.

"My goal is to get accepted into the DVM program (at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine)," he said. "But I've also been looking at the possibility of a Master of Science in disease transmission in livestock and wildlife."