AYS Finalist: Amanda Pesqueira - An Exciting Research Path from Brazil to Kentucky

Apr 30
AYS Finalist: Amanda Pesqueira - An Exciting Research Path from Brazil to Kentucky Amanda Pesqueira

When I was in the second year of my undergraduate courses in Brazil, one of my professors asked if anyone was interested in doing a research project with her. I didn't really know that we could do research after just a couple years in college, so I was interested to learn more about it. After that class, I talked to her about it. She told me that I would work with bees, and that I would receive an R$300.00 (Reais - Brazil, around USD$150.00 in 2009) scholarship and that would go towards my curriculum cost.

I went home, and after a couple hours thinking about it, I emailed her and said I was interested in working with her on that project. Some meetings later, our project started. It was a good experience, and I learned how to keep track of my data, how to work by myself, and to take on a lot of responsibility.

After a year, the project was over, and I thought that I would try a different area for my major and so I decided to try to cattle science. After researching the idea, I talked to my professor Dr. Antonio Ferriani Branco. We talked about some projects he had in mind, and even talked about possible future travel to U.S., to work with Dr. David L. Harmon during my summer break. It all depended on my hard work. After that, we did two research projects, and then I came to the University of Kentucky for a total of 13 months (2010 - 2012).

My first project was definitely the most difficult for me.  Not because it was so complicated, but because I was really untrained to work by myself, and to conduct this type of research. I remember once, that I thought it would be OK to keep track of my data only on my computer. After 4 months of research, my computer broke.  I freaked out because all my data was there. I went to my professor's office, running, crying, desperate! About 10 steps before I walked into her room, I realized that I had a notebook at the farm, where I always wrote everything down, so I could just put it all back into the computer.  I took a really deep breath, and laughed. I went to the farm, got my notebook and made a copy of everything on my professor's computer, an external hard drive and another notebook, just to make sure. 

While I really liked all the projects that I worked, my last one was my favorite. When my professor told me about it, I was really interested, because fescue toxicosis isn't usually a problem in Brazil. I had never worked with anything similar, so I was learning something new every day. I could practice my skills in collecting tissues and handling them, something that I did just a couple times during my other courses.

The myograph was a completely new analysis to me. I had to learn how to use it, clean it, calibrate it, and everything else. It was really exciting to see the results happening right in from of me. With my other projects I had to collect samples, analyze them, run statistics and then see the results. This project was different. You could tell what was happening right away and what your probable results would be at the same time. It was a great experience for me.

I heard about the competition in 2010, while I was working at the University of Kentucky with a PhD student from Brazil, Maria. She told me about the Alltech symposium and competition that happened in May of each year. I looked on Alltech’s website,    but I thought my research would never be good enough for such a big competition.   In 2012, I came back to the University of Kentucky, but for 10 months this time. I did my research during the spring and summer semester, and had classes during the fall.

During the class one of my professors, Dr. Michael Goodin, encouraged us to submit our work to the Alltech Young Scientist Competition. I had a meeting with my professor, Dr. James L. Klotz, about my results, SAS analysis and other topics about my research. After that meeting I asked him if it would be ok if I submitted a paper to the Alltech competition, and he said I could do that. So I went home, downloaded the Alltech template and prepared my paper for the competition.

I hadn’t heard anything about it for a couple months, even forgot about it for a little while. Then, in March, I saw a post on Facebook from Alltech, "due to the high number of submissions, it is taking longer than anticipated to complete the regional judging phase. The judges are working diligently and we will have results as soon as possible. Best of luck to all who are competing. We appreciate your patience!"

A couple days later, I received a phone call to confirm my email address and eligibility, and the news that my paper was in the finals! A couple hours later I got an email saying that I have been chosen as the North America Region 1st Place Undergraduate winner!

Now I was totally amazed. I had won $1,000 USD, a memory stick, a medal and an iPad and an invitation to attend symposium! I am now competing in the global final in May with a chance to win the global trophy and $5000 USD.

Who would have thought that my research project in my second year would lead down such an exciting research path?

- Amanda

Alltech Young Scientist Featured Posts
This is a featured post from an Alltech Young Scientist Finalist who will be traveling to Symposium in May to present their work. To learn more about the Alltech Young Scientist Competition, please visit the AYS page.

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