For more than three decades, HWS students have had access to world-class laboratories, cutting-edge research opportunities and a spectrum of resources at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES), a Cornell University facility that’s located just two miles from campus.
Hundreds of HWS students over the years have collaborated with researchers at NYSAES, gaining invaluable experience in several key areas of scientific exploration, including entomology, food science, horticulture, and plant pathology and plant-microbe biology. Earlier this year, Beth Cole ’14, Kevin Moore ’15 and Kaitley Wozer ’15 joined this longstanding collaboration between HWS and NYSAES, conducting research projects alongside distinguished scientists in the station’s local laboratories. The three students were this year’s Rickey Scholars.
Since 2009, the Brenda and David Rickey Foundation has supported a scholarship program for HWS students to work at the NYSAES. A native of Geneva, David M. Rickey, and his wife Brenda, have long been generous supporters of the Colleges and Geneva. David is the 2006 recipient of the prestigious President’s Medal at HWS.
“Being a Rickey Scholar provided me the exciting opportunity to collaborate with experts in their field at the Cornell New York State Agricultural Experiment Station on a daily basis, and it also gave me the chance to see how purposeful research is conducted so that it can be used to better people’s lives,” Moore says. “This experience has helped me immensely as an undergraduate student to understand how the current scientific research I see is generated, and it will certainly benefit me in the future as a prospective dental student because I’ve learned the importance of hands-on, detail-orientated work to progress current knowledge in any topic, whether that be dentistry or chemical communication systems.”
A biology major with a health professions minor, Moore worked at the NYSAES with Dr. Charles Linn, a senior research associate specializing in insect behavior and chemical communication systems in Cornell’s Entomology Department. After weeks of research, Moore presented his project, “Behavioral Response of Male European Corn Borer Moths to Mixtures of European and Asian Corn Borer Sex Pheromones: A Critical Stage in the Evolution of a New Communication System,” during a special poster session held during the Colleges’ Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Assistant Professor of Biology Patricia Mowery, who is the Colleges’ liaison to NYSAES, says the research opportunities available to HWS students at the station is significant, and an important springboard of experience for graduate school or a professional work after graduation. Mowery recently took over the liaison role from Professor of Biology Thomas Glover who spearheaded the collaboration in 1980.
“The people at the Ag Station are absolutely amazing at what they do,” Mowery says. “For the students, it’s a unique opportunity to work with these scientists and researchers in a large laboratory setting. They also collaborate on projects with international scientists, post-docs and graduate students.”
The NYSAES, which includes more than 700 acres of land, vineyards and orchards, supports about 300 researchers, ranging from faculty to students. Together, they investigate areas that include crop development and consumer safety issues, food production, and farming solutions. The NYSAES was established in 1880, eventually becoming part of Cornell University in 1923.
For Wozer, she says it was her experience at NYSAES and an earlier research opportunity with Mowery that helped to solidify her interest in exploring graduate school programs in virology or immunology. Much of her project, “Phytophthora infestans Detection and Race Studies to Squelch Late Blight Disease in Tomato Plants,” took place in the lab of Dr. Christine Smart, an associate professor of vegetable pathology from Cornell University.
“Being a part of agricultural research made what I was doing very meaningful and opened up an entirely different context for the laboratory techniques I’ve learned in class and the opportunity to do fieldwork,” Wozer says. “In my research experience, I learned to relish in minor successes and to immediately start problem-solving when something goes wrong, rather than get stuck on setbacks, which I think is a life lesson applicable even out of the laboratory.”
Cole worked on a research project that involved the mating behaviors of onion thrips, a minute insect that can affect various crops. She says her experience as a Rickey Scholar “opened my eyes to the research world.”
“I learned so much from my research, and it helped move the research of others forward as well,” Cole says. “Everyone in the research department was very nice and was available to help me with any questions. They were all so inspiring and helpful. Not only did the Brenda and David Rickey Foundation help me gain these new insights, but it has definitely helped push me toward my future plans of possibly working in the research field.”
The photo above features Kaitley Wozer ’15 in the NYSAES research lab.