My research is on the nutritional consequences of feed manufacture. My laboratory is interested in the pelleting process for animal feed and how it relates to pellet quality, nutrient digestibility and feed hygienics. We work closely with industry partners, so everything we do is very applicable with the potential for high impact. Some of the most interesting projects include algae as a pellet binder; volcanic ash as a pellet production rate aid; and by-product fish frames as a pellet binder and source of digestible amino acids. We have collaborated with some amazing industry partners and very talented WVU faculty members.
If you weren’t working at WVU, what’s the most likely alternative?
Either a professor at another land grant university or a commercial poultry nutritionist. Commercial poultry nutritionists command a nice salary, but I think they are also much more stressed than professors. I have been a major professor to several former students that have gone on to become poultry nutritionists and at regional and national meetings I typically do not have to pay for lunch!
Moment you knew what you wanted to study?
Fourth grade. We wrote a paper on “what do you want to be when you grow up.” I chose “dairy farmer” when most of my friends wrote about being professional athletes. Of course I was teased, but my instructor, Ms. Belcastro, was encouraging. I thought dairy farmers were cool: beat up hats, wads of tobacco, drove huge tractors, and hung out with cows. I never became a dairy farmer, but I never lost the drive to work in agriculture and with animals.
Moment you knew what your current role was right for you?
Probably a few years after teaching at WVU. Initially, I questioned if I was a valued instructor, if I could develop a nationally recognized research program, and if I could provide direct assistance to people in West Virginia. My productivity is still a work-in-progress, but I receive enough affirmation to maintain enthusiasm and enjoy working toward improvement. Undergraduate and graduate student successes are my favorite part of the job.
Favorite part of social distancing?
More opportunities to run my dogs. I have 12 beagles that I work with for rabbit hunting. I also have a few larger dogs that watch over the house. Plus, more time to spend with my boys (ages 11 and 15) and more time to connect with my wife (22 years married and going strong).
Least favorite part of social distancing?
Using my kitchen as an office.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’m very happy where I am in Dilliner, Pennsylvania. I grew up in a blue collar family and I’m most comfortable living in a blue collar community. I think that’s another reason that I love folks from Western PA and West Virginia.
Just for Fun
Favorite book: The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King; historical novels
Favorite movie/tv show: Raising Arizona / PTI on ESPN
Favorite Spotify playlist/band/song: Rock, Alt, Country / e.g. Guns N’ Roses, Weezer, Kane Brown
Favorite local restaurant: Any place with Halleck on tap
Favorite local activity: Running beagles and helping coach my boy’s baseball team