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Meet the Grads: Kinsey Reed

Kinsey ReedKinsey Reed, a dual major in applied and environmental microbiology and animal and nutritional sciences, is the 2019 Outstanding Senior for the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences.

As she prepares to graduate, Reed, a Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, native is looking forward to working with Rivendale Farms in in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

“Rivendale strives for excellence by combining natural, sustainable farming with innovative techniques and technology,” she said. “I’m excited to get hands-on experience with a farm on the forefront of agricultural innovation and technology.”

As a student, Reed was fortunate to conduct undergraduate research – and publish her first paper – under the guidance of Zac Freedman, assistant professor of environmental microbiology. She also participated in a summer internship with Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia.

“It was an extremely humbling experience,” she said. “The center was established after September 11 to train working dogs for careers in search and rescue, law enforcement and medicine. I learned more about dog behavior and training than I could ever explain.”

Why did you choose your major?

I love that the applied and environmental microbiology major encompasses such a wide breadth of topics. It's not just microbes - it's soils, plants, water, food, disease, humans and everything in between. When I joined the program, I wasn’t sure exactly what topic I wanted to focus on, as they all were interesting to me! The variety of classes really enabled me to find my niche. Microbes are just one crucial part of a complex and changing global ecosystem that we are still trying to understand fully. To add to that, the professors in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences are all wildly passionate, friendly and knowledgeable about their respective specialties, qualities which are seemingly contagious to me and the other students.

Describe any internships, research or study abroad opportunities you participated in. How did they benefit you?

The spring semester of my sophomore year I took my first applied and environmental microbiology class, General Microbiology, with Dr. Zachary Freedman. At the end of the semester, I asked him if he needed any undergraduate help in his lab. Much to my surprise, by the start of my Junior year he had me working on my own project with the end goal being to publish a paper before I graduated! I have been studying how anthropogenic nitrogen deposition, and its associated acidification, affects forest soil microbes and carbon storage. I got to sample from long term experimental plots in the USFS Fernow Experimental Forest in Parsons, West Virginia. I processed those samples, did physical and chemical tests, extracted and sequenced bacterial and fungal DNA, performed statistical analyses, and wrote a publishable research paper. All along the way, Dr. Freedman and his graduate students were there if I needed help or had questions, which I often did, and were always incredibly kind and patient. While challenging, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I learned new things every single day and was challenged in ways I never had been before.


If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?

This isn’t a philosophical answer at all, but I’ve always been jealous of the original Mythbusters cast. I would’ve loved to trade places with Keri or Tory for a day. The show was the main reason I got interested in science and I used to watch it every single Wednesday night with my dad and brother. I still quote the show often in the lab (particularly, “Failure is always an option”).

Was there a professor or staff member who impacted you more than others? If so, who and why?

Just like the state of West Virginia itself, I believe WVU’s greatest asset is the incredible people that make up the Mountaineer family. My WVU experience is invaluable because, from start to finish, I have had people fighting for my success and pushing me to be the best student and person I could be. One of those people is my academic advisor, Dr. Robert Dailey. He is the first person I met at WVU. He’s been advising here since 1977, but not once did I feel like "just another student". Even after I changed career paths halfway through college and added a second major, I never once felt unsure of my future after meeting with him. He is a steadfast friend, mentor, and advocate to every student that he interacts with. Dr. Zac Freedman has only been at WVU since 2016, but he has been a stunning testament to the talented and dedicated professors WVU hires. As my research advisor, his hands-off style of guidance allowed me to complete a research project virtually all by myself, even though it took a little longer that way. I honestly never thought I would have a professor be as dedicated as Dr. Freedman is to my personal and professional growth and success. I feel prepared to enter any graduate program or career with confidence. Not just due to the skills I've learned, because now I don’t fear any new challenge.

What is one thing you would have done differently?

I wish I would’ve taken more classes on the WVU farm. I had no idea I would love it as much as I do. I didn’t really have any experience with agriculture before coming here, so I was initially a little intimidated by all my extremely knowledgeable and experienced professors, teaching assistants, and classmates. It sounds silly now, but I’ve learned that putting myself in “uncomfortable” situations where I really had to grow is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.

What’s your advice for the Class of 2019?

Get involved within your local communities (wherever they are), you won’t regret it. Also, support your local farmers through CSAs, farmer’s markets, eating at restaurants that use local ingredients, etc. Not only are you helping the farmers, you’re getting affordable, nutritious, and delicious food for yourself!