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“Scientist for a Day” program promotes interest in research, science careers

[audio:|titles=Nancy Betzold Scientist for a Day program]

Nancy Betzold, Dairy Herd Manager
USDA Dairy Forage Research Station, Prairie du Sac
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 264-5138

3:08 – Total Time

0:18 – The Scientist for a Day Program
0:52 – Examples of student activities
1:22 – Favorite student activity
1:41 – Teaching goals
1:59 – How Scientist for a Day developed
2:25 – What the students take away
2:42 – Opportunities for science careers
3:01 – Lead out



An opportunity for high school students to be a scientist-for-a-day at one of our research stations. We’re visiting today with Nancy Betzold, dairy herd manager, USDA Dairy Forage Research Center, Sauk City.

Sevie: Nancy, welcome to our microphone. Start out by telling us a little bit about Scientist For a Day program.

Nancy:  Well, the Scientist For a Day program gives the opportunity for local students around the Prairie du Sac area to come in and actually do hands-on learning activities with a scientist.  And, we’re targeting one instructor per school and four or five of their top students that are really interested in a career in science, agriculture or in research.

Sevie:  Can you give us an idea of the kinds of activities the students would be involved in during the day?

Nancy:  Dr. Mike Sullivan will be working with genetic modification; Dr. Jeff Brink will be out on the pasture… students will look at grass growth and how cows graze differently on different grasses. Dr. Peter Vadas, will talk about the fact of life… cow’s poop, and what happens with that.  And, he’ll be using a rain fall simulator and measuring run-off and will look at nutrients that go into the soil.

Sevie:  Do the students have a favorite activity?

Nancy: Yes, actually, they just absolutely love to be able to open up the side of a cow and put their arm into a cow’s stomach, pull out a sample of what that cow is eating and then look at it under the microscope.

Sevie: What do you hope to teach these students?

Nancy:  We want the students to see how agricultural research is conducted, why it’s needed, um… who benefits from it and we really want to encourage those students to become researchers in the future.

Sevie:  And tell us a little bit about how the Scientist For a Day program came to be.

Nancy:  This program was funded through the Wisconsin Idea Endowment and it runs for three years. And then after our three-year refining, we hope to pass it on to all the other agricultural research stations in the state, so that the Wisconsin Idea can flow throughout the state.

Sevie:  Can you give us a little example of the change you may have seen in some of the students?

Nancy:  We take a survey after our first session last year and we had some students that said, “Yes…definitely, I’m going to consider a career in ag. Research. I didn’t even know that I could go to that area.”

Sevie:   What are the opportunities for young people in Science?

Nancy: Um, there’s lots of opportunities for students to get involved in the realms of dairy science, um… they could be a bio-chemist, a molecular geneticist, an agronomist, plant geneticist, um…soil scientist, agricultural engineer, the list just goes on and on.

Sevie:  We’ve been visiting today with Nancy Betzold, USDA Dairy Forage Research Center, Sauk City, and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

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