Emilie S. Cerny has her sights set on a career in agriscience research.
The Wisconsin FFA member, who is a student at Black Hawk College in Moline, Ill., majoring in swine production technology, grew up showing hogs at her county fair.
Interested in the science side of agriculture, she took agriscience coursework in high school and learned the scientific method and how to question and develop methodology. She completed two research projects – one that explored the effects of runoff fertilizer on lakes and another that examined the effect of vitamin E on porcine stress levels – while developing lab skills and competing in her state’s FFA Agriscience Fair.
Her first venture into a true research lab, however, was when her agriculture teacher took her on a visit to the National Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Md.
“I had contacted Dr. Ted Elsassor with the center about my Agriscience Fair protocols and he invited me to the center to learn more,” Cerny said. “Dr. Elsassor taught me proper animal cell lab procedure and how to draw correct inferences when collecting data.
“I was truly star struck, working with a real United States Department of Agriculture researcher and talking with him about his work.”
Later, Cerny landed an internship at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis. For six months, she was able to work on an actual trial and collect, prepare and process samples for the trial.
“I was able to speak with many researchers about their work and their previous experiences,” she said. “I was able to conduct actual research, learn how to work lab equipment that is essential to animal nutrition research and much more.”
She completed a second internship with Diamond V Show Pigs in Taopi, Minn., and the Wisconsin State Fair, during which she organized livestock events and worked with livestock judges.
Cerny is a 2013 finalist for an American Star in Agriscience award from the National FFA Organization.
Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, four FFA members are honored with an American Star award for outstanding accomplishments in FFA and agricultural education. The award is the most prestigious honor awarded to a student by the National FFA Organization.
The American Star awards – including the American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience – are awarded to FFA members who demonstrate outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through completion of a supervised agricultural experience. A required activity in FFA, a supervised agriculture experience allows students to learn by doing by either owning and operating an agricultural business, working or serving an internship at an agriculture-based business or conducting an agriculture-based scientific experiment and reporting results.
Other requirements to achieve the award include demonstrating top management skills; completing key agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements; and earning an American FFA Degree, the organization’s highest level of student accomplishment.
Sixteen American Star award finalists from throughout the U.S. are nominated for a panel of judges to interview during convention. Four are named winners and receive cash awards totaling $4,000. All American Star finalists receive a $2,000 cash award. The Stars Over America are sponsored by ADM Crop Risk Services; CASE IH; DuPont Pioneer; Elanco; Farm Credit and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
Cerny, 22, is a member of the Big Foot High School FFA chapter in Walworth, Wis., led by advisors Lisa Konkel and Rick Henningfeld.
She is the daughter of Susie and Mike Cerny.
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About National FFA Organization
The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 557,318 student members as part of 7,498 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at www.FFA.org, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.