Coming from a strong high school agricultural education program, Katy Vacula of the Big Foot FFA Chapter in Walworth, Wis., has been involved in an array of research projects. It’s an opportunity that she said gave her a great foundation for her college research projects.
“We were doing some pretty cool labs; we cultured cells, which is something that I don’t think any other high schools get to do,” Katy said. “I talk to people at college now, and they’re like, ‘You did that in high school?’ So it’s kind of cool that we had that opportunity.”
“I thought that I was very blessed to have that kind of foundation and that my advisors had done a really great job of instilling the passion for research into me,” Katy continued.
The first facet of Katy’s agriscience supervised agricultural experience (SAE) came from a research project she pursued for the Wisconsin FFA Agriscience Fair. Using chicken eggs from her family’s hobby farm, Katy researched different egg washing methods. Her first research project garnered a gold ranking at the National FFA science fair.
Katy continued her high school research with a partner the next year, testing how antioxidant levels in foods were changed by microwaves, using blueberries in their study.
Once she became a college student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Katy knew she wanted to stay invested in research.
“I got a [lab] position my sophomore year, and that was in the Department of Animal Sciences as well,” Katy said. “There, I’ve been able to do a couple of different projects, worked my way up the ladder and being really involved in the process.”
In that lab, Katy has worked on some projects including developing a new drug to combat urinary tract infections and finding ways to eliminate byproduct from swine production.
With a rich background in FFA and research, Katy said she wants to become an ag teacher and FFA advisor to help students like herself get involved in research.
“Hopefully, they can go on and pursue research, or whatever field, they’ll be more prepared for because they’ve been involved in research.”