“I Was Hooked:” Poultry Science’s Outstanding Young Alumni Winner Zack Lowman

Zack Lowman CALS Outstanding Young Alumni Winner

You’d think Zack Lowman has more hours in a day than the rest of us.

Not only is Lowman the director of research and genetics at Joe Jurgielewicz and Sons duck farm in Pennsylvania – he also works on his family’s 100-head cattle farm in western North Carolina plus a poultry consulting business, and was just named an adjunct professor in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science (PDPS).

Four years after leaving PDPS with both bachelors and masters degrees plus a Ph.D., it’s easy to see why Lowman was just named one of CALS’ 2018 Outstanding Young Alumni.

“I think of it as a privilege,” Lowman said. “NC State graduates a lot of students every year, so it’s an honor to have been nominated.”

While he was at CALS, Lowman spent four years as a student worker in Professor Jim Petitte’s laboratory. He worked on several research projects, helping investigate everything from stem cells to ovarian cancer to transgenic studies, and showed promise early on.

“He didn’t need to be told what to do or be led,” said Becca Wysocky, who was his supervisor. “When he was working for us as an undergraduate, I’d come in on Monday and the lab would be spotless. He would have worked over the weekend prepping lab supplies for the upcoming week’s work. I didn’t have to give him any direction – he was motivated, and he respected the data I was generating. I knew I could trust everything he did.”

Why did you choose CALS at NC State?

Originally, I was planning on applying to vet school, so CALS was a given. Dr. Carm Parkhurst convinced me that PDPS was the place for me.

Why did you want to work with poultry?

Initially I chose PDPS because, percentagewise, more people are accepted for vet school from PDPS than Animal Science. However, after working in PDPS, it did not take me long to realize vet school was not for me.

During undergrad, thanks to Becca, Dr. Petitte and Dr. Parkhurst, I developed an intense passion for poultry and research. I was working in Dr. Petitte’s lab during undergrad and his focus was transgenics.  When he showed me he could make chickens glow…well, I was hooked.

What’s the best advice you got at CALS?

You’ll never work a day in your life if you enjoy what you’re doing. I’m a little ADD, so I’m always constantly busy and juggling several projects at once – and I usually get burned out on stuff and tired of doing it, but chickens? I have worked virtually seven days a week every month for almost 15 years, and I haven’t gotten burned out on it yet. It’s always fun.

“Choose a job you love and you will never work a day.” That’s what I tell the students in the seminar I teach at PDPS: Enjoy what you do, because you’re going to have to do it the rest of your life.

How do you fit in so many work projects?

I don’t sleep a whole lot. I get up at 4:30, 5 o’clock every morning.

Looking back, who were your biggest inspirations in PDPS?

The main person who had the biggest influence on my career was Carm Parkhurst. Technically, he retired my freshman year, but he’s still there and was on both my masters and Ph.D. committees. He’s very charismatic – he has a way of wording things even when they’re bad so that they sound like good news.

The other person would be my advisor, Chris Ashwell. He’s super-nice guy, always answered my questions and gave me a lot of guidance.

What’s next for you?

I plan to stay the course for now, but eventually I would love to end up back at NC State.

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