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Poultry Science Graduate Students Get Boost From Google

Prestage Department of Poultry Science hosted graduated students and representatives from Google in May 2024.
Left to right: Sarah Stone, NC Chamber; Hannah Gentry, masters student; Caleb Marshall, doctoral candidate; Peter Ferket; Frank Siewerdt; Jason Gipe; Lilyn Hester, Google; Ray Starling, NC Chamber

Four graduate students from the Prestage Department of Poultry Science (PDPS)–Caleb Marshall, Brendan Heinichen, Hannah Gentry and John Caceres–have been selected to receive funding from a grant made possible by the Google Community Grants Fund. This grant will allow the students to enroll in the Ag Data Science certificate program and enhance their skills for data analytics and statistical analysis in their dissertation research.

This funding is aptly timed. A recent report from Markets and Markets estimates the global agriculture analytics market could grow from $800 million in 2020 to $1.4 billion by 2025. Ag data science professionals will be in high demand for years to come, priming these three graduates to be workforce ready when they complete their advanced degrees. 

“There is a rapidly growing demand for poultry science masters and doctoral graduates with these data analytical skills and ability to apply artificial intelligence (AI) techniques in the poultry industry,” says Peter Ferket, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Biotechnology of the Prestage Department of Poultry Science. “This Google Community grant will make our students strategically prepared for the emerging opportunities of data analytics, modeling, machine learning, and AI.”

Lilyn Hester, Head of Southeast External Affairs and Government Relations at Google, visited the Prestage Department of Poultry Science in May to meet the scholarship recipients and learn about their work.

“Google is proud to support the next generation of poultry science leaders,” says Lilyn Hester, Head of Southeast External Affairs and Government Relations at Google. “We believe that data-driven insights are key to addressing the challenges that face the agricultural industry as a whole. We see immense potential for data analytics and AI to revolutionize agriculture, and these scholarships are just one way we are investing in the future of this critical sector.”

Google Grant Recipients

“I am extremely grateful to have been selected as one of the recipients,” says Heinichen. “This award is not only an honor but also a significant support in my academic journey, enabling me to delve deeper into my poultry science/nutrition research, in data management and statistical analysis.” 

Under the supervision of Ferket, Brendan will continue to pursue his PhD in poultry science. His research is related to the development and optimization of turkey growth and nutrition models, implementing AI software tools to analyze environmental sensor data, and commercial and experimental growth performance.

Marshall is a doctoral student who will apply diverse data analytics and modeling skills to his dissertation research in precision nutrition and sustainability.

“Through Google’s support, I hope to develop my skills and apply them to a career focused on the global sustainability of the poultry industry,” Marshall says.

Gentry is working towards her Professional Science Master in Poultry Science, a graduate certificate in feed science and a graduate certificate in Ag data science.

“The scholarship allows me to combine my passion for poultry and mathematics by working on a poultry data analytics project,” Gentry says. “It will help me develop the skills I need for a career in data analysis for the poultry industry.”

Caceres is researching the effects of broiler production systems on meat quality and the development of predictive models and decision-making tools under the supervision of Dr. Yan Campbell.. 

“I hope to apply data analytics, innovation and sustainable processing products in the poultry industry,” he says.