On The Farm with Ryan Patterson: Helping Chicken Research Happen

Ryan Patterson on NC State campus

Patterson on a quick trip to Scott Hall.

Here in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science, we have a lot of staff members. As we highlight them, we want to give the summer months to those who are working on the farm(s): the Chicken Education Unit (CEU), Talley Turkey Education Unit and Feed Mill Education Unit.

As the summer settles in (with high heat and sunny days), read about what goes on at the CEU, from someone who knows: manager extraordinaire Ryan Patterson.

What is your role at NC State?

I am the Research Operations Manager for the Prestage Department of Poultry Science. I oversee the Chicken Education Unit out on Lake Wheeler Road.

Tell us about your work.

I have a full-time staff of four and also have 6-7 part-time students that work out here anywhere from 8-20 hours per week.

Really no day is the same here at the unit. Most days consist of coming in around 6:00 – 6:30 a.m. and preparing the daily schedule for the staff before they arrive. This schedule is based on study tasks and priorities we have in our master schedule and from study protocols.

Once they arrive we scatter about the farm feeding broiler breeders, weighing back feed, checking houses for animal welfare issues and assuring all the birds have feed, water and that the environment is as perfect as possible to assure they are growing optimally. Once all of the houses are checked we go about doing our “secondary” tasks. These items could range from setting up houses for placement, traying eggs, cleaning houses, mowing grass, applying Roundup, doing road or facility maintenance, and tackling any repairs that occur.

We also collect eggs daily, 7 days per week, at 9:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

What’s the most important thing for people to know about the work you do?

That the work we are doing is helping improve an already outstanding industry!

We are also preparing the next generation of scientists and poultry production professionals, which I really enjoy. Honestly coming into the job it is a part I did not think about too much before I accepted it. But working with the students has been a great pleasure for me. They are all like my “work kids” and we truly are a family out here!

How did you get into your current position?

Well, when in college here at NC State I accepted a job at Embrex (later merged into Pfizer Animal Health and now known as Zoetis) as a student research associate. That basically started my path in poultry research in 2002.

When I graduated they created a position for me and hired me on full time. So I was at Embrex/Pfizer/Zoetis for 13 years total. We went through many layoffs over the years and we were expecting more layoffs by the end of that year. We also did not have much work going on, research-wise, so I was very apprehensive about the future.

So, I began just looking around and ran across the job posting for the manager at the Chicken Research Unit. I called John Brake, who I had met while he was doing some consulting work for us at Zoetis, and then learned he was actually the farm liaison for the department. We talked about the job a couple of times and a few weeks later I had an interview.

I started here in July 2015 and it has been an awesome place to work. I feel very fortunate.

Are you doing anything new in the last year? Is there anything you do now that you never would have seen yourself doing when you started your job?

Not really. I have been doing poultry research so long I sometimes feel I have seen it all and then went back all over it again on similar projects!

People often think of faculty and students when they think of universities. What should people know about staff positions in universities?

Staff members hold very important roles in the universities. In a lot of instances we act as intermediaries between the two: faculty and student. We work with the faculty and the students both to complete research studies.

We are almost like students as well in many instances. I learn from many faculty members on a daily basis similar to what a student would in a classroom. Many of these faculty are international experts in this department so there is a lot of information to gain if you take the time, listen and learn.

Any interesting or unusual hobbies outside work?

Probably my most time-consuming hobby is coaching a U14 girls soccer travel team and a U10 girls recreational soccer team!

My U14 team travels all over the state and I have a blast doing it. This actually keeps me from having any other hobbies at the moment – there is no time for anything else: LOL!