Local high school student working in animal science lab named semifinalist in national competition

January 9, 2016

Lincoln, Neb. — A local high school student is receiving national recognition for the research she conducted in the lab of Samodha Fernando, an assistant professor of animal science at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Kyley Burkey, a Lincoln Southeast High School senior, was recently named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search.

Local high school student working in animal science lab named semifinalist in national competition
Kyley Burkey, a Lincoln Southeast High School senior was recently named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search for the research she conducted in the lab of Samodha Fernando, an assistant professor of animal science at the UNL. (IANR)

The Intel Science Talent Search honors exceptional high school seniors for their scientific research and their potential as future leaders in the scientific community. Burkey was selected as one of 300 semifinalists out of 1,700 nationwide applicants.

Burkey began working in Fernando’s research lab a year and a half ago. When Fernando learned about the talent search, he encouraged Burkey to come up with an idea she could research.

“Kyley is an extremely proactive student in the lab,” said Fernando. “You only need to teach her something once and then she’ll take the time to do further research and gain an understanding about the method or subject.”

Burkey’s research looked at whether altering the diet of cattle would reduce the amount of methane released to the atmosphere. Cattle are major contributors of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Burkey examined whether adding nitrate and sulfate to diets could use up the extra hydrogen present in the rumen to reduce the amount of hydrogen available for methanogens, the microbes that produce methane in the rumen.

“Beyond learning about this topic, working in Dr. Fernando’s lab has really helped me learn how to conduct research in general,” Burkey said. “Research is something that I want to focus on in college so having this early experience will give me an advantage because it’s not something a lot of high school students are able to do.”

As a semifinalist, Burkey and Southeast High School each received $1,000.

Burkey plans to study biomedical engineering in college with the intent of going on to medical school. She has been accepted to UNL but she is still weighing her options and expects to make a final decision in March.

For more information on the Intel Science Talent Search, click here.

Samodha Fernando
Department of Animal Science
402-472-6362
samodha@unl.edu