Faculty Spotlight: Tom Burkey

Tom Burkey
Tom Burkey
July 13, 2020

About Tom Burkey

I was born and raised in Lincoln, NE attending Ruth Pyrtle Elementary and Lincoln East H.S. (back when LEHS was home to 7th thru 12th graders!). After graduating H.S., I matriculated at Rockford University (Rockford, IL) where I earned a B.A. degree in Biology with a minor in secondary education. Following my undergraduate degree I taught secondary science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.) at three different high schools in the Northern Illinois area. In 2001, I made the decision to return to school and accepted a graduate teaching/research assistantship at Kansas State University in the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry. After I completed my doctoral degree in 2006, I was hired by the University of Nebraska as a Nonruminant Nutritionist with teaching and research appointments.

What is your position at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln?

I am a Professor in the Department of Animal Science conducting research related to investigating the interactions between nutrition, gut microbes, and immunity in pigs. I teach a graduate-level nutrition course (Protein and Amino Acid Nutrition) and I am also part of the teaching faculty in the UNL/ISU Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine (Veterinary Nutrition). Currently, I am also serving a half-time, interim role as the CASNR Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Partnership Engagement working towards advancing the IANR/CASNR Strategic Framework for Graduate Education.

What drew you to the University of Nebraska—Lincoln?

Lincoln has been and will likely always be my home. I don’t think there is a better place to work and to raise a family than Lincoln, NE. As an added bonus, our family farm is near Milford, NE and is home to many members of my immediate and extended family. The opportunity to work at the University of Nebraska and to be near family is something that I cannot show enough appreciation for.

What aspect of working in an educational setting do you enjoy the most?

I have always had a passion for working with the generations that will shape our future. Working in academia has allowed me to do what I love to do all the time and to interact with people from all over the world.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I consider my family my greatest achievement and source of pride. During my time in Illinois, I was fortunate to meet my wife (Jen) who is currently a pre-K teacher in Lincoln and we have four children ranging in age from 12 to 21. Auren (12) is actively involved in raising and showing (4H) club lambs, Kieran (19) will be sophomore at Ogelthorpe University (Atlanta, GA) studying psychology and competing on the women’s soccer team, Kelsey (20) will be a junior at Missouri Western University (St. Joseph, MO) studying to be a nurse and competing on the women’s soccer team, and Kyley (21) recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Chemical Engineering and has been admitted to the University of Kansas M.D.-Ph.D. Physician-Scientist Program.

What is something that most people don't know about you?

Football (soccer) has been a huge part of my life. My wife and I both competed collegiately and we have been involved in coaching soccer at the youth, high school, and college levels for over 30 years. My work at UNL and football have afforded me the opportunity to travel all over the world and it is fascinating to experience the common threads that are woven between teaching, research, and sport.

What is your life like outside of work?

Busy! Outside of work and between our family’s events and activities, my “down time” is mostly spent unplugging with outdoor activities. We live on a small acreage so there are ample opportunities to spend time on property maintenance and when there is time, I enjoy hiking and biking. I am also somewhat of a food fanatic and love to explore the culture of food. I find cooking (and eating) to be very therapeutic!