October 28, 2021 | By: Katie Pratt
Lexington, Ky.

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While only a few hundred feet from the hustle and bustle of Lexington traffic, it seemed like a world away as students combed through the University of Kentucky’s landscape in search of biodiversity.  

The students were doing so as part of an Introduction to Biotechnology class. The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment class explores lesser-known career paths in the sciences and reasons why science is so fun.  

“I’m a lab scientist and spend most of my time in the lab. It’s really good to get outside, so I can be reminded why I got interested in biology in the first place,” said Nick Teets, UK associate professor of entomology, who led the outdoor exercise.  

Teets teaches the class alongside Lou Hirsch, assistant professor in plant pathology and Kendall Corbin, assistant professor of horticulture. The entire class is comprised of freshmen majoring in agricultural and medical biotechnology. Professors want the class to be a good way to offer hands-on experiences in the sciences and introduce students to guest speakers in scientific disciplines from colleges across campus.  

“We had a talk on contagions. In another class, Dr. Hirsch discussed edible fungi, and we got to eat some things in class. It was really yummy,” said McKenna Walker, a freshman from Lexington. “We have also done some cohort activities with our peers, and it has made it seem like you are a lot less alone.” 

An agricultural and medical biotechnology student takes a picture of a flower while looking for living organisms as part of Introduction to Biotechnology. Photo by Steve Patton, UK agricultural communications.

 mini bioblitz was a way to help students become more aware of their natural surroundings. During the exercise, students found bees, moths, minnows, spiders, flies, wasps and fruit. They brought many of the organisms back to the classroom to look at more closely under a microscope that was projected onto a large screen.

“We want the students to touch, smell, see and hold things our guest speakers are talking about as opposed to just sitting in their chairs and listening to a lecture,” Teets said. “There is a whole other world out there that students don’t always think about or see as they breeze past on their way to class.” 

All the students have a deep interest in the sciences. Many of them have aspirations of a career in the medical field or becoming a research scientist. 

“I have always been interested in engineering and bettering the environment and making more sustainable agriculture, so ABT was the perfect program for me,” said Yanna White, a freshman from Indianapolis, who is interested in pursuing a career in either fungal biology, entomology or seed development. “I believe with the things I’m learning in this class that I really do have a step up compared to other people that didn’t come to UK and take the ABT program.” 


Nick Teets, n.teets@uky.edu; Lou Hirsch, robert.hirsch@uky.edu

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