Wednesday, 20 March 2013 16:21

Uni’s dairy studies vision to unite post-graduate students

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UNIVERSITY OF Auckland geneticist Professor Russell Snell has been appointed director of the Joint Graduate School for Dairy being opened at the university this year.

Snell has long been associated with the dairy industry through LIC and ViaLactia Biosciences, and with dairy cattle genetics, says the university’s dean of science, Grant Guilford.

Eric Hillerton, at DairyNZ, has been appointed chairman of the joint management committee of the school. The remaining members of the committee are drawn from the university including Guilford himself and other partners in the graduate school – LIC, DairyNZ and AgResearch, the latter represented by Warren McNabb.

Guilford says they are currently bringing together PhD and masters students already at Auckland University working on dairying.

“We’re bringing those together so we’ve already got a good foundation of post-graduate students and we’ve started enrolling new ones as well,” Guilford says.

“With the work they’ve done to date they believe they have about 40 students from different faculties.” He says those are drawn from among agri-science students working in areas including environmental issues on farm, electronics for dairy sheds or pasture/grass assessment in respect of seed budgeting, computer science in on-farm applications, and, in the medical department, psychology students studying mental health on dairy farms.

“When we look around we’ve already got a big cohort of students already underway. But they are working individually and not part of a focused dairy school,” Guilford says.

“That’s the plan, to bring them together to feel a sense of belonging to a school and we are going through the process of identifying who those are and what we will be doing to bring the knowledge of the broader dairy industry to those students. 

“The most likely path we are going to take there is to use some of the short courses available with our partners in the joint graduate school and also through the Fonterra board to make sure these students understand the pressure issues but also the opportunities of the industry when they are doing their research projects.

“It’s a way of lifting their vision up to understand the wider industry rather than just their area of research.”

Guildford says they hope to “pull it all together” for the joint graduate school over the course of the year. They are not currently advertising overseas for students because they want to have all the structures in place before they do so.

But advertising overseas is their long-term intention. “At the Auckland University a lot of their PhD and masters students are drawn from international markets so we would expect that to be part of the picture,” he says. 

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