St. Paul campus showcases research

Kelly Gulbrandson

The St. Paul campus opened its doors Thursday to promote various departments’ research.

After a five-year absence, the Agriculture Open House, sponsored by the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Sciences, the Agricultural Experiment Station and the University Extension Service, offered the public a glimpse of St. Paul-based University research.

John Byrnes, marketing and communications director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, said he had been working on the event since April.

“This is a unique place because there is world-class agriculture research occurring in the middle of a city,” he said.

Everyone who attended the open house could register to win prizes from a drawing. Byrnes said 390 people registered for the drawing, but he estimated a total of 650 people attended the free open house.

Julie Christensen, public relations and news media manager for the University’s Extension Service, said she was pleased with the results of the open house.

“This was a good way to engage neighbors in research that is happening in St. Paul,” she said.

Walking tours and barn and wagon tours were offered. One of the wagon tours showed off the brand-new Equine Center set to open this fall.

Christie Ward, assistant clinical professor of veterinary population medicine, said the purpose of the center will be to advance the health, welfare and performance of horses.

The new center will have a surgery facility and equipment for horses to recover from illness or surgery.

Last week Canterbury Park donated $100,000 to the new Equine Center said Jan Williams, communications director for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Facility was the second stop on the tour. William Hansen, assistant scientist in the animal science department, led a tour through the dairy barn to show everyone the cows the University cares for on a daily basis.

The facility is also a place for students to have hands-on experience working with cows. Hansen said the cows are milked twice a day and each cow can produce up to eight gallons of milk a day.

A walking tour of the department of horticultural Science Display and Trial Garden was another event designed to show people what the University is accomplishing with flowers and landscape design. Garden Manager Karyn Vidmar said the whole garden area is designed by students within the department.

“The garden is open all year-round and allows students to work on projects inside and outside the classroom,” she said.

Teaching, research and community outreach are the three main missions of the garden, Vidmar said. During the winter months, students work on plants indoors and when the weather is nicer, the students start planting flowers and designing and caring for the garden, she said.

The garden receives funding from donors, visiting contractors such as landscape and flower companies that donate materials for projects and also from adopt-a-garden participants, who volunteer time and money to help in a specific section of the garden, Vidmar said.

Four professors from different departments also gave short speeches on what they research – including bioenergy, plant life, bugs and food safety.

Applied economics professor Steve Taff, who gave a speech on the good and bad of bioenergy, said the state gave special tax breaks to farmers who wanted to start using bioenergy at a time when he thought it was not economical for the state. However, he said he sees bioenergy having a long future.

“Bioenergy will work through the environmental concerns currently and will make advances within the next 15 years,” he said.

While the St. Paul campus might have a lot to offer, some students do not visit the campus unless they have a class there.

Second-year pre-pharmacy student Mee Thao said she likes the campus but has only been there a few times.

“It’s a quieter place with better parking, but I don’t think of it much,” she said.

Academic programs at the St. Paul campus are important, Thao said. But she said she thinks many students just think of jobs that offer big money, like doctors or lawyers, and that’s why more students focus on the Minneapolis campus.