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Undergraduate researchers featured in 2023 issue of Discovery journal

By Brittaney Mann
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast facts

  • New issue of Discovery features work from eight undergraduate students
  • Featured faculty and student pair investigated issue with little existing data

(720 words)

Download a photo of the cover

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — High temperatures and disease are both serious enemies in poultry production. That led recent poultry science graduate Alessandro Rocchi to investigate the link between the two.

Cover of Discovery journal with two people
DISCOVERY — Research by Gisela Erf, left, Endowed Professor in Avian Immunology, and Alessandro Rocchi, University of Arkansas honors graduate in poultry science, is featured in the latest issue of Discovery journal. (U of A System image)

Research such as this is important in an industry that was valued at more than $50 billion in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rocchi, a May 2023 University of Arkansas honors graduate in poultry science, worked with Endowed Professor in Avian Immunology Gisela Erf to study the effects of heat stress in broilers. He found that cyclic heat stress — where birds experience periods of higher, summer-like temperatures followed by periods of ambient temperature — likely impairs the birds’ defenses against microbial infection.

Rocchi’s research appears in this year’s issue of Discovery, the undergraduate research journal of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

“Completing my undergraduate research at Dale Bumpers College allowed me to feel accomplished and unquestionably proud of what I was able to achieve during my time there,” Rocchi wrote in a letter published in the journal.

He and Erf are this issue’s featured faculty mentor/student team.

Alongside Rocchi’s project, Discovery contains research and independent creative projects from seven additional students at the University of Arkansas’ Bumpers College.

Visit the Discovery ScholarWorks repository to view the full issue.

Beth Kegley, professor of animal science and the journal’s faculty editor since 2019, noted in her editorial for this year’s edition that she is continually impressed with the variety and timeliness of the Bumpers College undergraduate students’ projects and the faculty members’ contributions.

“The faculty’s willingness to provide these experiences and challenge the students is admirable,” Kegley wrote. “These students’ work ethic and maturity in submitting their work for critical review and then thoughtfully responding and editing that work is evidence of their bright future. I am proud of their results, and I hope you enjoy and learn from this year’s publication.”

Kegley conducts research for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. She is also a professor of animal science at Bumpers College.

The research and creative projects in this issue include a range of topics representing diverse fields of study:

  • Determining the effects of a whey protein isolate supplement in time-restricting eating by overweight or obese adults.
  • Evaluating the effects of struvite in a hybrid rice cultivar using furrow irrigation, compared to other, common phosphorus sources.
  • Providing insights into the type of immune cells and the amount of time it takes for those cells to infiltrate thyroid glands during autoimmune thyroiditis in obese strain chickens.
  • Determining the effectiveness of rosemary extract on the shelf life of ground beef patties under different retail display conditions.
  • Expanding on research that suggests music plays a vital component in expanding emotional development in the early childhood years and helps promote learning across many domains.
  • Determining the effect of heat stress in broiler production and broiler immune function.
  • Providing young children at the University of Arkansas Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center more experiences outside the classroom in an outdoor space other than physical activity on the playground.
  • Validating the performance of a new primocane-fruiting genetic marker to accelerate the breeding process in blackberries and raspberries.

In his letter from the dean, Jean-François Meullenet, the interim dean of Bumpers College, expressed appreciation for the research that the students conduct and their efforts to take advantage of the opportunity to work with faculty. Meullenet is also senior associate vice president for agriculture-research and director of the experiment station.

“It is inspiring and gratifying to see the results of hard work completed as our students have investigated questions and problems, and reached conclusions with potential answers and solutions,” Meullenet wrote.

“We are here to serve the people of Arkansas, the entire country and the world, and you will see our students are in a position to do so as their findings are published and they prepare to embark on their professional careers.

“Congratulations to the student authors on completing these projects. Thank you to the faculty mentors and editors who worked with them to make this collection possible. As a college, we are pleased and proud to present this collection as a service to them and our readers,” he wrote.

Gail Halleck is the managing editor of Discovery. She may be reached at

To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow us on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices.

Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences

Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability, and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture. For more information about Bumpers College, visit our website, and follow us on Twitter at @BumpersCollege and Instagram at BumpersCollege.


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Media Contact:
Gail Halleck