OSU department chief wants balance between applied, basic science
By MITCH LIES
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- John Killefer, head of Oregon State University's newly merged animal and rangeland sciences department, has returned home to ramp up the department's profile.
"I would like to see the faculty, the students and the program in general become more successful," Killefer said. "And I would like to see us have a positive impact on our local and national industries."
Killefer took over as head of the new department in September. He formerly served as a professor of meat science and muscle biology at the University of Illinois. Prior to that, he was an associate professor at West Virginia University.
He earned a doctorate in animal science from OSU in 1990.
Killefer said he's been getting a crash course on the Oregon livestock and dairy industries through meeting with industry leaders.
"I think they would like to see greater responsiveness to their particular industries, and hopefully we can do that," he said.
"We have had a reduction in the number of people involved in those areas over the years, and we are trying to build back that capacity," Killefer said.
Killefer said he is preparing to advertise for an on-campus dairy position with extension, research and teaching appointments. And, Killefer said, he is in a "later-discussion stage" to create an extension dairy specialist to be housed on campus or in an area of high dairy production, such as Tillamook.
The department currently has just one full-time dairy extension agent.
The department also is trying to get final approval to advertise for two beef cattle positions, one concentrating on forage and the other on beef. Both positions would be based on campus.
When asked for his long-range goal for the department, Killefer said: "I want to increase the research profile. That is going to involve having more faculty scientists in the department, as well as more graduate students that are actively involved in research.
"We want to be able to look at science that has an impact on our fields, and is very relevant to the industries," Killefer said.
"In my opinion, successful departments have a good balance between basic, or fundamental, science and applied science, and we need to have both of those," he said.
"Our extension folks hopefully will have good exposure to what is going on in the department and able to relay that to the folks who are out in the fields working everyday on the ranches and farms, and also bring back their concerns," Killefer said.
The department will concentrate on forages unique to Oregon and how to make them work to the advantage of the Oregon beef and dairy industries, Killefer said.
His biggest roadblock?
"Almost all of these things take resources," he said. "If we had unlimited funding and material, the sky is the limit.
"But in terms of getting support to make some of these things happen, that is going to be a challenge," he said.