Exploring careers in dairy science series: Assistant Professor

The career paths and options related to dairy science and the dairy industry are limitless! No matter what talents or interests a person possesses, there is a dairy-related position waiting to be claimed.

Dr. Adam LockThis is newest article in a series from Michigan State University Extension  that explores careers in dairy science that may not easily come to mind. From animal care to advertising, professors to public relations, there is a career path in dairy for everyone!  I recently sat down with Dr. Adam Lock, Assistant Professor in Animal Science at Michigan State University, to find out about his background, how he came to be an Assistant Professor, what his position entails, and what advice he has for others seeking a similar career.

Melissa: What is your position and how does it relate to the dairy industry?
Dr. Lock: I’m an Assistant Professor with a 60 percent research and 40 percent MSU Extension appointment. I have two main roles with my appointment: conducting research to understand how to improve production efficiency and to provide education on the important role of milk in a healthy diet.  All of my research is related to milk fat, or lipids.  I have researched questions such as how to maximize milk fat, ways to troubleshoot low milk fat, and the impact of fatty acids on cow health.  My aim for my research and Extension programs is to have a positive impact on dairy farmers and consumers.  If I can discuss with my father, a sixth generation dairy farmer, an experiment or Extension activity I am planning and he can see the potential benefits of that work to the industry, then I believe we are in a position to make a difference.

Melissa: What is your background with dairy?
Dr. Lock:  I grew up on a dairy farm in southwest England where my dad was milking about 100 cows.  He was a sixth generation farmer and I always thought I would go back to the farm.  My parents kept encouraging my education – I wanted to finish school at sixteen and eighteen years old, but they wouldn’t let me.  I went on to university and obtained my undergraduate degree in Animal Science. 

Melissa: What educational path brought to your current role related to dairy?
Dr. Lock: After I finished university, I enrolled in the British version of the Peace Corps and went to Tanzania where I started a research project. After that, I was all set to go and work on a dairy in New Zealand for a year.  Before that started, the professor I did my research with as an undergrad called me and offered me a PhD position.  I accepted, but thought about leaving half way through when my dad said he was selling the farm.  I didn’t leave, finished, and moved to Cornell for postdoctoral research. I was a faculty member at University of Vermont for three years with a research and teaching appointment. I moved with my family to MSU in September 2009.

Melissa: Why did you choose to work in a dairy field?
Dr. Lock:  I didn’t know anything else and it was where I always wanted to work. I grew up in dairy, but I’m in a very different part of the industry then where I thought I would be.

Melissa: What advice would you have for someone wanting to pursue a career similar to yours?
Dr. Lock: Be passionate about what you do – self-motivated, driven, very curious, and continuously ask questions.  Try research as an undergrad – be involved early, get into a lab, and see what goes on in the research process.

Melissa: Is there any other information you would like to share?
Dr. Lock:  You don’t need to feel like you have a life plan at 15, 20, or even 30 years-old.  Have an idea, but you never know what life will have in store for you.  Don’t wear blinkers, but always be flexible and try different things – explore more in life and then make the best decisions you can.

Thank you Dr. Lock for sharing your experience and thoughts!  For updates and fun dairy facts, visit the Michigan State University Dairy Lipid/Fatty Acid Nutrition Program Facebook page that Dr. Lock has created.

Be sure to read other articles in this series: Exploring careers in dairy science series: Academic specialist and Exploring careers in dairy science series: Communications and public relations.

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