May 23, 2018

Emma Rients to join innovative beef research summer program

by Hannah Erickson

Emma RientsCARBONDALE, ILL ­— Coming from a Pre-Veterinary background, Emma Rients’ plan did not originally include research in Beef Production. But after starting her educational career at Southern Illinois University, Rients found a new passion.

“When I started my freshman year of college, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But through my experiences in class, labs and the Southern Illinois University Farms, I learned there is more to animal science than just veterinary medicine. And I liked working with healthy animals much more than sick animals,” said Rients.

One of only five students chosen for fellowship

Rients, a junior from Towanda, Illinois studying Animal Science, will be one of five students in Illinois to join the new I-BELIEF (Illinois Beef Experiential Learning and Industry Exposure Fellowship) program.

The 10-week summer research experience is funded by a new grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Five promising undergraduate students were chosen from the four participating institutions: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Illinois State University, Western Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University.

“Emma is an intelligent, goal-driven student who has a positive ‘can-do’ attitude and will utilize her great work ethic to succeed,” said Dr. Rebecca Atkinson, Associate Professor in Animal Science Food and Nutrition at Southern Illinois University.

Hands-on research in in-vitro and metabolism will culminate with research abstract

As the only participant from SIUC, Emma will be conducting intense research on an in-vitro and metabolism project during the summer program at the Beef and Sheep Research Field Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois.

She will then continue working with advisors and mentors year-round to analyze the data and write a research abstract.

A stepping stone to a career in beef research

The hands-on, real-world experience will help Rients develop both her knowledge and her resume. She will present her research at the Midwest Animal Science meeting next spring.

“I-BELIEF is a great opportunity for her to ‘get her feet wet’ with research which will allow her to further confirm her newfound passion for research,” said Dr. Atkinson, who has published multiple beef research articles during her time at SIUC.

Though she is not entirely certain what her future will hold, Emma Rients hopes this program will propel her forward in her career.

“With this I-BELIEF program, I am hoping to gain more experience in the beef industry, especially in beef research” Rients explains.

Students who are interested in future I-BELIEF opportunities can contact Dr. Josh McCann at