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From BioGENEius to the White House Science Fair

April 25, 2016
My name is Mikayla Ockels, recipient of the Practical Impact Award from the 2015 National BioGENEius Science Fair, and I am excited and honored to have exhibited at the 2016 White House Science fair this month!

Seven years ago I participated in my first local science fair and was completely unaware that the experience would be the start of an extraordinary scientific journey. Research gave me an outlet to unleash my inquisitive nature and indulge my interest in sustainable living. From composting with worms, to converting manure into methane, I have investigated copious ways to use sustainable energy on my small farm.

[caption id="attachment_22038" align="alignright" width="268"]Mikayla Ockels, Bill Nye Me, my chicken Liberty and Bill Nye the Science Guy at the White House Science Fair.[/caption]

My research allowed me to see firsthand the valuable solutions that could be created to help farms be more efficient and sustainable. I then decided to apply my interest in sustainability to my BioGENEius project, which allowed me to highlight the real world implications research can have to solving major issues.

My project looked at the growing demand for pasture-raised eggs and the lack of research that surrounded this fairly new market. Pasture-raised eggs are laid from hens that are allowed to roam freely over pastures, eating seeds, grasses, and insects. Although these eggs are in high demand, it is difficult at times to provide these eggs at an affordable price since pasture-raised chickens cannot be raised in a mass production setting. Essentially, I wanted to find what the most profitable breed of hen would be to help farmers continually yield healthier and more sustainable eggs.

I compared the feed to egg conversion rates – the amount of food a chicken needs to lay a single egg – of six different heritage hen breeds and identified which breeds are the most profitable to raise. My project led me to win the Practical Impact Award at the 2015 BioGENEius Challenge, which recognizes research that is instantly applicable to the real world today.

The BioGENEius Challenge allowed me a unique opportunity to highlight my research. I was able to interact with industry leaders and scientists, while also bonding and discussing scientific research with students who share my passion for biotechnology.

I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to represent BioGENEius at the White House Science Fair It. It was enthralling to present my research on the national level and shake hands with President Barack Obama!

My journey to the White House showcases that an inquisitive nature is something to be celebrated, and I thank BioGENEius for recognizing that.