2022 Research Days Spotlights: Wednesday

This is a series highlighting undergraduate and graduate students who are participating in the Student Research Days poster sessions April 11-12.  

Undergraduate: Andrew Havens

Major: senior environmental studies and natural resources and environmental economics 
Project: carbon credits for farming 

Andrew Havens wants to be part of the climate-change solution, coming up with ways to transition to a carbon-free future. 

His project, Carbon Credits for Farming: How Could They Work?, looks at how farmers might participate in the carbon-credit market. Carbon credits are based on carbon dioxide farmers draw down into their soil and the greenhouse-gas emissions they reduce above the soil. The concept has been seen as a new revenue stream for agriculture that would help reduce GHG. 

Havens’ focus was on systems that would allow farmers to continue to grow crops, as opposed to converting cropland to native grasslands or planting trees.  

The future of voluntary carbon offset markets and soil carbon sequestration is still uncertain, Havens found. Regional differences, political atmospheres and market systems all are factors. 

Havens is eager to continue to pursue potential solutions. The environmental studies and natural resources and environmental economics major, who’s a senior, hopes to work as a renewable energy economist. “It’s a growing field,” he said.  

“The world has very limited supplies in generating energy,” Havens said. He wants to help figure out how to use those resources more efficiently. 

Graduate: Anthony Juritsch

Major: doctoral student in food science and technology  
Project: preventing inflammatory bowel disease  

About 3.1 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, and treatment costs exceed $14.9 billion in direct costs and lost productivity a year. Treatment of IBD or, even better, prevention is a key goal of gastrointestinal health research. 

Anthony Juritsch, pursuing a doctorate in food science and technology, has conducted research in UNL’s Gnotobiotic Mouse Facility, where scientists experiment with the intestinal tracts of germ-free mice to look for preventions and cures for human disease.  

Juritsch said it’s taken years for scientists to hone in on the impact of diet on IBD prevention, and research is now focused on developing nutritional recommendations that incorporate what’s known as resistant starches, such as those found in whole grains, for those living with or at risk of IBD.  

“I’m interested in how whole grain foods and fiber can prevent and treat inflammatory bowel disease,” he said. “By colonizing germ-free mice with human microbiomes, we have designed a more translatable model of inflammatory bowel disease in mice.” 

Mice induced to have colitis, a type of IBD, were fed diets that contained 30% sorghum flour and compared to mice fed a fiber-free diet. 

Findings so far are encouraging as the sorghum-flour-fed mice appeared to show improvement compared to the control group. Ultimately, resistant starches could play the same role in the human gut.