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Grad student wins research prize

by Will Hehemann Special to The Commercial | January 13, 2022 at 2:49 a.m.
Malcolm Jackson, a graduate research assistant at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is studying the potential of animal byproducts to degrade pollutants in water systems. (Special to The Commercial/University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff)

Malcolm Jackson, a graduate student of agricultural regulations at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently won the first-place prize for the student poster competition at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy.

The annual meeting, which took place recently at Salt Lake City, brings together leading and emerging scientific leaders from industry, government agencies and academic institutions who work to advance agronomic, crop and soil sciences.

Jackson’s winning research paper was titled “Biochar: Agronomic and Environmental Uses.” He has been working with his adviser, Hao Chen, assistant professor for the UAPB Department of Agriculture, in studying the potential of converting animal byproducts to multifunctional biochar — a value-added charcoal made from biomass.

Biochar products are used as a sustainable soil additive to improve crop yields and can reduce the ecological risks associated with common agricultural chemicals. Jackson has been testing the potential of biochar made from crawfish shells in cleaning wastewater effluents and aquatic environments.

“I am very proud of Malcolm’s achievement at the American Society of Agronomy meeting,” Chen said. “This was a national competition, and he was competing with graduate students from big-name universities. His achievement serves as great encouragement for the regulatory science program graduate students at UAPB and is a great example of the excellent work students are doing here in the Department of Agriculture.” Jackson, who graduated from UAPB with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, said he chose his major because he always had an interest in animals.

“Even when I was young, I would always watch Animal Planet and Discovery Channel,” he said. “I was just fascinated by animals.” After graduating, he decided to pursue a graduate degree in agricultural regulations at UAPB thanks to encouragement from his professors.

“I reached out to a few other universities seeking graduate school opportunities, but many of the professors never responded,” Jackson said. “However, Dr. Chen and a few of the others in the UAPB Department of Agriculture approached me about grad school. I had a few conversations with them and decided that Dr. Chen’s lab was the best fit for me.” Jackson is to graduate in May. Until then, he plans to continue his research on biochar.

“I am looking to get a job once I graduate, and any career relating to my current research or past work in the poultry industry would be interesting to me,” he said. “I am also looking into government jobs and pathways.” UAPB offers all of its extension and research programs, and services without discrimination.

Will Hehemann is a writer/editor with the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.

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