University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Graduate Research Assistants

Graduate and Undergraduate Research Assistants are an essential part of the dairy research program in the University of Kentucky Department of Animal and Food Sciences. If you are interested in joining the dairy research team, please contact Dr. Bill Silvia ( or Dr. Jeffrey Bewley (


Graduate Research Assistants




Matthew Borchers was raised on a dairy farm outside Jackson Center, Ohio. Throughout grade school, he was involved in 4-H and FFA where he showed and judged dairy cattle. After high school, Matthew attended Ohio State, majoring in Animal Sciences and minoring in Agricultural Communications. During his undergraduate studies, he was involved with many dairy-related clubs, jobs, and activities. After graduating, he decided to further build on these experiences by entering the graduate program at the University of Kentucky. He will be working on a project with Alanya’s Precision Health and Estrus Monitoring System.




Karmella Dolecheck grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho on a small hobby farm. She became involved in showing animals through 4-H and FFA at an early age which eventually lead to her majoring in Animal Sciences with a minor in Agribusiness Management at Utah State University. During her undergraduate career, Karmella completed a summer internship at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, NY, focusing on dairy farm management, and was also involved in Dairy Science Club and Dairy Challenge. These experiences lead her to realize she wanted to continue her education focusing on dairy and she is now pursuing an MS degree under Dr. Bewley, Dr. Silvia, and Dr. Heersche at UK.  Her research focuses on using Precision Dairy Farming technologies to improve reproductive performance. She is also looking at the economic implications of on-farm investment in such technologies.




Elizabeth Eckelkamp grew up primarily in Southwest Louisiana, and began working with small animal veterinarians at 16. Her interest in animals led her to Louisiana State University, where she received a Bachelor’s in Animal Science. While at LSU, she was active in Dairy club, holding an officer position, competing in dairy challenge, and giving presentations at ADSA meetings. She recently moved to Lexington Kentucky to attend graduate school at UK. She will be doing research with Dr. Bewley and Dr. Taraba involving compost bedded pack barns.

Bettie Kawonga grew up in Blantyre, Malawi. She started off helping out on her family’s small backyard poultry farm. With this background, it seemed natural that she would opt to study animal science at university and work in extension. While at Bunda, she was an active member of Bunda Animal Science Club and participated in Africa regional livestock youth programs. She graduated from the University of Malawi (Bunda Collage of Agriculture) with BSc and MSc in Animal Science. Bettie worked in the Ministry of Agriculture as an Extension Officer before joining the University of Malawi as a Lecturer. She is now pursuing a PhD under Dr J. Bewley at UK with a focus on compost bedded pack barns. Her goal is to contribute to the development of Dairy Industry in Malawi through teaching, research and consultancy.


Lauren Mayo is a Riverview, FL native with a strong passion for the dairy industry. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Florida with a B.S. degree in Animal Sciences specializing in Dairy Industry and a minor in Agricultural Communications. She developed this passion for the dairy industry at a young age, despite not growing up on a dairy farm. Lauren was an active member in 4H and FFA with poultry, swine, and dairy projects along with dairy judging and dairy quiz bowl. Her involvement in college was extensive including leadership roles in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Ambassadors, National ADSA Student Affiliate Division Executive Team, UF Dairy Science Club, Block n Bridle, and Collegiate Farm Bureau. She gained her interest for a potential career in extension from competing in Dairy Challenge on the regional and national level. She also completed an internship at the W.H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in dairy farm management and the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium to further her knowledge of dairy cattle science and husbandry. Lauren is working on her Master’s degree focusing on precision dairy technologies used for estrus detection. Her goal is work in extension and someday own a dairy farm.



Derek Nolan grew up on a dairy farm outside of Strawberry Point in northeast Iowa.  Derek was active in dairy judging and showing through FFA in high school.  His passion for the dairy industry led him to Iowa State University where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Dairy Science. While at Iowa State Derek served three years on the Dairy Science Club Executive Team, serving as President his senior year.  He was also a member of the Dairy Judging Team and platinum ranked Dairy Challenge Team. His love for the industry also led to internships with Prince Agri Products, Land O’ Lakes – Purina Feeds and as an assistant herdsman for a 230 cow dairy. Upon graduating from Iowa State Derek’s interest in milk quality brought him to the University of Kentucky where he will be persuing his Master’s Degree in mastitis economics.




Amanda Sterrett grew up in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Greensburg-Salem Senior High School in 2006, she moved to Findlay, Ohio to attend the University of Findlay with a Pre-Vet and Equestrian double-major.  She took an introductory dairy class as a required course for her Animal Science degree and fell in love with everything dairy. She sought out an internship at Wise Acres Dairy, a 40-50 cow seasonal pasture-based dairy and loved every minute of it. After working there for a year and learning more than she could have in any class, she was convinced that she wanted to spend her life in that world. She graduated in December of 2009 with two B.S. degrees in Animal Science and Biology with a Life Science emphasis and knew that grad school was the right choice to learn more about the dairy industry. After finishing her Master's degree here, she will be staying at UK for her Ph.D. under Dr. Bewley also. Her research at UK focuses on Precision Dairy Farming, which employs technologies on the cows to potentially detect illness before clinical symptoms are displayed.


I Ching (Nicky) Tsai was raised in the southern part of Taiwan. Nicky graduated from Tunghai University in 2011 with a B.S. degree in Animal Science. Her interest in dairy cattle stemmed from her experience interning at a dairy farm in Taiwan and college courses. She felt that she could make a future impact on Taiwan dairy farms by gaining more knowledge and experience in the USA. She hopes to learn more about proper management of dairy farms and technologies that can help improve the lives of the cows as well. Nicky is working on a Master’s degree in Dairy Systems Management focused on the use of precision dairy technologies for transition cow detection. Her goal is to return to Taiwan and help their dairy industry prosper.





Barbara Wadsworth grew up in Hiram, Maine on a small hobby beef farm. When she was eight she started raising replacement Holstein heifers. This involvement led her to join 4-H for ten years and eventually to Purdue University. At Purdue she received a B.S. in Agricultural Economics and minored in Animal Sciences. While at Purdue, she was active in student organizations such as the Farm Management Club, the Dairy Club, and Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She also participated in study abroad trips to China in May 2005 and studied in the spring semester of 2006 in Uppsala, Sweden. Additionally,  she worked at Purdue’s Animal Science Research Dairy Farm, was a member of the Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge team; and a member of the Judging team where she was an All-American and high individual in the Guernsey division at World Dairy Expo. After graduation, she worked as a Co-Herdsman at Arethusa Farm in Litchfield, CT. She recently relocated to Lexington to start her master’s work at the University of Kentucky. Her research is focused on the economic, locomotion, and production impact of dual chamber cow waterbeds as a free stall base.




Maegan Weatherly is from Hickman, KY and is currently a first year graduate student at the University of Kentucky. She developed a love for animals at a young age and learned quickly that she wanted to pursue a career in the animal science field. Although she has no background with large animals, she developed a passion for the dairy industry during her undergraduate experience at UK. As an undergraduate, Maegan was active in the Dairy Club, Alpha Zeta honors fraternity, and Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. She also worked assisting graduate students in sheep and beef nutrition, as well as dairy systems management. Her research will focus on the health and nutritional impacts of yeast supplementation in dairy cows fed rations varying in forage:concentrate ratios. She is excited to further her education and understand more about dairy nutrition.