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. Jeffrey Bewley (


Graduate Research Assistants




Matthew Borchers was raised on a Holstein dairy farm outside Jackson Center, Ohio. Matthew grew up raising, showing, and judging dairy cattle through 4-H and FFA. For his undergraduate studies, Matthew attended The Ohio State University and majored in Animal Sciences. During his undergraduate studies, he was involved in dairy judging, dairy research, dairy challenge, and the Buckeye Dairy Club. Following graduation in 2012, he entered a Master’s program at the University of Kentucky, working under Dr. Jeffrey Bewley. He currently coaches the dairy cattle evaluation team at UK and his current research involves working with precision dairy farming technologies.




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 led to her majoring in Animal Sciences with a minor in Agribusiness Management at Utah State University.  Karmella completed her MS degree under Dr. Bewley and Dr. Silvia at the University of Kentucky in 2014, with a thesis entitled, “Assessment of the Technical and Economic Potential of Automated Estrus Detection Technologies in Dairy Cattle.”  She is now pursuing her PhD under Dr. Bewley, with a focus on decision economics.




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 her Bachelor’s in Animal Science. While at LSU, she was active in Dairy Club, holding an officer position, competing in dairy challenge, and giving presentation at ADSA meetings. Becoming involved in the LSU research dairy led her to pursue a career in the dairy industry which brought her to the University of Kentucky. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree under Dr. Bewley and Dr. Taraba at UK and plans to pursue a PhD at UK also. Her research focuses on the effects of housing, specifically compost bedded pack barns, on mastitis and lameness. Her PhD work will continue to focus on mastitis and lameness using technologies, and the economics associated with adoption of a technology with a disease detection aspect.

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 Stone grew up in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and  received her B.S. degrees in Animal Science and Biology from the University of Findlay in 2009.  Amanda finished her M.S. degree from the University of Kentucky in 2013 with a thesis entitled “Management and Technology Solutions to Improving Milk Quality.”  She is currently working toward her Ph.D. under Dr. Bewley, focusing on using Precision Dairy Technologies to detect clinical and subclinical mastitis. Amanda is also an Extension Assistant at UK on the Southeast Quality Milk Initiative project, aimed at improving milk quality in the Southeastern United States.







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. She received her masters from the University of Kentucky studying the impact of dual chamber cow waterbeds as a free stall base and has recently started her Ph.D. studying the use of Precision Dairy Farming technologies to detect lameness.




Maegan Weatherly is from Hickman, KY and is currently in the last semester of her Master’s degree. She earned a B.S. in Animal Science with an emphasis on livestock and dairy at the University of Kentucky in 2013. As an undergraduate, Maegan assisted graduate students with research projects in both dairy systems management and beef and sheep nutrition. The work she has done during her Master’s degree has allowed her to combine the two passions she developed as an undergraduate by studying dairy nutrition. Her research has focused on the effects of feeding an algae supplement on milk yield, milk components, and dry matter intake, the effects of supplementing rations differing in forage level with a live yeast culture, and a rumen pH bolus validation. Maegan’s experience in the dairy program at UK has been a great learning process and has opened many doors for her. After her Master’s, Maegan plans to continue her education by pursuing a PhD in dairy nutrition at the University of Illinois.