Mary DeLay was in her AP Chemistry class at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton when she first heard about Life Sciences Quest. Her teacher, Mr. Gray, was sharing with students the details of a summer program for high school students interested in learning more about how agriculture impacts their daily lives.
As an alumnus of the University of Missouri, where Life Sciences Quest is held, Mr. Gray was enthusiastic about the program’s emphasis on providing urban and suburban students with information about the careers available in agriculture. DeLay, who had no background in agriculture, was enthusiastic about the opportunity, too.
That was the summer of 2016, between DeLay’s junior and senior years. Now, just two years later, she is a suburban girl pursing an agriculture path, thanks to her experience at Life Sciences Quest.
“It was a pivotal experience for me and a lot of fun, too,” DeLay says. “We attended classes in biochemistry. We learned about plant and animal agriculture. We spent time at a soybean farm and learned about pollination and genetics. It was really interesting and wide ranging, and it was responsible for me deciding exactly what I wanted to do with my career.”
DeLay explains that she always knew she wanted to be a veterinarian and attend the University of Missouri. Her time at Life Sciences Quest affirmed both. But the experience also helped her define her goal more concretely.
“I didn’t know what kind of vet I wanted to be, and I hadn’t really connected veterinary medicine directly with the huge world of agriculture before I attended Life Sciences Quest,” says DeLay, now a sophomore majoring in animal science at the University of Missouri.
“While I knew that you could help people by treating and saving their companion animals, as a result of Life Sciences Quest I decided that I could make an even bigger impact by understanding how to properly care for and feed livestock, so that I could have an impact on helping to feed the world.”
That’s just the kind of formative experience the program was designed to provide, says Emily Leroy, from the Missouri Department of Agriculture, one of the sponsors of Life Sciences Quest.“
“Our intention is twofold. We want to introduce students who live in urban areas like St. Louis and Kansas City to agriculture careers that are right in their backyard, and we want to encourage high-ability students who are interested in science to explore how a career in agriculture can be a good fit for them.”