Dustin Aherin, a doctoral student at Kansas State University's Beef Cattle Institute, will take part in a select visiting fellows program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in spring 2018.
MANHATTAN — Dustin Aherin, a doctoral student in pathobiology with the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, will be a visiting fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in spring 2018.
Aherin, Phillipsburg, was selected from a competitive field of applicants for the MIT Sloan Visiting Fellows Program. As a fellow, Aherin will work under the mentorship of MIT faculty while developing a systems model that can be used by the beef industry from genetic selection through the birth and growth of calves and beyond.
"Systems dynamics is a powerful tool for decision-making and the assessment of the long-run sustainability of operational and industry practices," Aherin said. "This recognition and opportunity is particularly valuable because faculty from MIT were early innovators of systems dynamics and MIT continues to provide influential leaders in the discipline."
Aherin said his model will have the capability of conducting "what if" analysis based on differences in technology implementation, resource allocation, government policy or other potential variables.
"I am excited to be able to explore cutting-edge methodology in systems dynamics at MIT and apply such tools to aid in decision-making and add further understanding to the beef industry complex," Aherin said. "By interacting with some of the leading minds in the discipline of systems dynamics at MIT, I will have the unique opportunity to learn from world-renowned authorities and to expand the expertise available to the Beef Cattle Institute and Kansas State University."
Aherin is co-advised by Bob Larson, professor of production medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Bob Weaber, professor and extension specialist in animal sciences and industry in the College of Agriculture.
"Systems models provide the only way to test many herd- or industry-level decisions that span multiple segments of the beef value chain," Weaber said. "Experiments to conduct such research would easily reach into the tens of millions of dollars per experiment and potentially take decades to complete. Developing an effective model cuts the time and investment to a fraction of the costs."
"Systems dynamics models provide tremendous tools for exploring areas of discovery that are important for producers, educators, consumers and regulators interested in optimizing the very complex system that is beef production," he said.
"Providing excellent training for graduate students is one of the focus areas of the Beef Cattle Institute," said Brad White, institute director. "Our team provides cross-disciplinary training providing a well-rounded educational experience, and Dustin's selection into the MIT program underscores the Beef Cattle Institute's emphasis on providing the highest level of education to our students."
MIT's visiting fellows program typically requires one or more university degrees and several years of work experience before students may apply to the program. Visiting fellows who successfully complete their course of study receive a program certificate from MIT Sloan.
Aherin earned an associate's degree in animal sciences from Allen Community College, Iola, in 2012, and followed that with a bachelor's degree in 2014 and master's degree in 2017, both in animal sciences at Kansas State University.
The mission of the Beef Cattle Institute is to utilize collaborative multidisciplinary expertise to promote successful beef production through the discovery and delivery of actionable information and innovative decision support tools.