Student Spotlight

Undergraduate Research

Proven Leaders


Adam Wade

Adam Wade


As both a single father and college student, Adam Wade stands as living proof that a quality education can be attained by anyone. Adam says the personable attitude and willingness of CFR professors to support their students has "helped tremendously" in pursuing his educational goals and dreams. Adam is a senior in forestry from Scooba, Mississippi, planning to continue learning about nature and responsible natural resource management all the way through graduate school.



Allison Purdue

Allison Purdue


Allison Purdue is a senior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major from Marietta, Georgia. Allison loves the passion that everyone in CFR has about their field of study. Allison recounts how the CFR family welcomed her during her first year and made her feel right at home.

Allison chose wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture because she has always been interested in the environment and wildlife. In the future she would like to educate the public, particularly children, on the importance of conservation.



Daniel West

Daniel West


Despite the College of Forest Resources being an educational leader in its field, education is not where the advantages end, as Daniel West, a junior forestry major can attest. Many CFR students participate in the Forestry Club as well as the Society of American Foresters, both of which offer incredible and meaningful opportunities for their members. Daniel points to reaching the top of a poplar pole during Forestry Club's annual and anxiously-awaited conclave, as well as the networking opportunities built into SAF's annual convention.

"It's practicing these skill—interviewing and axe-throwing alike—that allows us to become well-versed in them and ready for the job. That's one of the major reasons MSU and CFR produce incredible foresters," Daniel said.



Elise Benson

Elise Benson


Elise Benson cheers on the MSU all-girl squad and also receives a scholarship. Elise is a wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major with a pre-vet concentration. She hopes to graduate in May 2020 and continue on in vet school at Mississippi State. The Saltillo, Mississippi native has always dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

"I have wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember. I have always loved animals," she said.

She prefers working with wildlife and would like to work at a zoo or in wildlife rehabilitation one day. She has been a cheerleader since middle school. She said that while cheer requires extra time and more commitments, she is happy to do what it takes to make everything work.

"Cheering keeps me on my toes. It motivates me to get up and get going every day and complete all the tasks I need to complete," she said.

Elise came to Mississippi State when a member of her high school cheerleading team made the squad and she's happy she did.

"To see all the fans and have a front row view of all of the action on the field is quite a thrill."



Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson


Emily Wilson, Chatom, Alabama native, is a self-proclaimed wild advocate. Emily said, "I want to advocate for all things wild. I grew up hunting, fishing and learning to respect all creatures, game and non-game. I want to advocate for hunter retention, recruitment and reactivation while teaching them the importance of respecting wildlife."

One such method of respecting wildlife that the wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major particularly enjoys is electrofishing, a humane method of surveying fish populations that uses electrical currents to allow researchers such as Emily to study them more effectively. The method is just one of many advancements leading CFR to the next page of responsible action, but Emily says, "In the wildlife field, adapting to change is absolutely necessary."



Erik Johnson

Erik Johnson


Erik Johnson traveled all the way from his hometown of Chicago, Illinois to attend Mississippi State University. The forestry major with a concentration in wildlife management in the College of Forest Resources drew him to the Magnolia State.

"I knew I wanted to do something that involved nature and being outdoors. I researched what programs were strongest in forestry and wildlife management and Mississippi State's program really stood out from the rest," he said.

Erik plays sousaphone in the Marching Band and trombone in the Jazz Band at MSU. The freshman plans to graduate in May 2020. His most memorable game day experience thus far was the Texas A&M game.

"That was the most exciting game I have seen. When the team does so well, the band gets excited and the adrenaline pushes us through and makes the whole experience better for everyone," he said.

Erik relayed that being in the band is an important aspect of character development.

"Being a member of the band is an important part of developing your character because it's really working in a professional environment. You really have to do your best because if you mess up, it's as if the whole band messes up. That discipline and motivation really helps me on the academic side, too. I know I have to do my best," he said.



Frederico França and Tamara Amorim

Frederico França and Tamara Amorim


When Frederico França and Tamara Amorim went to Las Vegas for the International Conference on Timber Bridges in 2013, they came home with more than just professional development. The two graduate students also got married during the trip, and as Lady Luck would have it, they met a key contact from Mississippi State University who was attending the same conference.

Both natives of Brazil, França and Amorim met on their first day of graduate school at Federal University of Espirito Santo in Jeronimo Monteiro, Brazil, where they were enrolled in a master's degree program.

Their common interest in wood products developed into a friendship, and they began dating. They both applied for an internship in Madison, Wisconsin, at the internationally known USDA Forest Products Laboratory. The students naturally jumped at the opportunity to attend a conference in a new and exciting location. They worked to photograph the conference to help offset costs.

The meeting offered more than most conferences can boast – relevant seminars, a host of wedding chapel vendors and a chance meeting with Dr. Dan Seale, MSU Warren S. Thompson Professor of Wood Science and Technology.

The couple actually met Seale while they were all waiting for shuttle bus transportation. They didn't want to tell him they were on their way to get married, but they saw him again that evening in a casino restaurant and invited him to their table. By that time, they were celebrating their new marriage and weren't so shy about recounting the day's accomplishments. Seale laughed and congratulated them, they said, but upon learning of their work in forest products, he began recruiting the newlyweds to their next step – MSU's doctoral program in forest resources with a focus on sustainable bioproducts. Now, Seale is their major professor, and they have completed their first year in the program.

"It was our lucky day when we found Dr. Seale," França said.

Amorim said they both love being in Mississippi.

"We have a great department, and we are working on a very good project for the USDA to evaluate southern pine lumber," she said.

França explained that their work involves adding value to the lumber produced for structural purposes in the southern U.S. While França is more focused on wood industry engineering, Amorim's interests are focused on economic analysis and marketing for the industry. For more on the project, refer to the sidebar.

Both agreed that the friendliness at MSU has made them feel at home. They've also enjoyed meeting people from all around the world. "As Brazilians, we talk a lot. It's part of our culture to talk, and so I think we make friends easily," Amorim said.



Jack Benson

Jack Benson


For Jack Benson, a forestry major with a concentration in wildlife management, the day revolves around the outdoors. Jack says that while he believes the incredible hands-on experience he's gotten from MSU will make him an attractive candidate for employment, the real reason he's here is to pursue his passion for the outdoors in the most effective manner possible. One day, the Nashville, Tennessee native hopes to put his degree towards either private land management and consulting or wetlands management and conservation. Benson says, if he's not in class, he's out in the field with the doves.



Keaton Hamid

Keaton Hamid


Keaton Hamid had never been to a cave until she found an internship that immersed her in the black hills of Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota. "I decided that if I wanted to leave Mississippi and learn more about caves and the animals that live within them, that this would be the internship for me," Keaton said.

She was nervous about being so far from home and doing something way out of her norm, however, the experience has been rewarding. "I have not had one regret so far. I have had the time of my life, met so many great people, learned so much and it has only been a few weeks. I am excited about the rest of the summer and I encourage everyone who has an interest in geology or wildlife to come to the Black Hills and explore this breathtaking place," Keaton said. For the Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture major the experience has been action packed.

"I have been on multiple hikes, climbed a mountain, learned a lot about Native American culture, and have learned a great deal about bats, bison and different plants," she said. Her MSU training has made a big difference on her ability to perform and interact with a wide-range of staff members. "I love this major because there is always something new to learn," she said. Keaton certainly is learning new things in his internship. This photo of her is in the Historic Cave while doing some cave mapping. "It is something that I have never even thought about and all of a sudden, I am actually learning first-hand how to do it and how it all works," she said.



Makayla Brister

Makayla Brister


Junior Makayla Brister always enjoyed everything nature has to offer, particularly wildlife. That's why majoring in wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture was a natural fit. According to Makayla, "There's something majestic about nature that I absolutely love." Her favorite aspect of the major is the chance to attend classes taught outdoors. "Especially when the weather is great!" she adds.

Makayla also plays in the Famous Maroon Band. She enjoys the indescribable experience of stepping onto Scott Field during game day. For Makayla, college is about the experience. "In this major, there are many opportunities that will prepare you for success in your career."

Makayla is a member of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences. She's traveled and networked with the organization. She said the experience will help further her career. She advises potential students to jump outside of their comfort zones. "Just be willing to put yourself out there and seek chances to get involved." Makayla plans to go to vet school when she graduates.



Makenzie Sanabria

Makenzie Sanabria


Makenzie Sanabria, junior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major says her success in CFR was due in no small part to the competition among her fellow classmates.

"We all want to be the best in our field, but it's almost a sibling rivalry. We all want to succeed, but we want each other to succeed, too. I've never met anyone who hasn't been willing to help make that happen," Makenzie said.

The Pascagoula, Mississippi native says the community within CFR contributed not only to her educational success but also her interpersonal, claiming that thanks to her experience at MSU, she's no longer afraid to ask questions or to be outside of her comfort zone.



Matt Dziamniski

Matt Dziamniski


Matt Dziamniski, a senior wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major from Moncks Corner, South Carolina, might surprise you by saying his favorite part of his wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture education is the labs. Labs in CFR often take place outside of the typical laboratory, ranging anywhere from a quiet stream to a dove field where students collect samples and observe the wildlife. The "live and learn" mentality of CFR stretches beyond just field work, and Matt says that's what he feels will be the most memorable part of his experience.

"The living-learning community allowed me to meet and live with people from CFR who had similar goals in life. I made the friends of a lifetime in that community, and we still push and support each other, even three years later," Matt said.



Matthew Virden

Matthew Virden


Montgomery, Alabama native, Matthew Virden, is an ambassador for the College of Forest Resources. The wildlife, fisheries, and aquaculture major anticipates graduating in December 2018. He loves the family atmosphere at Mississippi State and says there is always someone willing to help no matter the task. "At Mississippi State, the faculty and staff care about my future and want me to succeed. New Maroon Camp is also one of the best opportunities offered at Mississippi State and is a great way to get involved in the student body," said Virden, who served this past summer on the camp's executive staff.

The close-knit sense of community the College of Forest Resources affords is another aspect of the university he appreciates. Virden says when he's not in the field or hitting the books for class, you can find him out exploring.

"I like to hang out with friends and drive out to the refuge. I also like to go on road trips to different places around the country and visit famous locations. I enjoy traveling out of the country because I can experience different cultures in many countries," Virden said. Thus far, a recent trip to England has been a highlight. "My family and I spent two weeks visiting small towns in southern and central parts of England a few summers ago. Remote, rural locations are more my speed so I enjoyed that trip very much," he said.

After graduation, Virden hopes to continue on and earn a master's degree in the same department where he's working on his bachelor's. His advice to perspective students? "Don't put too much focus on what other people expect of you when you choose a major. Find something you enjoy and would want to do even if you weren't getting paid. It makes more sense to select a career path you will truly love," he said.



Sam Avery

Sam Avery


A forestry major with a concentration in wildlife, Sam Avery, is a first year ambassador who loves to be outside learning about animals and plants. While being in the College of Forest Resources, it has been the experiences that shaped her. From doing hands-on research work to to particpating in the Summer Field Program to enjoying the CFR family around her, Sam says she's eager to dive in more!



Sam Patrick

Sam Patrick


Sam Patrick is a forestry major in the College of Forest Resources. His concentration is wildlife management. Sam hopes to graduate in May 2020. The Tupelo, Mississippi native has always loved the outdoors.

"I've always been a big outdoors person. I enjoy being outside and wanted to find a career that would let me spend time outdoors," he said.

Sam plays trumpet for the Famous Maroon Band. He started playing the trumpet at age 11 and began playing the piano a few years prior to that. He also plays guitar. He said music informs academics in a big way.

"Being in the band has taught me responsibility: to show up on time and perform. I played in high school and the entire experience was a big lesson in responsibility. You have to set aside time before and after to complete your studies. You have to make the commitment and stick to it," he said.

Sam hopes one day to be a forester or wildlife biologist.



Sam Seamon

Sam Seamon


Prattville, Alabama native, Sam Seamon, loves the adventure inherent in her forestry major. The hands-on experiences built into the coursework build a foundation for students like Sam to hit the ground running when they start their careers. For Sam, that means working towards the values at the heart of the forestry major: sustainable and responsible reaping of one of the Southeast's most lucrative industries.



Shaina Lampert

Shaina Lampert


Shaina Lampert is a wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major with a concentration in veterinary medicine. A native of Kiln, Mississippi, she has always loved being outdoors and learning about conservation. Shaina enjoys the classes and learning from people that are out in the field. She chose wildlife pre-vet because she has a passion for helping all types of animals.

Shaina hopes to live and work in Austrialia. "I grew up watching and idolizing Steve Irwin which is a main reason I'm so passionate about wildlife and conservation. I was actually born in Trinidad which is a small Carribean island and lived there until I was 9 then moved to Mississippi."



Skylar Liner

Skylar Liner


Skylar Liner, from Gray, Louisiana, says majoring in wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture taught her—among other things—that she could make a career out of doing what she loves and that she would not be alone doing it.

"Every one of the faculty is dedicated to our success. Whether it's coaching us through interviews, encouraging us for leadership roles, or holding our hand through the inevitable growing pains of college, I never once felt like I had to do it alone," Skylar said.

After she graduates, Skylar says she wants to continue her education and put the skills she's picked up at MSU to work in wetland ecology or marine sciences.



Tom Miles

Tom Miles


Tom Miles moved from a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to get a taste of MSU's renowned wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture major. Tom, having held a love for the outdoors since he was a child, said it was his mission in life to turn that love into a career. In doing so, Tom said he has found himself catching five-pound spotted bass while electrofishing for research projects, finding common ground with people of otherwise differing perspectives and focusing a conscious effort on giving back to the CFR community.



William Griffin

William Griffin


William Griffin is a forestry major and ambassador for the College of Forest Resources. William chose forestry because it gives him flexibility in his future career. He also is excited about the opportunity to work closely with landowners and other professionals in order to achieve the goals set for a given piece of land. A career in forestry will allow him to work in and for our beautiful forests. According to William, "I can't imagine a better use of my professional life."

When asked about his favorite aspect of the major, William didn't hesitate to acknowledge the people in the College of Forest Resources.

"As much as I have enjoyed the classes, field work, and general knowledge gained about the forestry profession, my favorite part is the people," William said. "The faculty and staff are the cream of the crop, and the material is taught in a way that excites, inspires, and truly makes the learning process enjoyable. You'll also develop camaraderie among your classmates that is not easily replaced."

If you are considering the forestry major at Mississippi State, William has some great advice.

"You have to want it. You have to want to learn, and know you will be challenged by it — both mentally and physically. If you come into college and expect everything to be given to you, or everything to be easy, you will be disappointed. That's not how we learn. We learn by being pushed, challenged, and exposed to new things that might not make sense at first. Stick with it and you will be rewarded," William said.



Wyn McAlpine

Wyn McAlpine


Students like Frank "Wyn" McAlpine find their passions drawn to the forests. As a forestry major with a concentration in forest management, Wyn hopes to one day use the skills and community he gained through CFR to start and grow his own timber company. Wyn assures that, when he sets out to do it, there will be no shortage of people there and willing to help.

"My classmates and I have a lot in common and get along really well. The van rides to the summer field program started it, and the constant supporting of each other since has sustained it. I really feel like I've been set apart from the competition simply by having attended Mississippi State," Wyn said.



Xandra Sullivan

Xandra Sullivan


A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Xandra Sullivan said MSU captured her heart when the sustainable bioproducts major captured her mind. With small class sizes and charitable professors, Xandra was offered the opportunity time and time again to chase her interests to the fullest extent, even to conduct research in direct partnership with CFR's world-renowned sustainable bioproducts faculty.

"MSU has taught me to work hard for what I want, and that those things won't always come easy to you," Xandra said. "My field of study has taught me to be bold, to be unwavering and to jump into what I want with two feet and armed with the knowledge of all I've learned here."



Zoe Dudiak

Zoe Dudiak


Biloxi, Mississippi native Zoe Dudiak found her home at MSU in a muddy stream. Her ecology class was collecting water samples in from the knee-deep water, and she fell in love.

"There's no experience quite like being a CFR student at MSU," Zoe said. "You get to have experiences like those in the stream and to work hands-on with a variety of topics for research. It's a perfect fit for someone who loves wildlife and the outdoors." Zoe said her experiences at MSU helped her to hone in on her critical thinking skills as well as give her a firm foundation for her later hopes of going on to veterinary school.