Agriculture plays a critical role in society, Killefer’s career

“I have always been interested in the sciences for as long as I can remember,” said John Killefer ’84, head of the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences at Oregon State University.

“I had originally intended to pursue medicine, but my interest in research was reinforced through an opportunity to work at the USDA-ARS (United States Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service) Meat Animal Research Center,” he said.

Killefer said he oversees one of the largest departments in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State, which is ranked #7 in the world for Agriculture and Forestry programs.

john killeferKillefer graduated from Hastings College with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Since graduating, Killefer has taught at West Virginia University (8 years), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (9 years) and is currently in an administration at Oregon State University. Killefer is a 1990 graduate from Oregon State University with a Ph.D. in Animal Science and a minor in Biochemistry. He has post-doctorate education from the USDA-ARS Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.

“I promote collaboration among on- and off-campus faculty, other departments, branch research stations and industry in the animal science and range ecology disciplines.” His department consists of 24 on-campus and 17 off-campus faculty, 10 professional staff, 8 classified staff and more than 500 undergraduate and 30 graduate students.

As far as agriculture goes, Killefer sees it as a central role in addressing many major challenges that we are facing today as a global society.

“Examples include the many challenges associated with the projected increase in global population from today’s approximately 7 billion to nearly 9.5 billion by 2050,” said Killefer.  “Agriculture provides solutions to provide food security as we feed the nearly 50% increase in global population this century, it provides solutions as we develop bio-based renewable fuels to help power the world and agriculture provides solutions to protect our precious natural resources including water, land and the many species that share these resources with us.  It has never been a more exciting time to be involved with agriculture and the many critical roles it plays for us today and into the future.”

Currently, Killefer said he teaches muscle biology and coordinates several seminar courses at Oregon State University. In the past he was instrumental in creating the undergraduate major in biochemistry and he taught biochemistry (undergraduate and graduate) at West Virginia University. He also taught physiology and muscle biology (undergraduate and graduate) at the University of Illinois.

In his time as head of the department, Killefer has merged the Department of Animal Sciences with the Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management to create the new Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences.  He also successfully oversaw construction of the Oldfield Animal Teaching Facility (experiential teaching building), the Hogg Animal Metabolism Barn (animal metabolism research building), and the Agricultural Systems Management Center (multi-use agricultural education and computer data center). He has also realigned the OSU Horse Center, increased student involvement at the OSU Living Laboratories, is an author, a journal editor and much more.

Being at Hastings College exposed Killefer to many tremendous mentors, allowing him the opportunity to pursue multiple areas of interest through a variety of course offerings and experiential learning opportunities, he said. He also said it was a time to grow new friendships, and allowed him to grow and gain the confidence that he could be successful in life.

“I strongly encourage students to take advantage of as many of these types of experiential learning opportunities as possible as they can expose you to so many career options,” said Killefer. “My passion for research was fueled through the combination of an excellent education at Hastings College, the experiential learning opportunities presented to me and the outstanding mentors that I have been blessed with throughout my education and career.”  

By Amanda Miller, a junior from Woodland Park, Colo., majoring in Journalism

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