A Panhandle native and a leading export in her field of nutrition and beef cattle has brought her expertise to Texas Tech University as the new Thornton Distinguished Chair.
“I came back to academia because I really enjoy mentoring graduate students and helping them learn how to conduct research.”Dr. Hales said
Dr. Kristin Hales grew up in the Texas panhandle where she raised and showed cattle and sheep. She also did horse judging through her college career but said she always knew her passion was for beef cattle.
“I participated in the Texas Cattle Feeders Association Fed Beef Challenge where you had to feed a pin of cattle,” Hales said. “Then when I was in high school, I worked in the summertime, and after school at our local feedlot. That really piqued my interest in feedlot nutrition, especially in all feedlot cattle aspects and that’s really where I became interested.”
Hales completed her undergraduate and master’s degree in animal science at Oklahoma State University and then came back to Texas to complete her Ph.D. in animal science at Texas Tech. After Hales completed her schooling, she began working for the USDA Agricultural Research Service for the next decade.
“I knew that I wanted a heavy research job,” Hales said. “My degrees were very research driven and in doing the research in graduate school, I realized that I really enjoyed conducting research and analyzing data, interpreting the results, and then writing the results.”
While Hales worked for the government for the past decade there were not many opportunities to work with students or teach, she mainly just conducted her research and analyzed her data.
“I came back to academia because I really enjoy mentoring graduate students and helping them learn how to conduct research,” Hales said. “Helping students find their way and hoping that I can make research enjoyable for them so that they will want to one day do research as well. I always wanted to teach a little bit but going into ag research within the USDA I didn’t have that opportunity.”
Through the years of research she did while working with the USDA, she said she was very excited to get to be teaching classes that related back to this research.
“I’ve been doing heavy research for the past 10 years,” Hales said. “Which makes it really fun to use what I’ve learned in my research, and then incorporate that into my classroom teachings. I really enjoy being on the university campus and I enjoy being around young people that are enthusiastic about agriculture.”
The animal and food science department staff were very excited to have Hales joining the department. Animal and food science chair and professor, Dr. Michael Orth, spoke very highly of Hales and looked forward to what she will bring to Texas Tech.
“Dr. Hales is a great addition to our faculty,” Orth said. “She became a nationally recognized researcher during her time at the USDA. She has a great work ethic and focus that is also being seen in the classroom. She will continue the tradition of outstanding scholars in the Thornton Chair position following in the footsteps of Drs. Preston and Galyean.”
Hales said she is excited to be back at Texas Tech teaching the next generation of research conductors and answering some of her research questions during her time at Texas Tech.
“When you look at it, time goes by so fast,” Hales said. “I’ve already been out of graduate school for 10 years. You really have to prioritize what questions do you want to answer before you retire because those answers take a long time to get when you’re doing research and so you have to prioritize. Like what things do I want to know before I retire, and I didn’t realize that right out of school.”