Texas Tech University, known to many as the Red Raiders, was founded in 1923 and is located in Lubbock, Texas. The Meat Science Program is housed within the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The department serves the global livestock and ranching industry in all aspects – Meat Science sustainability, safety, quality, security, nutrition and culinary as they apply to meat retail and foodservice, animal production, feed yard operations, livestock marketing, and meat production and processing.

The program attracts exceptional students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. It consists of highly qualified, nationally recognized professors with outstanding achievements in both teaching and research. Thirty to 40 M.S. and Ph.D. students are enrolled in the program each year. The current enrollment for the department is more than 850 undergraduate students.

Beyond the outstanding academics offered through the program and the great passion of the faculty and staff for research and teaching, every year the department offers the opportunity for international students to carry out undergraduate internships. Since 2012, Texas Tech has had a close relationship with Zamorano University, located in Valle del Yeguare, Honduras. Zamorano’s main focus is agriculture, and it offers four different majors: Food Science and Technology, Agricultural Sciences and Production, Environment and Development, and Agribusiness Management. Students at Zamorano are from more than 18 different Latin American countries. As a result of its “learning by doing” philosophy and the professional practice program, Zamorano is considered one of the best agricultural universities in Latin America.

“As a firm believer that hard work conquers all, my Texas Tech internship was the perfect platform to start my professional career. Along with amazing advisors, it taught me to serve unselfishly and that we shall always strive for honor in the pursuit of excellence; this keeps me going on this journey to becoming a successful professional,” said Mariely Bueso Ponce, the first Zamorano intern for the program. Every year, the Meat Science Program hosts four to eight students as undergraduate interns from the Food Science and Technology Department at Zamorano.

Since 2012, more than 50 interns from many Latin American countries such as Honduras, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua have engaged in research projects, as well as participated in a meat judging contest by forming a competitive Zamorano Meat Judging Team coached by students at Texas Tech. During their internship, the team has the opportunity to participate in the A-Division of the National Western Stock Show Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest and the Southwestern Exposition Intercollegiate Meat Judging Contest. Since 2016, the Zamorano Team has always been in the top three teams with several students in the top ten for high individuals. This year’s Zamorano team reached their best performance in the Southwestern contest, obtaining second place as a team overall with 3,584 points, first place in beef grading (915), overall beef (1,993), and total placing (1,939), while second and third place in lamb judging (504) and pork judging (1,087), respectively. One of the team members won the high individual honors at this year’s contest in Ft. Worth.

“Zamorano interns are wonderful people with outstanding research skills and are a blessing for Tech students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Markus Miller, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Endowed Chair in Meat Science. The main organizers of the internship program have been Dr. Mindy Brashears, Dr. Todd Brashears, and Dr. Mark Miller.

During their internship, the students are paired with a Texas Tech graduate student who is in charge of mentoring the intern during the collection and analysis of research data. There research is then presented by interns in the Bob Albin research poster competition, held by the Department of Animal & Food Sciences and the university-wide Undergraduate Research Competition each spring. Sometimes interns submit their abstracts to other scientific meetings occurring in summer as well.

The internship presents an opportunity for those interns that want to explore opportunities beyond their undergraduate degree and keep studying at a graduate level. Since 2012, at least 14 previous Zamorano interns have returned to Texas Tech to pursue a graduate degree.

“The TTU Meat Science Program has given me the opportunity to learn way beyond classes and laboratories. I’ve had the opportunity to learn and be involved with real meat industry scenarios and problems that any meat science student would be amazed to work with. I am very thankful and happy to be part of the best meat science program in the US,” said Hector Garnica, Zamorano intern in 2017 and graduate student under Dr. Mark Miller.

“Today, I am glad Texas Tech University has opened up to receive many Zamorano interns to whom I encourage to give it all their might because: from here, it’s possible,” said Mariely Bueso Ponce. “With all of the great attributes offered through the program such as the meat judging team, diverse research topics, and the possibilities of pursuing a graduate degree, this internship is one of the most sought-after opportunities for Zamorano students each year.” IP