DAFVM Spotlight Employees

The administration for the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine (DAFVM) spotlights two employees each month. All benefits-eligible professional and support staff employees within the Division qualify as part of the pool from which employees will be chosen. Highlighted employees will be randomly selected and given his or her choice of a $50 prize from DAFVM to be claimed from specific vendors at MSU. See Guidelines.

Alex Deason
December 2018

Extension Agent II
MSU Extension Service
Sunflower County

Years in Position: 5
Years at MSU: 5

For the past five years, Alex Deason has served as an Extension Agent in Sunflower County, specializing in 4-H, agriculture, and natural resources.

“My duty is to address the needs of Sunflower and Washington counties by providing research-based information and educational programs to better equip and inform residents,” Alex said.

He further explained that he and his team achieve this goal by conducting various workshops held at the office, during field days, at farms and homes for face-to-face visits and sharing information through various types of media, including newspapers and social media.

“I really love that no two days are ever the same,” he said. “There is no typical day for any one of us; we have all learned to prepare for the unexpected.”

Alex goes from traveling to look at a homeowner’s lawn to answering a phone call on cattle nutrition to standing in a corn field monitoring moisture sensors, sometimes all in one day.

“Only people in Extension understand the variability in a day,” Alex said “Extension serves all 82 counties with the purpose of extending knowledge and changing lives. Even though not all counties offer the same programs, we all aid in enhancing and sustaining Mississippi’s agriculture industry, providing health awareness to MS families, molding the next generation of leaders through 4-H, and promoting community growth through education.”

He said that his favorite part of his job is that he can find specialists for almost any topic anyone would want to know something about. For instance, if someone had an inquiry on a rose bush, soybean disease, or wildlife issue he has a wide range of people who can offer their expertise.

“Not only do you have other agents, but you have people on campus or on a research station that can add to the conversation too,” he said. “Also, clients don’t have to sit in a classroom to learn something new; the informal setting allows me to reach across generational gaps to get the same message across.”

Alex grew up knowing about the Extension Service through 4-H. He said he now works with some of the best and brightest youth in the state and helps educate Mississippians so that they are better informed to make decisions that will positively impact their life.

“You must be a diverse educator to cross generational gaps and move knowledge into the lives of everyone. One last, but extremely important, trait that everyone in the county must possess is trustworthiness,” Alex said. “The people out seeking knowledge must be able to trust you and your word. The relationships that you form in the counties help spread your knowledge and soon everyone will know where to find a reliable source of information.”

Yan Zhang
December 2018

Postdoctoral Associate
Experimental Seafood
Processing Laboratory

Years in Position: 1
Years at MSU: 1

Yan Zhang works as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Experimental Seafood Processing Laboratory in Pascagoula. He handles various analytical tools and technologies and studies the physical, microbiological and chemical makeup of foods. He and his team work to develop safe, nutritious foods with extended shelf-life.

“We can use our knowledge to solve problems for the food industry and benefit the local economy,” Yan said.

Their research is in the catfish industry, and because Mississippi is the leading catfish producer, they hope to benefit the state’s rural communities. Scientifically, this study can also provide new physical, biochemical, kinetic and engineering information needed for optimal manufacturing and applications which can be used in other fish products.

“My interest in food science developed after I attended college. It is really wonderful to produce nutritious, delicious, and safe foods through understanding of the chemistry of food components, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats and water and the reactions they undergo during processing and storage,” Yan said.

What people may not know about Yan’s job is that Food Science is a multi-disciplinary field involving chemistry, biochemistry, nutrition, microbiology statistics, and engineering to give one the scientific knowledge to solve real problems associated with the many facets of the food system.

“Food science is essentially an applied science. But it is vital to master all-round basic sciences. If a student wants to be a good food scientist, he/she needs to learn as much pertinent knowledge as possible, which is not limited to what is taught in the classroom,” Yan advised. “Hard work is always my motto and the key to success. In addition, as a scientist, always keep passion and curiosity to the unknown.”

Yan enjoyed playing tennis and badminton when he lived in Starkville. However, since his move to Pascagoula in July, he has missed the Sanderson Center on campus. Yan said that he has found other enjoyments, such as running on the beach and exploring the beautiful coastal scenery.

  • The drawing for the DAFVM Staff Spotlight recognition will take place the last week of each month and be announced the first working day of the upcoming month.  Names are pulled randomly from a pre-populated Banner list.
  • To be the highlighted staff for any given month, the employee must have acceptable recent performance evaluations on file. Those evaluations will be reviewed prior to acknowledgement of the employee and awarding a prize. The evaluation itself will not be viewed but rather HRM will provide a general recommendation based on the employee’s past reviews.
  • The selected employees will be notified by letter from Dr. Greg Bohach, Vice President, DAFVM.
  • A required photo and a brief  interview of the recipients will be posted on the DAFVM Staff Council Web page www.dafvm.msstate.edu/advisory/spotlight/. This information will also be displayed on the monitors of the first floor of the Bost Building, as well as in other MSU locations and publications.
  • Each recipient can choose one of the following prizes:
    • $50 gift certificate to the University Florist
    • $50 gift certificate to the MAFES Sales Store
    • MSU apparel item ($50 value)

At each annual DAFVM Summer Celebration, the Staff Spotlight recipients from the previous year will be acknowledged. The DAFVM website will have an archive of all winners listed by month/date.

An employee cannot be chosen more than once during a two (2) year period.