College of Ag Sciences names Roy C. Buck Faculty Award recipients

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Two faculty members in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have been named the recipients of the 2021 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award, which recognizes exceptional articles accepted or published by refereed scholarly journals in the social and human sciences within the past two years.

Kevin Curry Jr., assistant professor of agricultural and extension education, and Robert Chiles, assistant professor of rural sociology, received the award, which includes a $2,500 stipend and plaque. The professors, both part of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, will be recognized at a special seminar presentation delivered by each of the awardees on their published outcomes.

As the lead author on the paper, “Utility Value Interventions in a College Biology Lab: The Impact on Motivation,” published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Curry examined the utility value of science writing, such as lab reports, in college settings.

Kevin Curry Jr., assistant professor of agricultural and extension education.  Credit: Michael Houtz / Penn StateCreative Commons

Science writing, Curry contends, allows students to form a meaningful understanding of scientific concepts. However, students often view scientific writing as unimportant and utilize surface level approaches when completing writing assignments.

Curry joined Penn State in 2017, having earned undergraduate degrees in animal science and agricultural education and a master's degree in agricultural education from North Carolina State University. He then taught high school agriculture in Randolph County, North Carolina, where he led the chartering of a new FFA chapter and oversaw the development of barn, greenhouse and laboratory facilities for courses in animal science, horticulture and biotechnology.

After teaching high school for four years, he returned to North Carolina State University to pursue a doctorate in agricultural education. During that time, he worked as a graduate teaching and research assistant, taught several preservice teacher education courses, supervised student teachers, and conducted educational research.

The aim of Curry's research is to support the growth of agricultural education. He examines issues such as student motivation — most notably participation in competitive career and leadership development. He also investigates best practices for ensuring that teacher candidates are equipped with the tools necessary to succeed and explores agricultural education's role in developing the science literacy of students.

Chiles’ paper, “Democratizing Ownership and Participation in the 4th Industrial Revolution: Challenges and Opportunities in Cellular Agriculture,” a forthcoming publication in Agriculture and Human Values, examined the emergence of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — artificial intelligence, the internet, advanced materials and bioengineering technologies. The paper looks at how cellular agriculture could accelerate socioeconomic insecurities and anxieties or provide beneficial alternatives to the status quo.

Robert Chiles, assistant professor of rural sociology. Credit: Michael Houtz / Penn StateCreative Commons

Specifically, his team studied technology that synergizes computer science, biopharma, tissue engineering and food science to grow cultured meat, dairy and egg products from cultured cells and/or genetically modified yeast.

Chiles, who joined Penn State in 2015, holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science from Stanford University. He then attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology.

In addition to his work at the University, which includes serving as a core faculty member of Penn State’s Rock Ethics Institute, Chiles recently completed a three-year term as a board member of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, a professional organization that provides an international forum to engage in the cross-disciplinary study of food, agriculture and health.

His research and teaching interests involve examining how agricultural ethics and sustainability are interwoven with the everyday lives of ordinary people. Chiles studies three related themes — how food culture, ethical beliefs and political-economic institutions are intertwined; the methods and social processes by which agricultural science and technology are performed; and the development of novel, interdisciplinary and impactful solutions to food system challenges and controversies.

Roy C. Buck, a professor of rural sociology, retired from Penn State in 1981. In 1999, he established the Roy C. Buck Faculty Award because he felt it was important to support nontenured faculty members to encourage their good work.

Last Updated June 25, 2021