Brietta Latham was no stranger to agriculture by the time she was thinking about college.
She’d grown up on a farm just south of Thurmont, and she’d been raising sheep since she was 8 or 9 years old. She’d shown them through local 4H chapters and become involved with FFA.
But it wasn’t until late in high school that she realized she could turn her hobbies into a career.
“I was looking, trying to figure out what I wanted to study in college … trying to figure out what I was most passionate about — and I realized it was right outside,” Latham said.
She ended up at The Ohio State University, studying animal science with a specialization in bioscience. And earlier this month, with graduation in her sights, she was recognized with one of the most prestigious awards the university offers.
Latham was named a Distinguished Senior in the university’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Only a handful of students each year receive the honor, which requires nomination by college faculty and staff, according to university officials.
“I was pretty happy,” Latham said. “It feels like a good way to close the story and move on to my future.”
Once she graduates from OSU, Latham will be moving across the country to study molecular bioscience at Washington State University. She’s interested in applying biotechnology to livestock animals, hoping to contribute to the scientific community’s ongoing efforts to address global hunger.
“Brietta is an outstanding student with a distinguished work ethic, dedication to academics, generosity towards others, and an openness to fresh points of view,” one of Latham’s nominators for the Distinguished Senior honor wrote. “She has a fine balance of both high intellectual capacity and genuine empathy for others.”
Latham “undoubtedly has the potential for significant scientific contributions to the fields of animal production and genetics, and will be a strong advocate for animal agriculture,” the nominator continued.
Latham spent her final year of undergrad in a mixture of virtual and in-person classes. She remained in Columbus, Ohio, even when classes were fully online, she said, because it was easier to focus on her schoolwork without the distractions of farm chores and her siblings.
Throughout her time in college, Latham served as the president of the school’s Animal Welfare and Behavior Club, was the recording secretary for the Buckeye Dairy Club, worked as a teaching assistant and played on the club field hockey team.
According to OSU officials, her undergraduate research included “a parasite resistance study in lambs, a behavior study in penguins, and a study of how goat behavior changes in a pasture environment versus a wooded environment.”
She also interned twice at AstraZeneca in Frederick and once at the University of California, Davis.
While Latham said she didn’t take on so many duties simply to win an award, she admitted that the recognition from her school provided a valuable sense of validation.
“Being able to achieve the award just kind of solidified that, ‘Hey, you did something,’” she said. “‘All the things that you stressed over and put your time into and really went and explored on your path to figuring out your career goals and finding what you’re really interested in — people saw that.’”