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Youth News

Shooting for the Stars- Taylor Runyan Aims for Star in Agriscience Honor

Fri, 26 Oct 2012 14:17:21 CDT

Shooting for the Stars- Taylor Runyan Aims for Star in Agriscience Honor
Taylor Runyan says growing up on a ranch in southern Oklahoma spurred her interest in agriculture. Feeding animals, maintaining the grounds and keeping good records instilled valuable work ethics, she said. Now, thanks to her work in understanding the benefits of lycopene, Runyan is in Indianapolis hoping to be selected as one of four winners of the National FFA Organization's highest awards.

"This is really the icing on the cake from all the years of hard work and dedication that we put in. Not only that I've put in, but my ag teachers, my parents, and the doctors that I worked with to help me get here."

The American Star in Agriscience is one of the four awards that represent the highest honor FFA can bestow upon its members. Runyan, from the Atoka High School FFA Chapter in Atoka, Okla., hopes to be named the organization's top member in the area of agriscience.

Encouraged by her mother - a middle school science teacher - Runyan started competing in science fairs in seventh and eighth grade. Her school didn't have an FFA chapter until she become a freshman, a time that opened several new options for Runyan's desire to learn and compete in science fairs that included the Tulsa Fair and the Oklahoma FFA State Convention.

Runyan says she became interested in studying lycopene a few years ago and it blossomed into the basis of her FFA project.

A fortuitous meeting with Dr. Penny Perkins, a researcher with the USDA at the Wes Watkins Research Center, led to Runyan's interest in lycopene and the basis for a four-year research project. Runyan had access to tomatoes grown in her community and sought to establish which tomato variety - grape, cherry, Roma or beefsteak - maintained the greatest content of lycopene. As her research progressed, she proved that lycopene found in tomatoes has the capability to block ultraviolet rays. Her findings indicated a lycopene cream worked better than SPF-50 sunscreen at blocking UV rays.

Runyan says two of the doctors she worked with for her research wanted to be with her in Indianapolis this week, but could not attend because they are presenting their findings along with hers in China and France this week.

Runyan is now a student at York College Nebraska where she plays basketball. She believes her lycopene sunscreen has market potential, but says her commitment to play basketball while she is in college is making it hard to pursue that possibility. "After I graduate, hopefully, I can pick that research back up and actually make my product and finish it."

She says she will also pursue a medical degree and continue her research, but she first hopes to hear her name called as this year's American Star Farmer in Agribusiness.

Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays spoke with Taylor Runyan in Indianapolis. You can hear their full conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.

Our exclusive coverage from the 2012 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis is a service of the Oklahoma FFA Association and the Oklahoma FFA Alumni Association. Click here for more information about this youth organization. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.


Ron Hays talks with Taylor Runyan about her American Star Agriscience project.
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