“We Do That!” – Molecular Technology in NCDA&CS

by | Apr 26, 2024

The third video in the “We Do That!” series highlights the job of a molecular technologist in the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. As with the other videos, the goal is to showcase one of the many different types of jobs within the department. If you can think of a type of job, there’s a chance “We Do That!” in the department – from the fields of research farms to the laboratories that test for animal disease and food and drug safety. It takes lots of jobs to service the people of North Carolina through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Across the department’s 26 divisions, you’ll find jobs in the field that deal with plants, animals, farmers markets or ag centers, pesticide regulations, pollinators, meat processing, truck driving and forestry, just to name a few. Many jobs in the department are also based in offices or laboratories, from veterinary or agronomic testing, to accounting, legal services and marketing.

The series continues with this video of Commissioner Steve Troxler talking with Chad Menard, a molecular technologist with the N.C. Diagnostic Laboratory System in the Veterinary Division. Menards works at the Steve Troxler Agricultural Sciences Center in Raleigh.

The N.C. Diagnostic Laboratory System provides veterinarians, the animal industry and the citizens of North Carolina with accurate and timely laboratory support services in order to diagnose, conduct surveillance and assist in responding to and preventing animal disease. Both protection of public health and the food supply are important components of this mission. The lab serves as a first line of defense for the recognition and identification of intentionally or accidentally introduced agents of foreign animal disease or bioterrorism. The central Rollins Laboratory is part of the USDA’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) with the ability to perform rapid molecular diagnostic tests for endemic animal diseases, as well as targeted surveillance and response testing for foreign animal diseases, specifically Foot and Mouth Disease, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Classical Swine Fever.

The lab work Menard does often includes testing for animal diseases. It’s important work that often needs to be done as quickly as possible to detect any diseases and prevent them from spreading through North Carolina’s animal population. It’s vital work to protect the state’s food supply and keep consumers safe.

Watch this video for the conversation about her job and/or read the transcript below.

Commissioner Troxler:
I’m Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler, and today I have with me Chad Menard, and he is actually a molecular technologist. That’s even hard for me to say, and I know you’ve got a lot of education and experience, but exactly what do you do for the Department of Ag?

Chad:
We test mostly avian samples for disease, a lot of foreign animal diseases. How would that equate to the normal person as far as their food supply? I mean, as far as the chain of events, the birds get grown here for the most part and distributed out across the state to get finished and grown, essentially. We just make sure that they’re all healthy and good.

Commissioner Troxler:
You know, people recognize us as the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but they don’t associate scientists like you, maybe, with the Department of Ag. We’ve got a lot of scientific people that actually work here, and I just wanted to know when you were in school, did you ever think that you would have a career supporting agriculture and seek out work with the Ag Department, or how did it happen?

Chad:
I worked at a research farm, essentially similar to what’s in North Carolina here, for two summers, and then I got a job with the USDA on Plum Island and worked there for another two and a half years and then moved here, been working for North Carolina Department of Agriculture since.

Commissioner Troxler:
We certainly are proud that we were able to steal you. I can tell you that. You are on the front lines of disease detection, particularly with avian influenza, and we’ve been through a pretty busy time, and I know that you folks have had to work and work and work and work, but what is your day like testing for avian influenza or other animal diseases?

Chad:
Well, recently we’re in the middle of an outbreak, so we’ve been kind of on high alert. We get samples in the morning that they want turnaround time that day, preferably in the next several hours. So it’s usually a rush to get all that done, essentially try to clear them out that day and get through it all. And then anything else we are normally supposed to be doing, we just try to fit in here and there as we’re going.

Commissioner Troxler:
We rank number two in the country in the production of turkeys, which means we have a lot of turkeys – and chickens – here in North Carolina. Do you have any idea how many lab results you might turn out in a day’s time?

Chad:
I would say several hundred, and that’s pools of animals. So in each of those, it’s another, you know, dozen or so.

Commissioner Troxler:
And the public might not understand why the quick turnaround, but High Path Avian Influenza is a very deadly disease for turkeys, and the only way we can stop it from spreading is to know if the disease is in the house, then euthanize those birds immediately. And every hour that goes by, every day goes by, means that we have the probability of that disease spreading. So I thank you for the work and all your colleagues for the turnaround times that you’re able to do and to help protect this big industry that we have in North Carolina. What would be the most fulfilling thing that you’re able to do in your work?

Chad:
Honestly, it’s pretty much that – just being able to get the people on the ground the results they need and then, of course, the farmers as well, to be able to do what they have to do.

Commissioner Troxler:
Well, we certainly do appreciate the work that you do every day, and I know sometimes it is very tiresome, but you’re committed. And that’s the thing that we are in the department. We’re committed to the ag people in North Carolina but committed to the consumer also. So we touch everybody’s life in this state 365 days a year whether they know it or not, and I’m proud of that.

Chad:
Yeah, me too.