From an early age, Karen Plaut knew she would work with animals. Now, in addition to furthering her research in lactation biology, she also works extensively with the most confounding breed of all: academics. As the Glenn W. Sample Dean of the College of Agriculture, Plaut heads one of the most prestigious agriculture programs in the country. Her responsibilities as dean include: administering academic programs within the College of Agriculture, the Indiana Agricultural Experiment Station and the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. She also oversees a number of state regulatory services affiliated with the college. This role affords Plaut a bird’s-eye view of Hoosier agriculture and an innate sense for the state of agricultural education today.
Plaut also operates the Dr. Karen Plaut Lab, which conducts research on mammary gland development and lactation. This research has concrete implications for Hoosier farmers, especially those rearing cattle for dairy, as findings can help maximize lactation outputs, contributing to the health of the cattle and the farm. Over the course of her career, Plaut has also conducted research with NASA, where she worked as lead scientist for the organization’s biological research project for the International Space Station. Plaut is often interviewed to discuss not only her research, but the state of Hoosier agriculture, diversity in academia and issues integral to the College of Agriculture, like technological innovations, food security and agricultural policy.