Jay Megonigal began his career with the USDA Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory (AIPL) after being asked by a former employee to come in and help stuff envelopes on a day off from high school. He was so intrigued by what AIPL did that he applied for a position in the Summer Student Intern program offered by the USDA for the next several years. He started answering phones and doing basic office tasks to support the administrative assistant and eventually worked his way to a position as a computer assistant, helping mount round reel computer tapes and anything else that needed to be done in AIPL’s computer room with an IBM 9370 mainframe.
As part of Jay’s Bachelor of Science study in Information Systems Management at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC), Jay did an internship and continued to learn about the work of dairy cattle evaluations with Leigh Walton. Upon graduation from UMBC, Jay took a permanent job as a computer programmer helping to maintain and design many of the programs still used in the genetic evaluation process. From there, Jay worked with Leigh Walton for almost 20 years and learned to run the evaluations and maintain the process that produces all of the valuable evaluations and data sent to the dairy industry. After working for more than 27 years with the USDA, João Dürr recruited Jay to work at CDCB in 2015, and he eventually took over for Leigh full time when he retired.
Jay says, “I never thought I would continue working in this industry when I started out with AIPL (now AGIL) as a junior in high school, but they kept offering me jobs and I enjoyed working with the staff there and dealing with the challenges. I also find it very rewarding to know that what I do affects so many people both here in the United States and around the world in a positive way.” In his spare time, Jay enjoys playing disc golf, singing in the church choir, and helping with theatrical performances as a lighting designer and operator. “While I have been known to appear on stage a few times,” Jay states, “I much prefer being behind the scenes – much like I am at CDCB – and making other people look good.” He has a very stern “feline supervisor” that tends to join video conferences when Jay is working from home.
Projects & Publications
Enhancements to U.S. genetic and genomic evaluations in 2018 and 2019