2016 was a year of continued growth by the University.
This included record enrollment figures, renovation of some of the campus' most historic buildings, such as Lincoln Hall, the near-completion of major infrastructure projects such as the nearly finished E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center, the hiring of more tenure-track faculty, as well as a number of important research accomplishments by faculty and stellar performances by students in student competitions.
And, there was this: According to analytics compiled by staff in Marketing Communications, the year's two most "popular" stories featured on the Nevada Today news website (i.e., those with the most clicks), were centered around food.
The top story, with 12,314 page views, was actually a research story that was seemingly wrapped inside a decidedly delicious slice of meat. The story "New specialty cut, the Bonanza Cut, unveiled by meat science professor" told the innovative research done by Amilton de Mello, assistant professor of meat science and food safety in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.
Quoting the Aug. 24 story: "Like a diamond in the rough, a small cut of beef that meat cutters throw in with ground meat is now being looked at as a high-end delicacy by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno. "The small, quarter-moon-shaped slice of beef that has a taste and tenderness that outclasses any other cut except filet mignon made its debut this week ... de Mello, who has redeveloped the use for the piece of meat, talked about the science behind the cut, its ease of trimming and profitability for the meat processing industry, as well as the potential for restaurants to offer it as a premier menu item.
"The Bonanza Cut is juicy, extremely tender and very marbled. The petite slice of beef is ideal for grilling and practically melts in your mouth."
Perhaps more importantly than its great taste, the story noted, the Bonanza Cut is indicative of the advances being made by de Mello's college in the areas of food supply, sustainability and safety, which in turn speak to the University's efforts to solve, through groundbreaking research, the pressing issues of our time.
With a growing population and rampant climate change, the world faces serious questions regarding how to safely feed its population.
Work done by researchers such as de Mello is helping to bridge this gap.
Said de Mello: "We are creating a very broad meat science program. We have meat-quality projects and experiments involving animal welfare and food safety. We offer students research and teaching experiences by using our main meat lab and three collaborating ones here on campus. Students can go to our Nevada Agriculture Experiment Station in the morning, follow animal harvest activities in our USDA-inspected meat processing plant, learn about animal welfare practices and spend the afternoon in the lab developing research."
Second on the list of the most popular stories was a story with less of a research angle and more of a "hooray, we have more food options on campus" bent - the opening of a Blind Onion Pizza and Wings restaurant space in the Joe Crowley Student Union (JCSU). In late April, it was announced the JCSU would welcome the new Blind Onion in the student union's third-floor restaurant location. The new Blind Onion came on line in the summer.
Said Michael Rapisura, owner of the Blind Onion: "As a restaurant who has seen a lot of business from University students and faculty over the years, we're excited about this opportunity to serve the University community more directly through this location."
Joining the Bonanza Cut and Blind Onion on the podium of 2016's most popular stories was a more traditional story: "Commencement 2016: A time to 'dare to dream.'" The story reported on the May Commencement activities, which featured the awarding of more than 2,700 degrees and certificates - a University record - on May 13-14.