UConn was the only school with more than one student in the top five at a recent national research poster competition for animal science undergraduate students. In an associated oral contest for graduate students, UConn landed the top three spots. Faculty members received several recognitions and awards, as well. All the competitions were part of the Joint Annual Meeting 2013 of the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) and the American Dairy Science Association held in Indianapolis this summer.
Dana Kaelin, a 2013 College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) graduate attending veterinary school this fall at Iowa State, took first place in the competition with a presentation on nutrition and bone marrow cells. The research is from a large collaborative work by Kristen Govoni, Sarah Reed and Steven Zinn, all faculty members in the CANR Department of Animal Science.
An undergraduate research poster on the nutritional effects of a form of vitamin D on early bone development in pigs garnered another student, Katelynn McFadden, third place in the event. She is a junior from Glastonbury.
In fifth place, Alison Bush’s poster on nutritional effects on kidney tissue formation in lambs featured her work on the large study with Govoni, Reed and Zinn. She is a senior from Wallingford.
As presenter this year, Bush had an entirely different experience than at earlier meetings. “At the previous meetings, I was there to learn about new science and gain more insight into the animal science industry,” she says. “This year, I was the one presenting the science and teaching others, which was an unforgettable experience that I am so grateful for.”
Other undergraduate students that participated include Michelle Forella ’13, Elizabeth Forbes ’13, Bethany Sullivan ’15, and Lisa Dauten ’13, with posters about hormone concentrations in ewes, reproductive traits in pubescent heifers and insulin resistance in maternal cows.
Sullivan, double majoring in animal science and pathobiology and minoring in molecular and cell biology, was a first-time presenter. “I thought the conference was a great experience. It opened my eyes and helped me realize how much research is going on in the field of animal science,” she says.
Sullivan is involved with new research and has set her sights on presenting at the national conference next year. “I am hoping to be able to return to the Joint Annual Meeting next summer to present this new data.”
There were a total of 27 competitors from colleges and universities across the country.
“UConn did great as an institution, especially for our size,” said Zinn, professor and head of the Department of Animal Science.
“[The awards] gave me great personal satisfaction,” he continues. “But more importantly, it was an excellent tribute to our students, their dedication, the quality of their research, their understanding of the work they do and the seriousness with which they take their research.”
The first-place winner in the graduate student Northeast ASAS/ASDA oral competition is Josaline Raja. Her presentation focused on the effects of malnutrition on the prenatal and postnatal growth and development of lambs. In her research with Reed, she is looking for possible precursors for improper growth.
Maria Hoffman, the second place winner, is a PhD student conducting research with Govoni. Hoffman did her oral presentation on maternal nutrition in lambs and its possible effects on early stages of muscle formation.
A presentation on malnutrition in lambs and its influences on general growth and development landed CANR graduate student Kristen Peck the third spot. In collaboration with Zinn, she concentrated on how poor maternal nutrition could lead to adverse health effects, such as disease, obesity and elevated insulin levels.
Students were not the only accomplished participants. Zinn, Govoni and Professor Tom Hoagland were recognized or received awards for their outstanding work in the field of animal science.
Zinn was recognized for five years of service as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Animal Science, two years as editor-in-chief of Animal Frontiers, and five years on the executive committee of the ASAS board.
Govoni won the Northeast ASAS/ASDA Young Scientist award, which is given to recognize outstanding contributions in the field of animal science to an up-and-coming researcher.
“This award provides me confirmation that my research has a positive impact on the region,” she says. “As a Connecticut native, I am happy to be working in a position that allows me to give back to my community and educate the students in the Northeast.”
Hoagland was recognized for his three years of service to the ASAS Board of Directors for the northeastern United States division. He has been a member of this organization since 1975.
“I have found this organization, the board members and the professional staff a pleasure to work with,” Hoagland says. “[It’s] an inspiration for me to work harder when back at home.”
Bringing students out to the conference can be costly, however. The bill for this year totaled almost $10,000. “It is expensive but worth it for the students,” Zinn says. “I am hoping as a department head to establish a UConn Foundation account that helps fund students, especially undergraduates, to attend meetings to present their data.”
He also says that the department will be back next year. “Presenting research data is a very important part of the research training process and the students lose out if they don’t have the opportunity to present their data.”