Amanda Jones came to the Department of Animal Science to earn her master’s degree, intending to study equine science. After becoming involved in a collaborative research group interested in the study of maternal nutrition in sheep, she enrolled in the PhD program to continue her research training. She successfully defended her dissertation earlier this month and has plans to complete a postdoc in the Department of Pediatrics, Neonatology, at the University of Colorado Denver. Here is what she said in an interview.
Where did you study as an undergraduate?
I went to Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
What was your major?
I majored in animal science. I also completed an honors research thesis in the vet school. We studied diseases of the upper respiratory system and were investigating diagnostic techniques that could evaluate larynx function. We used horses and dogs as biomedical models for humans because similar upper respiratory diseases affect all three species.
Why did you decide to go to graduate school?
I really enjoyed research as an undergraduate, and always thought I would end up in vet school. During my junior year, I enrolled in a coursed titled Tools for a Lifelong Career in Research. It really opened my eyes to careers in animal science and agriculture aside from just vet medicine. I also realized that I liked working with healthy animals and figuring why things were happening rather than curing sickness or disease. This realization is what that pushed me into grad school and research.
A part of that class was identifying potential advisors and I was interested in equine research so I found Dr. Sarah Reed and interviewed with her. I thought I would be studying horses, but my work has since spun in a completely different direction, which I have welcomed. Grad school is unique like that. As a graduate student, you are looking to tunnel your interests and identify a mentor to guide you through that process. It is important to be open minded when unexpected opportunities arise because they may just pique your interest.
Who is your advisor?
Dr. Sarah Reed of the Department of Animal Science.
What is your field of research?
I’m a part of a collaborative effort in the Department of Animal Science between the labs of Dr. Reed, Dr. Kristen Govoni and Dr. Steven Zinn. The overall interest is examining how too much or too little nutrition to the mother during pregnancy affects the growth, development, and metabolism of the offspring. This all falls under the field of maternal programming, which aims to understand how stressors during gestation, such as poor nutrition or disease, affects the prenatal development of the offspring and how those effects persistence in adulthood.
Name one aspect of your work that you like.
I like that my day has diversity. I can be at the barn in the morning and in the lab for the afternoon. This dynamic always reiterates that research conducted outside of the lab is just as important as the molecular aspects. Stepping out of the lab forces me to think about practical applications and challenges that may be overseen otherwise.
What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment so far?
One thing that I’m proud of was serving as a national graduate director for the American Society of Animal Science. This was an elected, two-year term position that proved to be an extremely rewarding experience! During my tenure, I helped coordinate a transition in the student poster competitions from traditional paper posters to an e-poster format. This affected how students were judged and the way they presented their research so I was excited to have an impact and voice on such a significant change. This position also allowed me to connect with new faculty, students and leaders in animal science, to understand what our industry is doing from a national perspective.
What do you hope to do once you get your degree?
I’ll be heading out to Colorado to complete a postdoc that entails more training in the area of maternal programming at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. I’ll be working with their perinatal research group in the Neonatology Department and am really excited to expand my knowledge and skill set.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I believe that anticipating how new information is going to affect those that use it provides more meaning to any research conducted. For animal scientists, we consider the impact to producers and veterinarians, whereas in human research it is critical to understand how patients will be affected. When I begin my postdoc, I am excited for the opportunity to combine aspects from animal and human research to impact both fields. As I continue a career in research, my intention is to stay relevant and translational in how we conduct and apply our research to achieve a positive impact for animals and humans alike!