I would like to thank all the sponsors, board members and committee members for their dedication to supporting young scientists such as myself.
I am currently a first year PhD student studying animal breeding and quantitative genetics in the lab of Dr. Luiz Brito at Purdue University. Our group focuses on applying quantitative genetics theory to improve novel traits in both major and minor livestock species. Some of our current studies involve selection for docility in Angus cattle and resiliency in swine. We also have many interesting studies involving domesticated yak and water buffaloes. My main interests involve the genetic improvement of livestock for welfare traits and using precision agriculture to generate novel phenotypes. I am also interested in utilizing machine learning to analyze high-throughput phenotypic and genotypic information. My current research involves determining the transgenerational epigenetic effects of in-utero heat stress in purebred Landrace and Large White pig populations. The goal of this project is to show that environmental influences can impact the performance of carcass and fertility traits over several generations after a stress event occurs and therefore controlling a sow’s environment during pregnancy would have an impact on profitability for not only the current generation, but future generations. My next project, that I am very excited about, will utilize robotic milking data collected from a large Indiana dairy to determine if certain Holstein lines perform better in automated dairy parlors. We hope to correlate calf performance using an automatic milk feeder with its later performance in the robotic milking system. This may allow us to predict milking ability much earlier in life which would decrease the generation interval and thus accelerate genetic improvement. My career goals are very much set on working in the industry as a livestock geneticist. I have participated in three internships during my graduate career working directly with a team of trained geneticists. These include working at ABS Global, The Maschhoffs and Smithfield Premium Genetics. During my time at these internships I gained valuable skills that have prepared me for my future career in the animal industry. I also was able to better determine where I may fit in once I leave graduate school. When I was working with Smithfield Premium Genetics, I was assisting in a large project that involved collecting growth weight and back fat data from a production test farm. I then followed those trial animals to the processing plant where we collected meat quality data. The biggest takeaway from this experience was that the labor cost and difficulty of collecting valuable data for genetic improvement was very high. This set me on the path of understanding the available digital tools (e.g. computer vision, automated weight scales, etc.) that would collect this information automatically for us. I believe that precision agriculture is the future and that one of the new roles for geneticists in the industry is developing ways to collect data smarter and more efficiently. Therefore, this is where I would like to focus my future career in an industry setting.