Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Graduate Students in Animal Sciences

Posted by jennifer_michal | July 29, 2021

Shane Carrion
PhD (Advisor: Zhihua Jiang)

The expression of imprinted genes depends on the sex of the contributing parent. I am exploring the relationship of these genes to both intra and interspecies. Using CRISPR and antisense oligos I hope to discover the function and placement of two imprinted genes (ZFat and PHLDA2) in the frog Xenopus tropicalis, in the pathway with homologues in humans, compared to those found in mammalian species. Finally, I hope to discern the imprinting status of both genes, which so far have only been observed in eutherian mammals and flowering plants.

Song Ah Chae
PhD (Advisor: Min Du)

Obesity during pregnancy may transfer metabolic disease-related genes to the fetus. I am exploring if exercise and/or nutrition alters gut microbial diversity and metabolic homeostasis in animals with metabolic dysfunction. I am focusing on apelin, a myokine that aids in alleviating metabolic disease in humans and animals. Exercise during pregnancy induces apelin, accelerating mitochondrial biogenesis, and protects against the adverse effects of maternal obesity on fetal intestinal epithelial homeostasis and placental nutrient and vasculogenic impairments.

Sarah Dreger
MS (Advisor: Don Llewellyn)

My research is funded by a multi-state USDA NIFA grant to explore genetic factors related to alfalfa forage quality. Specifically, my work focuses on applying alfalfa variety and forage quality information to cattle production sectors, including cow/calf, yearling, and feedlot. This is important to determine a balance between alfalfa yield and quality to best serve the cattle industry and therefore enhance the profitability of beef operations. This is also important for alfalfa breeders’ ability to account for the end-use of their products.

Yao Gao
Yao Gao
PhD (Advisor: Min Du)

I am a PhD student working in Dr. Du’s Nutrigenomics and Growth Biology lab. My research focuses on myogenesis during early embryo development and how maternal factors, like exercise and consumption of a high fat diet affect this process.

Alanna Grossman
Alanna Grossman
MS (Advisor: Jim Pru)

My research project involves the study of two proteins called PGRMC1 and PGRMC2 in the male reproductive tract of mice. We have found that when these proteins are absent from germ cells in the testis, it results in the development of abnormal spermatozoa and subsequent infertility. We hope that one day this research could improve treatment options for causes of male infertility, and potentially offer a new target for male contraception.

Nathaniel Herrera
Nathaniel Herrera
MS (Advisor: Jim Pru)

I am working to uncover the mechanisms associated with progesterone receptor membrane component (PGRMC) family members in fertility. To do this, we have developed a transgenic mouse model that over-expresses the PGRMC1 protein in the female reproductive tract and the male germ line. Developing an understanding of how PGRMC1/2 function is necessary to improve male and female fertility.

Allison Herrick
Allison Herrick
PhD (Advisor: Holly Neibergs)

Our research focuses on using genomics to identify specific traits and genes in cattle. I will be mainly focused on dairy cattle and will be assisting with research surrounding reproductive and respiratory health traits. Improving the ability to select for and utilize these traits throughout the industry can improve the health and welfare of herds, as well as helping to create a more efficient management program with less intervention and higher profitability for producers.

Callan Lichtenwalter
Callan Lichtenwalter
PhD (Advisor: Amber Adams Progar)

I am studying how pest birds impact dairy cattle health and welfare and determining the best sustainable methods to deter the birds. We will observe the cattle-bird interaction at the feed bunk to see if there is a change in aggression between cows or a change in feeding behavior. We will also determine the pathogen load the birds contribute to dairies. Lastly, we will be testing lasers and birds of prey as safe methods of deterrence. Our overall goal is to improve cattle welfare, health, and production, protect the health of dairy employees, and be good stewards of the ecosystem.

Xiangdong Liu
Xiangdong Liu
PhD (Advisor: Min Du)

The ECM (extracellular matrix) is a “3D” molecular network, serving as a supporting framework for molecules and cells in tissues and organs. However, accumulation of ECM (fibrosis) occurs because of some damage or pathological process, including wound healing, cancer, obesity, and other factors that are usually associated with dysfunction of tissues and organs. I am interested in the development of fibrosis in obesity and the molecular mechanism by which fibrosis negatively affects adipose tissue and metabolism.

Alex Lopez with Chinook Salmon
Alex Lopez
PhD (Advisor: Mike Phelps)

Climate change and the associated rise in water temperatures have caused concern for the future of Chinook salmon. This keystone species is important to the ecosystems in which they inhabit, providing nutrients throughout the trophic level when they return from their long migration. I am testing the effects of rearing temperature (10°C – optimal and 16°C – high) on skeletal muscle biology and performance. Muscle performance is a major factor that contributes to the overall fitness of the fish and is believed to be impacted by changes in environmental temperature.

Jennifer Magana
Jennifer Magana
MS (Advisor: Amber Adams Progar)

Digital dermatitis (DD) is a common infectious disease of the hoof that causes inflammation and painful lesions primarily located digitally and on the coronary band. Changes in cow behaviors have been associated with lameness, which negatively impacts production, yet behavioral data related to the onset of DD are limited. My research aims to evaluate behavioral and temperature differences in the coronary band between cows with healthy feet and cows with DD, as well as changes associated with the onset of DD. I hope to promote early treatment and a better prognosis.

Jera Monaghan
Jera Monaghan
MS (Advisor: Kris Johnson)

Growing concerns of climate change have pressured the livestock sector to search for ways to lower their carbon footprint. Naturally, cattle and other ruminants release gas emissions due to their digestive processes. My research focuses on evaluating ruminant diet manipulation and waste management solutions to determine which solutions have the most potential in reducing gas emissions. Understanding which strategies work best in ruminant production will allow livestock producers to develop more sustainable systems.

Jasmine Richman
Jasmine Richman
MS (Advisor: Mike Phelps)

I am investigating the function of the activin receptor signaling pathway in rainbow trout. This is the dominant negative regulator of skeletal muscle size in both mammals and fish. However, the mechanisms by which it functions in fish remain a mystery. We are using NanoString technology to measure gene expression and CRISPR editing techniques to disrupt the function of activin A in trout. We are tracking the growth and development of the genetically engineered fish to determine how activin A affects muscle development. This information may be used to improve salmonid aquaculture.

Kassie Stadler
Kassie Stadler
MS (Advisor: Nate Law)

In the world today, 10-15% of couples suffer with infertility, half of which are attributed to men. Of these infertile men, over 60% of the causes are idiopathic or unknown. Surprisingly, the incidence of male infertility is escalating, and we do not know why. The hope is that this study could identify potential pathways related to infertility. I am examining the gene RunX3 and believe it plays a role in determining if a cell in the testis develops into a sperm. With this research, we hope to identify new male contraceptive methods and advance research in in vitro spermatogenesis.

Qiyu Tian
Qiyu Tian
PhD (Advisor: Min Du)

My research previously focused on adipose tissue differentiation and obesity. We reported that a metabolite, alpha-ketoglutarate, facilitates white adipose tissue browning during aging and prevents obesity when challenged with high fat diet in a mouse model. Now I am working to examine the beneficial effects of natural bioactive compounds on inflammatory bowel diseases (IFD). Currently, there is no cure for IFD. Understanding how these bioactive compounds regulate the inflammatory response will assist in developing new methods to prevent or reduce symptoms of IFD.

Liang Zhao
Liang Zhao
PhD (Advisor: Min Du)

I am studying the developmental progress and metabolic health of skeletal muscle impaired due to diet-induced obesity. Our research has dual applications to both human health and animal production. Diet-induced obesity not only impairs the physical activity of humans, but it also leads to the development of severe metabolic syndromes. Over-nutrition in animals disrupts growth rate and lean-to-fat ratio, which are associated with many adverse outcomes on animal production and meat quality.

Outstanding Graduate Student

Amy Zinski graduated with a Master of Science in Animal Sciences working in Dr. Zhihua Jiang’s lab. She served as a teaching assistant all four semesters of her degree program. In addition, she applied for and was awarded a grant through WSU’s internal Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Program, where she explored the effects of chronic cannabis exposure on behavior and gene expression in the rat brain. Her thesis included a variety of work, the bulk of which elucidated the trends in genetic mutations between an inbred and an outbred rat strain to improve the efficacy of rats as a model for linking changes in the genome to adverse phenotypes and diseases. Her thesis also explored the effect of the environment on phenotypes and proposed an optimized computational method to relate the developmental stages of rats and humans to improve their efficacy as a biomedical model. In addition, Amy also served as the vice president of the Animal Science Graduate Student Association during the second year of her degree. Thus far, Amy is a co-author of three publications, one of which as a first author. Amy is now pursuing her PhD at the New York Medical College while continuing to work with Dr. Jiang to complete more publications.