Animal Sciences

Jessica L. Petersen, Ph.D
Assistant Professor      
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The focus of the Animal Genetics and Genomics lab is to identify genetic variants that act to alter phenotypic traits and understand their mechanisms of function. Much of our work is focused upon understanding genetics of disease, but other works include the study of traits such as muscle mass and coat color.  Our current focus is to understand the genetic architecture underlying disease and muscle phenotypes to apply this knowledge to advance animal health within each species, across species, and to produce information that may also benefit human medicine.  Genetic studies of animals are exciting for several reasons. First, by learning more about how genetics influence individual traits, we can use this information to improve animal health and production. Second, because of the unique population structure of domestic species such as cattle and horses (breeds that represent nearly closed populations of animals all with very similar genetics, and with many highly related individuals), we have greater statistical power to map genes and mutations in domestic animals than we would studying diverse, outbred populations. Finally, the gene(s) that influence an animals' susceptibility to disease, their patterns of growth and metabolism, and other traits, are often under similar genetic control to traits found in humans. Agricultural species such as cattle and horses are often overlooked, but provide great potential as a model for understanding the biology of human disease and traits. 

Hiep Vu, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
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My laboratory studies two important viruses of swine: porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) and influenza A virus of swine (IAV-S). The research topics that are studied in my laboratory include: (i) Host immune responses to natural infection or vaccination, (ii) Molecular characteristics of the viruses currently circulating in the swine population, and (iii) Viral proteins and/or epitopes capable of eliciting protective immunity. Collectively, results obtained from these studies will be valuable for the optimal design of safe and effective vaccines against divergent viral strains circulating in the field.