By Dr. Kent Weigel
Hello alumni and friends!
I hope you are all staying safe and healthy in this crazy time. We are mostly telecommuting, with the exception of the staff who care for our animals or maintain our buildings and equipment. Classes are being taught online, and while a handful of research projects are being carried through to completion, we aren’t initiating any new projects at this time. Thank you to all of our faculty, staff, and students for going “above and beyond” during this difficult period. Parents and students – we share your disappointment regarding commencement, as virtual graduation is not the same as the live event.
Our departmental merger has been formally approved at all levels of campus governance, so the new Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences will be launched on July 1. Not much will change on a day-to-day basis, as we will still have two undergraduate majors and two graduate programs, and occupy the same buildings. But we will become much bigger, with 26 faculty members and approximately 60 academic and university staff, 65 graduate students, and 250 undergraduate students.
We’ve had some recent retirements, including Dave Combs, Dan Schaefer, Cathy Rook, Terry Jobsis, Ron Russell, Kathy Monson, and Terry Barry in the current academic year – thank you for your service! We’ve also had some recent additions, with several more on the way.
In terms of new faculty, we welcomed Joao Dorea (precision management and data analytics) and Wei Guo (animal biologics and muscle biology) earlier this year, and they are busy building their research programs and preparing new courses for our undergraduate and graduate students. Next month, Luiz Ferraretto (ruminant nutrition) will join our faculty as an integrated Extension specialist, and Vanessa Leone (animal biologics and metabolism) will join us in a research and teaching role. Both are alumni of our PhD programs, Luiz with Randy Shaver, and Vanessa with Mark Cook. In July, we will welcome Sarah Adcock (animal welfare), who recently completed her PhD at the University of California, Davis. And at the end of summer, we will welcome the dynamic husband-and-wife duo of Jimena Laporta (mammary physiology) and Francisco Peñagaricano (quantitative genomics) back to Madison. Like Luiz, both Jimena and Francisco will bring full labs of graduate students and postdocs along to UW-Madison.
New faces among our staff include Dillon Walker (meat plant operations manager) and Mitch Monson (retail operations manager), who joined our meat science program last summer, and Jane Rieman (livestock lab manager). In addition, Maria Woldt (Dairy Innovation Hub program manager) arrived in February. Our department certainly looks a lot different from a year ago!
In case merging departments didn’t bring enough excitement, we are nearing completion of our new Meat Science and Animal Biologics Discovery building, a state-of-the-art facility for research, teaching, and outreach in the areas of meat science, food safety, and animal biologics. We are currently recruiting a new director for that program, as well as a manager of its biosafety level 2 laboratory. In addition, Heather White, Maria Woldt, and key internal and external advisors have been rapidly assembling the programs and policies of the Dairy Innovation Hub – the first postdoc and equipment grants have been awarded, and short-term/high-impact projects, faculty positions, and graduate student fellowships are on the way.
It’s been an incredibly busy academic year, with a very strange ending. Hopefully the 2020-2021 year will be less eventful, and maybe it will even include time for a nap. Sorry we won’t get to see you at the golf outing, or any other event in the next couple months, but we greatly appreciate your support.
On, Wisconsin!This article was posted in News.