March 2024 Department Newsletter

By Kent A. Weigel, Department Chair

Greetings alumni, stakeholders, and friends!

I hope you are all doing well. We have an exciting newsletter for you, packed with features about student successes, faculty achievements, and interesting projects.

Ella Gonzalez, a talented pre-vet student from Racine is featured in this issue, as is Isaiah Hoffman, a Pennsylvania student who is bridging his love for dairy cattle with his interest in computer science. Another feature article tells the story of Aaron Bodie, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the Bahamas who was just named by the Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness as one of the “40 Under 40” rising stars to watch in the food safety field.

This newsletter is heavy on faculty achievements, in part due to our unprecedented success in this year’s campus-wide Vilas Awards competition. Guilherme Rosa, a quantitative geneticist and data scientist, received the prestigious Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professorship for his exceptional research productivity, teaching contributions, and global scientific leadership. Heather White, a ruminant nutritionist and Director of the UW Dairy Innovation Hub, was selected for the Vilas Faculty Mid-Career Investigator Award based on her highly productive research program and her tremendous leadership contributions. And Jimena Laporta, a lactation physiologist who joined our department three years ago, was recognized with the Vilas Associates Award based on her groundbreaking research on environmental heat stress and mammary gland development in dairy cattle.

Francisco Peñagaricano is featured for his Greener Cattle Initiative grant, one of the largest in departmental history, which seeks to reduce enteric methane emissions in dairy cattle through genetic selection and rumen microbiome interventions. In addition, our two newest faculty members are featured. Sara Gragg, an established expert in food microbiology who studies pre- and post-harvest interventions to control foodborne pathogens in beef, pork, and other food animal species, joined our program last fall. Lautaro Rostoll-Cangiano, an immunologist who studies development of the immune system in young animals, particularly dairy calves, was hired last spring with support from the Dairy Innovation Hub, which also funded a fantastic renovation of the lobby of our campus Dairy Cattle Center. Last, but definitely not least, Jennifer Van Os is featured for her remarkably innovative approach to improve animal welfare through development of a video game that teaches dairy farm workers appropriate animal handling procedures.

If you’re able, please join the Animal and Dairy Sciences Classic Golf Outing at University Ridge on May 14, where you can “tear up the course” with two generations of the Rowbotham family, or the Swine in Biomedical Research Conference at Memorial Union on June 14-18.  

Best regards,