A Ph.D. student at West Virginia University made an important step forward in her scholarly community when she was recognized by a professional organization.

Jennie Zambito, a doctoral candidate in animal and nutritional sciences in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, has been named a Midwest Section Animal Science Young Scholar by the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS).

The purpose of the ASAS Midwest Section Animal Science Young Scholar program is to recognize and feature the research accomplishments of recent Ph.D. graduates or current Ph.D. students in the advanced stages of their program at the annual Midwestern American Dairy Science Association/ASAS meetings, slated for March of 2014.

The program provides promising scholars with opportunities to present timely research findings to an audience of academic and industry professionals in a forum that allows in-depth discussion of contemporary research techniques and findings. Invited participants in each program will present a 30-minute presentation on their dissertation topic at the Midwest American Dairy Science Association/American Society of Animal Science annual meeting.

Inclusion of such presentations bolsters the quality and scope of graduate student research that is reported at Midwest ADSA/ASAS meetings and allows the associations to highlight the next generation of scientists who will be serving the Societies in the future. The intent of the Young Scholars Program is to recognize accomplishments of students in many disciplines through an invited presentation format; it is not intended as a competition.

Zambito’s dissertation research has focused on the physiology and metabolism of the horse during a weight loss period. This has involved a comprehensive view including mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism.

“Horses pose a unique research question, as most horses within the United States are kept for recreational purposes, yet equine performance in areas like racing, reproduction, et cetera, makes up a large portion of the industry. Zambito said. “Obesity in horses impacts both companion and performance equines alike. By understanding the mechanisms behind obesity related metabolic dysfunction we can improve the health and management of these animals.”

Obesity in the horse is relatively similar to that of a human, Zambito explained. “Excessive dietary intake above daily energy expenditure causes deposition of fat throughout the body,” she said. “Obesity can cause a multitude of problems within the horse, including impairments in glucose uptake and utilization via insulin insensitivity, increased oxidative status, and laminits, a disease unique to horses where soft tissue in the hoof becomes inflamed causing disruption in bone location within the hoof capsule.”

Also, horses can develop equine metabolic syndrome, a condition with similar classifications as type 2 diabetes in humans. On a more cellular level, dysfunction of the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, can cause further impairment of utilization of energy molecules within the body.

“Jennie has taken it upon herself to identify and contact individuals who have expertise in mitochondrial metabolism and dysfunction from WVU’s Department of Exercise Physiology” said Kimberly Barnes, assistant professor of biochemistry in the Davis College and Zambito’s thesis adviser. “She has been able to take advantage of classes, journal clubs, research facilities, and one-on-one interactions with these individuals, whom also serve on her graduate committee.”

Barnes says this interaction has allowed Zambito to broaden her background in laboratory research and also see how her work with horses could be extended to other species, including humans. “Her ability to go out and locate the help she needed to complete the analysis she was interested in doing will serve her well in the future, as she is interested in an academic career,” Barnes said.

Zambito anticipates completing her degree in December 2013 and is currently seeking an academic position or post-doc.

The American Society of Animal Science is a membership society that supports the careers of scientists and animal producers in the United States and internationally. The American Society of Animal Science fosters the discovery, sharing and application of scientific knowledge concerning the responsible use of animals to enhance human life and well-being.



CONTACT: David Welsh, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design
304-293-2394, david.welsh@mail.wvu.edu

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