As she studies a disease that threatens the reproductive abilities of cattle, Becky Poole hopes to help farmers keep their herds healthy. She also wants to teach students reproductive physiology, and just as important as the subject matter itself, how to apply classroom learning to the real world.
This ambitious Ph.D. student is already paving quite a path in the Animal Science Department. Read on for her story.
Why did you choose NC State?
I chose NC State’s Department of Animal Science for many reasons, but I’d have to say, my mentor, Dr. Daniel Poole’s passion and expertise of bovine reproductive physiology, would be the main reason. Regardless if he is in the classroom or in the lab, Dr. Poole [no relation] is always ecstatic about teaching livestock reproduction or understanding factors impacting reproduction. He is always thinking about finding ways to improve reproductive efficiency in livestock production.
What’s your career goal?
I would like to stay in academia and have a faculty position at a university with a teaching and research appointment. My passion lies in both teaching and researching reproductive physiology in various livestock species. When teaching, I believe it is important that the undergraduate students understand the concepts of domestic animal reproduction, and that they think about how to apply these concepts to real-world scenarios and begin to understand the rationale of management strategies. In addition to teaching, I’d like to be able to focus my research on understanding various mechanisms in bovine reproduction with a focus on follicular development, oocyte (egg) maturation, in vitro embryo production and early embryonic development.
What are you working on now?
My research focuses on the detrimental effects of fescue toxicosis on reproductive performance in beef cattle. Fescue toxicosis is a disease commonly seen in cattle grazing KY-31 tall fescue pastures. This forage is greatly utilized by cattle producers in the Southeast region of the United States because it can withstand the summer heat and drought conditions, however, it produces a toxic compound (ergot alkaloid) that when chronically consumed severely hinders reproductive performance, primarily interfering with establishment of pregnancy. My goal is to specifically pinpoint how this toxin is reducing pregnancy rates and hopefully give us and producers a better idea of how to manage cattle suffering from fescue toxicosis.
What have you learned here that you’ll take with you when you graduate?
While at NC State, I have learned that there are always endless opportunities available, however, it is up to the individual person to seek out these opportunities and take action. With hard work and determination, anyone can make their dreams and goals a reality.
In six words or less, what’s the best thing about being a grad student at CALS?
Support and enthusiasm in the department.