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In Profile: Outstanding Thesis Winner Julie Weathers

image imageA rising doctoral student star from Texas Tech University’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences is this year’s winner of the university’s prestigious ‘Outstanding Thesis Award’ for her work in cattle reproduction.

Lubbock native Julie Weathers took the top academic honor for her examination of why Jersey Cattle embryos don’t preserve well at very low temperatures – a process technically known as cryopreservation – compared with other cattle breeds. Jerseys are an economically significant and historic small breed of dairy cattle.

“Understanding breed and species differences in embryo chemistry should allow us to perfect the freezing process, not only allowing us to improve pregnancy rates in Jersey cattle, but hopefully improving success rates in those species that just don’t freeze well – such as horses and humans,” said Sam Prien, a professor and director of research in Texas Tech’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Health Sciences Center and in Tech’s Department of Animal Food and Sciences.

Weathers’ research ultimately verified that Jersey cattle embryos contain more lipid content than other breeds’ embryos, undermining current cryopreservation efforts. “Scientists understood that Jersey Cattle embryos don’t survive the freeze and thaw process very well, but until now, no one had ever really attempted to categorize what made these specific embryos different from their counterparts,” Weathers said.

Weathers received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal science from Texas Tech and is now completing her doctorate at the Lubbock campus. Weathers said she seized on the opportunity to continue her research in applied reproductive physiology at the doctoral level at Texas Tech due to continuation of her master’s research funding.

“Plus, I love Tech and my lab,” she said. “This is the best place for me.”

Looking ahead, Weather plans to continue to continue to teach and research at the collegiate level for years to come with a special emphasis on altering traditional cryopreservation processes of cattle embryos to improve current industry practices.

“I’ve loved every minute of my tenure here at Tech,” she said. “I have made friends and invaluable mentors along the way, and discovered what I want to do for the rest of my professional life.”

Written by Sean Cleveland

CONTACT: For more information about the TTU Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Awards for 2009, see http://www.depts.ttu.edu/gradschool/news/2009TDAwards.php For additional information about the Graduate Student Research Poster Competition, see http://www.depts.ttu.edu/gradschool/news/2009PosterContest.php

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