University of Findlay Students Use IVF to Generate Embryos During Pig Research
University of Findlay students are creating pig embryos on campus, as they research the effects that different supplements have on female pig eggs to reduce oxidative stress. Brian Whitaker, Ph.D. has led the student research for the past 13 years, helping UF pre-veterinary students get hands on experience, while also giving them a leg up in grad school. “It’s a hallmark of the University, and it’s critical that students get undergraduate research opportunities. It sets the University of Findlay apart from other institutions, as students have direct contact with research projects,” said Whitaker.
Alayna Christy is a junior at UF and is interested in pursuing a career in animal reproduction. When the opportunity presented itself, Christy jumped at the chance to join Whitaker’s team. “We take reproductive tracts from harvested pigs from a slaughterhouse and extract the follicular fluid and oocytes (eggs) from the ovaries. We then mature the eggs and use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to fertilize them under different conditions,” said Christy. Part of her research is studying the effects of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in an attempt to enhance the growth rate of the embryo. Christy said she is thankful for the opportunity to complete research, saying it confirmed that animal reproduction is something she wants to do as a career.
For senior, Dorys Evans, the research sparked an interest in animal reproduction as well, “After being here and working on the research, I found out that this is actually something I would like to pursue and specialize in,” said Evans. While Evans knew she would be doing more than cleaning tubes and dishes, she admitted that she wasn’t quite prepared for the research to be so hands-on. “I did not realize that when Dr. Whitaker said we would be using follicular fluid, that it would be coming from actual pig ovaries. I thought it would come from a tube…but nope! That was pretty cool.”
The swine research allows University of Findlay students to get research under their belt, something Whitaker says most students won’t get to do until graduate school. “Most research is driven by grad students at other schools, so undergraduates are limited to washing dishes, stacking shelves, and organizing things,” he said. “Our students have the opportunity to synthesize and create their own project, and see their whole idea to fruition before graduation. That is pretty unique to higher education.”
Cameron Nau is a senior pre-vet student at UF and is currently doing research on the effects that the antioxidant quercetin has on embryos. Nau’s feelings towards undergraduate research at Findlay mimics that of Whitaker. “It’s crazy the stuff we get to do each week! It’s amazing that each week we get new tracts and get to create new embryos. The nice thing about a small undergraduate university like Findlay is that we get a lot of hands-on experience,” she said.
Fellow researcher Makayla Throop also expressed her appreciation of Findlay’s small undergraduate class sizes, as it has allowed her to gain knowledge of everyone’s projects. “My favorite part is that we all get to be on a team. We each have our own projects, but we are able to help each other. I know about my project using the antioxidant vanillic acid, but I also get to learn about everyone else’s projects. I get to learn about all the different aspects and gain all the knowledge,” said Throop.