I received a BS and DVM from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993 and 1995, respectively. I then received a PhD degree in Animal Sciences/Reproductive Biology from the University of Missouri in 2000. My current position is an Associate Professor at the Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri. I am also a Bond Life Sciences Center Investigator and a Research Faculty Member in the Genetics Area Program and Thompson Center for Autism and Neurobehavioral Disorders.
I have two dogs, three cats, three turtles, and several fish.
My research focuses on how perinatal exposure through the mother to the widely prevalent endocrine disrupting chemical (EDCs), bisphenol A (BPA) and high fat diets disrupt normal programming of the brain and may lead to cognitive and other behavioral disorders in various animal species and humans. By using animal models, we may be able to gain better insight into how early exposure to BPA and other EDCs may be contributing to the rising incidence of autism spectrum disorders and other neurobehavioral diseases in children.
By determining how the in utero environment, including obesity and EDCs, affect neurobehavioral programming and risk for various diseases, we can develop better preventative and therapeutic intervention measures to mitigate these harmful effects. Further, if sufficient evidence is obtained that these chemicals are indeed harmful to wildlife and humans, the data may also influence policy decisions to reduce US and global production of BPA, with current estimates indicating it is produced at about 15 billion pounds per year and currently no evidence in diminution of production. Even better, data from my laboratory, along with that of other investigators in the field, may eventually result in public and political cause to action to outright ban BPA. Until then, we need to better understand how fetal exposure to this chemical may lead to later diseases in individuals and possibly their future descendants and what can be done to mitigate these detrimental effects.
The most enjoyable aspects and the major reason I went in to research in the first place was to be able to understand the root cause of diseases in animals and by translation, humans, such that we can develop improved therapies and possibly even prevent such diseases from the outset.
We need more veterinarians in biomedical research. Therefore, I encourage students and colleagues to consider these rewarding careers. While there may be disappointments and frustrations in research, they should not be barriers. Always believe in yourself, abilities, and overarching goals. As veterinarians, we are uniquely fortunate to have received training in a wide range of species and understand the pathophysiology and interaction of the various body systems. Such knowledge is crucial in furthering biomedical research in animals and humans.
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