Meet Mickie Trudeau, our latest addition to Farm Journal's PORK's Up & Coming Leaders feature. We are showcasing some of the fresh, new voices of the pork industry who combine innovative thought and work ethic with scientific savvy and a passion to make a difference.
Hometown: Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Education: bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in animal science, University of Minnesota; currently pursuing Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Q. How did you end up pursuing a Ph.D. in the swine industry?
A. As an undergraduate, I became interested in research while working in a poultry nutrition lab. As I was approaching the end of my undergraduate degree, I decided to continue my interest in research by going to graduate school. I was having a meeting with my undergraduate adviser Dr. Jerry Shurson when I mentioned my interest in continuing research. Luckily, he had just received funding to investigate the survival of PEDv in feed ingredients. I started working on that project just a few weeks later and have stayed in the swine industry ever since.
Q. How did you figure out what career path you wanted to take?
A. Although I didn’t have a formal internship, I had a variety of student worker positions during my freshman and sophomore years. For example, I worked at the University of Minnesota equine center and at the large animal hospital. I think these experiences were important to help me figure out what I wanted to do with my future. Many students start a degree in animal science because they want to be a vet, but they don’t realize how many other opportunities are available with an animal science degree. I think it is important to take a job or internship in an area you are not familiar with, even if it’s a little scary. This could mean working with a new species, looking into biomedical research, spending a summer working in a lab, or spending time on a farm. You can’t figure out what you love doing until you try a few things that you don’t love doing.
Q. What research opportunities did you pursue as an undergraduate?
A. Early in my undergraduate career I began working in a turkey nutrition research lab. I really enjoyed working in the lab and I loved being involved in the experiments. I learned so much about running experiments, analyzing samples and working with livestock. I was also part of the University of Minnesota Honors Program which required me to complete my own research project and honors thesis. These combined experiences ultimately solidified that I wanted to continue working in research.
Q. What other learning opportunities have you been involved in?
A. I grew up in a suburb of St. Paul and did not have any swine experience. I have always loved animals and had an interest in agriculture, but I had no relatives involved in farming. We have all heard the average person is three generations removed from the farm. Just because a person wasn’t raised in that environment doesn’t mean they can’t learn. The first time I helped weigh pigs in graduate school, the farm staff did a great job explaining how to move the pigs and other handling tips. It took a little bit longer (I swear those pigs could tell I was a rookie), but with each pen I got a little bit better. I think there are many students out there like me who have in interest in science and pigs but did not have the opportunity to grow up on a farm. I feel if you are willing to put the work in, ask for help and learn, you can be successful in the swine industry.
Q. Tell us about your current research.
A. My current research project is investigating antibiotic alternatives in nursery pigs. This project is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Purina Animal Nutrition where we fed a variety of antibiotic alternatives, measured growth performance and evaluated the pigs’ physiological response. We took blood samples and intestinal samples from the pigs and are currently investigating the metabolome, microbiome and gene expression from these tissue samples. I hope this research will be useful in determining what makes a pig grow faster or be more efficient when being fed an antibiotic. In addition, it will also help us evaluate some new antibiotic alternative products.
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