Dekkers Wins 2019 NSIF Distinguished Service Award

NSIF President Justin Fix (left) and Nick Serão (right) award Jack Dekkers (center) with the NSIF Distinguished Service Award. ( NSIF )

The coveted National Swine Improvement Federation (NSIF) Distinguished Service Award was presented to Jack Dekkers, distinguished professor at Iowa State University (ISU), in Indianapolis on Thursday.

Dekkers has established and conducted highly influential research in a number of key areas in swine breeding and genetics, and its application to swine production, says his nominator, Nick Serão, assistant professor in animal breeding and genetics at ISU.

From genetics of feed efficiency and genetics of response to diseases to optimization of breeding programs and statistical genetics and genomics, Dekkers is heralded for innovation and a keen eye for application. 

“Dr. Dekkers’ research is always at the forefront of science. The research he led with the residual feed intake lines of pigs laid the groundwork for nearly all of the genetics companies to follow to improve feed efficiency in swine worldwide,” says Benny Mote, assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “The research to identify more disease-resilient pigs, especially to PRRS, led to the identification of a genetic marker that has shown a substantial effect in reducing viral load and increasing average daily gain under a PRRS challenge.” 

His work on response to diseases has resulted in a genetic marker, which has been found to be associated with partial resistance to PRRS by his group, and which is part of the selection program at least one major swine breeding company, Serão says. In addition, many of the ideas and statistical derivations of important aspects of selection developed by his group are used by the industry.

In addition, his group provided the first ideas on how genetic relationships could be used to optimize genomic selection, as well on how low-density SNP genotyping with imputation could be used to optimize genomic selection, which are important components of a successful swine breeding program.

“During the first part of my academic career, including eight years on faculty at the University of Guelph in Canada, I focused on dairy cattle breeding. My move to Iowa State University included switching from dairy cattle to swine,” Dekkers says. “Being recognized by NSIF through this award is very important to me because NSIF represents the main direct stakeholders of my work in swine breeding and genetics. I owe this award in large part to the great university and industry colleagues and students that I have had the chance to work with over the past 22 years, which I hope to continue in the foreseeable future.”

Dekkers obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and his Ph.D. in animal breeding from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From 1989 through 1997, Dekkers was on faculty at University of Guelph, Canada, and in 1997 he joined the Department of Animal Science at ISU. He has been major or co-advisor of eight master’s students, 24 Ph.D. students and 17 post-docs.

He has published his work in 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers and six book chapters. He has given 53 invited presentations and contributed 77 papers and 355 abstracts at scientific conferences.

A natural leader, Dekkers now serves as leader of the Animal Breeding and Genetics section at ISU, previously served as vice president for NSIF, is a regular invited speaker at industry conferences for swine and animal breeding and has chaired/organized innumerous conferences and short-courses. In his spare time, he is an Editor-in-Chief for Genetics, Selection and Evolution, which is among the highest-ranked journals in the Animal and Dairy Sciences. 

Dekkers is one of the few animal geneticists that have received both the Rockefeller Prentice Memorial Award in Animal Breeding & Genetics from the American Society of Animal Science and the J. L. Lush Award in Animal Breeding from the American Dairy Science Association. 

“There’s no question he is a world-renowned swine geneticist. But most importantly to me, he has always carried himself with pride, dignity and respect for others,” Mote says. “He’s a person we should all emulate in both our professional and personal lives.”

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