Biology majors to present research at animal science conference

Northwestern College biology majors Jason Helmus of Rock Valley and Laura Rensink of Sioux Center will present papers at the annual meeting of the Midwest American Society of Animal Science in Des Moines from March 20–22.

“This is a professional scientific meeting attended by production livestock professionals and basic science researchers from colleges, industry and universities,” says Dr. Abe Scheaffer, visiting assistant professor of biology at Northwestern, who will accompany the two students.

Under the guidance of Scheaffer, Helmus and Rensink have been working to understand metabolic differences between cows that get pregnant and those that do not after embryos have been transferred to the cows.

Rensink, a sophomore, will present a paper entitled “Milk Production of Dairy Cows and How That Affects Conception Rates.” Helmus, a junior, will speak on “Hormone Concentration as Good Indicators of Fertility in Cows.”

Scheaffer received a Northwestern College mini-grant last summer to study the various aspects of a lactating dairy cow’s metabolism that likely contribute to a pregnancy rate. The mini-grant gave Helmus and Rensink the opportunity to work with Scheaffer and TransOva Genetics, conducting research once a week over the course of the summer at Turner County Dairy in Tea, S.D.

“I'm exited to present the data we have spent many hours on and see how it is received by our audience,” says Rensink.

“Research experience is great to have for grad school, but I've really learned how it takes a lot more self-motivation. I'm pretty nervous about presenting our data, but it’s exciting too,” says Helmus.