Almeida, Rojas honored by ASAS

The American Society of Animal Science honored two scholars from the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at the ADSA-ASAS 2013 Joint Annual Meeting in Indianapolis in July. Dr. Ferdinando Almeida, who earned his Master's degree and Ph. D. as a student in the Stein lab, was presented the Agri-King Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Oscar Rojas, a current Ph. D. candidate, received the Wilson G. Pond International Travel Award and the Fontenot Appreciation Travel Award.

Oscar and Ferdinando with their award plaquesFerdinando Almeida first came to the lab in 2007 as a visiting scholar from the Federal University of Uberlandia in Uberlandia, Brazil. After graduation, he returned to Illinois and earned his Master's degree in 2010. His Master's thesis was on "Effects of microbial phytase on the standardized total tract digestibility of phosphorus in soybean meal, corn, and corn co-products." For his Ph. D., he focused on amino acid digestibility in feedstuffs as affected by heat damage. But he says that a key part of his graduate education was the ability to be involved in research outside of his areas of focus. "Besides my own research, I was also exposed to other projects that Dr. Stein is involved with, and so I had the opportunity to publish manuscripts in some other areas of research. And from those I also had a chance to give talks at meetings and to write a book chapter along with Dr. Stein," he said. " I think this is one of the strengths of Dr. Stein's program, because if we're willing to take challenges and explore other things besides our main area of study, he always gives us the opportunity, which enables us to grow professionally."

Ferdinando is currently working as a postdoctoral research associate with Dr. Ryan Dilger at the University of Illinois. He is taking up another challenge: looking at nutritional interventions to improve gut health in pigs. Though he only started in his new position in June, he has already had a presentation accepted for the proceedings of the Midwest Swine Nutrition Conference, which will be held in Indianapolis in September.

Ferdinando plans a career in academia, though he hasn't yet decided whether that will be in the U.S. or back home in Brazil.

Oscar Rojas is the first student to win two travel awards from the ASAS in one year. He applied for the awards at the urging of Dr. Stein, who thought they would be a good fit for him.

Like Ferdinando, Oscar came to the Stein lab as a visiting scholar. After completing his undergraduate work at the National University of Colombia, he returned to earn a Masters degree, with a thesis titled "Nutritional evaluation of fermented soybean meal fed to weanling pigs." He began his Ph. D. in 2011.

For his Ph. D., Oscar is working on techniques to improve the nutritional value of feed ingredients. "We want to improve the energy value and also phosphorus and amino acids by reducing the particle size of corn. And then we are also trying to improve the solubility of fiber in DDGS by different techniques, by extrusion, using physical treatments, chemical treatments, and enzymatic treatments," he said.

He plans to use the awards to travel to the Congreso Argentino de Producción Animal in Argentina in October. "I looked at a lot of conferences, but this one fits well with my research, because it's about technology and techniques in feed ingredients," he said.