Stein Lab scholar wins two awards

Caroline González-Vega, Ph. D. candidate in the Stein Monogastric Nutrition Laboratory at the University of Illinois, recently received two awards for her outstanding work in the field of swine nutrition.

In April, Caroline learned that she had received the Wilson G. Pond International Travel Award from the American Society of Animal Science. The award will be presented at the at the ADSA-ASAS-CSAS 2014 Joint Annual Meeting in Kansas City in July. She will use the funding to travel to the Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science in Copenhagen in August.

Then, in May, Caroline was awarded the Mitchell Fellowship in Animal Nutrition by the Department of Animal Sciences. The Mitchell Fellowship provides a tuition and fee waiver as well as a stipend, and is awarded based on a student's academic performance and letters of recommendation.

"I'm very happy to get this Mitchell fellowship because it's like a way to thank Dr. Stein for all that he has done for me," Caroline said. "I also want to thank Dr. [Michael] Murphy and Dr. [James] Pettigrew for helping me get this award."

Caroline first came to Illinois in 2009 as a visiting scholar from the National University of Colombia in Bogotá. After earning her bachelor's degree, she returned to Illinois in 2010 to start a Master's program. Her Master's research focused on calcium digestibility. "We are moving towards formulating diets using digestible phosphorus, but there are no data about digestible calcium," she said. "Our final goal is to have values for digestible calcium and digestible phosphorus, so we can formulate more accurate diets."

For Caroline's Ph. D. research, she is working on determining calcium requirements in growing pigs. She has recently finished farm work for an experiment to determine requirements in 11-25 kg pigs, and is doing the lab analysis for that study. Next, she will move on to 25-50 kg pigs. She also wants to explore gene expression of calcium transporters in intestines and kidneys. "It's a lot of work, but I'm excited," she said.

The Pond travel scholarship was granted on the basis of Caroline's research, and on how her research would contribute to her chosen meeting. Caroline said that the EAAP meeting was a good fit for her research. "A main theme of the EAAP conference is sustainability and ecology. And scientists are trying to reduce phosphorus pollution by knowing the digestibility of both calcium and phosphorus, and how those interact with other factors. So I think our research fits very well in that topic. We have shown our data here in the U.S., but at this meeting we will be able to reach people who might not have come here, so it will have more impact worldwide."