Graduate Student Profile: Ryan Pralle

Please briefly describe your research.

Our lab group specializes in the nutritional physiology of dairy cows during the transition period. This is a critical period as a gravid, involute cow adapts to the metabolic demands of lactation. The energy requirement for milk production may be the greatest challenge, since a typical cow experiences voluntary intake depression coupled with an exponential increase in energy and glucose requirement by the mammary gland. This results in negative energy balance. To adapt, a cow needs to mobilize internal energy reserves, particularly adipose tissue triglycerides, to maintain milk production. However, the severity of the deficit or discoordination of the physiological adaptation can result in two disorders which develop as comorbidities, ketosis and fatty liver. The research projects I work on strive to identify cows at risk for and experiencing these metabolic disorders. Our approach is multidisciplinary, utilizing innovative methods in the fields of genomics, bioinformatics, advanced statistical modeling, and molecular biology.

Why did you choose to attend UW-Madison for graduate study?

As an aspiring academic, I was drawn to UW because of the long standing reputation it has as a preeminent research and teaching institution for the life sciences. This allows the university to provide hundreds of courses taught by leaders in their respective fields of research, which help develop students into a well rounded basic and applied scientists. Furthermore, UW graduates are sought after for careers in dairy science, especially in the private industry sector.

What resources have proven invaluable to your academic success at UW (e.g. campus, departmental facilities or staff, the state’s dairy industry)?

The support from Wisconsin dairymen and industry has been paramount to my success as a researcher. My peers and I have conducted a number of large scale studies that would been impossible without farmers and private companies generously providing access to private resources. With their support, we have generated exceptional, large data sets that interrogate a number of questions relevant to advancing the dairy industry. You would be hard-pressed to find a community as progressive and supportive as the one we have in the dairy state.

In your own words, how would you describe the academic environment at UW?

Collaboration drives the environment at UW-Madison. There is constant interaction between students, faculty, and industry; not only in our department, but between departments and institutions. This creates an environment that stimulates learning through networking and acquiring the perspectives of fellow scientists. Therefore, our research is galvanized to be current, impactful, and high quality. All in all, it is an exciting dynamic that is personally rewarding.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I aspire to pursue an academic career in research, teaching, or extension after completing a Ph.D.