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Students key to research effort – Audio

Involving students in research

Tom Crenshaw, Professor
Department of Animal Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 263-4423, (608) 577-3752

3:00 – Total Time

0:17 – Students doing pig feeding studies
0:55 – What a student gets to do
1:21 – Bone abnormality in swine found by students
1:38 – Students research opens doors
1:58 – Implications for animal and human health
2:31 – Research not like sitting in lecture
2:52 – Lead out


Sevie Kenyon: How a group of students can kick open exciting new research discoveries. We’re visiting today with Tom Crenshaw, Department of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Tom, tell us the story of how you got students involved in this research.

Tom Crenshaw: Well, in one of the classes that I teach, the students are required to mix diets for pigs and feed the pigs these diets. The pigs in that experiment developed some bone abnormalities. So we followed up and identified over several experiments and involving actually several different students over a few years to trace down and identify that the vitamin D was creating the bone lesions and we’ve continued to look at ways that we can understand more about the lesion and how vitamin D might be involved.

Sevie Kenyon: What kind of activities do the students actually do as this research has progressed?

Tom Crenshaw: Well as the research has progressed we’ve gone beyond what might be done in a classroom setting to actually some of the measurements of the bones within the animal that might involve interactions with people mechanical engineering or orthopedic surgery over at the hospital. And so we’ve used some of the techniques that would be used in those programs to help further understand the bone abnormalities.

Sevie Kenyon: Tom, I’m going to ask you to go ahead and describe the bone abnormality that was discovered.

Tom Crenshaw: It’s commonly referred to as a humpback pig. So it’s an abnormal, outward curvature in the spinal column. It was definitely something different and unique that we knew that was not common within our swine research center.

Sevie Kenyon: Tom, where has all of this activity and research gotten you so far?

Tom Crenshaw: We’ve involved graduate student Laura Amundson that’s worked with me on this in identifying some of the cellular signals that are involved. So we’ve developed techniques to identify which signals that are involved with the bone might be turned on or turned off in response to the deficiency.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you describe, for us, potential implications of this research?

Tom Crenshaw: Some of the implications would be certainly improvement in how we feed and manage pigs and that’s one of my major roles. But also, there are a lot of implications in human health and human medicine, especially with the way that we supplement vitamin D. And our research is actually pointing to an importance of the maternal diet, a mom’s diet, and how that might influence fetal development in the pig, or potentially in the humans.

Sevie Kenyon: Tom, how do you suppose this kind of activity benefits the students?

Tom Crenshaw: I think the students really learn from doing research. The research is simply a tool that can be used to train the students to be creative to help understand how to solve problems and to pay attention to some of the details that need to be, but it’s a training opportunity that’s much different than sitting through a classroom listening to a lecture.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Tom Crenshaw, Department of Animal Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.