ADVS Graduate Student Wins International Research Award

Animal science doctoral candidate Jacob Keim was awarded first place in the International Embryo Technology Society’s Graduate Student Competition for his presentation on the effect of cytokine supplemented maturation medium on bovine somatic cell nuclear transfer embryo development.

Keim came to Utah State University in 2017 after completing his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University-Idaho, and was interested in cloning research. He joined the doctoral program in animal science/reproduction and development under the direction of Irina Polejaeva, and began work on in vitro research.

“I was working at a clinic in Sandy after graduating, and I actually had a co-worker who got his doctorate from USU and worked with Dean (Ken) White,” said Keim. “That’s kind of what sparked my interest and led to me pursuing my doctorate here.”

Coincidently, White won the same competition when he was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis, and the plaque he received hangs in the CAAS dean’s office. In 2018, Keim began research on embryo transfer, seeking to find ways to improve the efficiency of the process.

“A 1% efficiency rate definitely calls for improvement,” said Keim. “That’s where we started. There was a study done at the University of Missouri on pigs with this theory that cytokines will help oocytes mature in vitro, and we decided to look into that.”

Keim’s research focuses on using cytokines—small proteins or signaling molecules that are important in controlling the activity of other cells—during oocyte maturation. Adding specific cytokines to the oocyte’s in vitro environment allows it to match the natural in vivo environment, giving the success rate of embryo implantation a boost.

“This research is not only applicable to agriculture, but to humans as well,” said Polejaeva, professor of developmental biology. “If we can figure it out on the animal side of things, some day we can produce better quality eggs for humans who are using in vitro fertilization as well.”

The International Embryo Technology Society is an organization for the exchange of information among individuals involved in the research, production, and marketing of embryos. Keim was selected based on the abstract of his research to deliver a 15-minute oral presentation of his work, followed by an interview with award selection committee members.

“Honestly, it’s great,” said Keim. “It’s exciting to have someone interested in your work and nice to be validated by colleagues outside of USU.”

Polejaeva is proud of Keim’s work as well.

“Jacob’s receiving this award is a great indication of his commitment to this project,” said Polejaeva. “He is a team player, always willing to help other labs out and contribute to other people’s projects. This is one of the most prestigious awards in our field, indicative of high-value research. I’m very proud of Jacob and his success.”

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