University or Institution

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Mentor:  Jessica L. Hite, Ph.D.

Mentor Team:

1. Steve Ricke, Ph.D., Director - Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery Program, Professor, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences

2. Johanna Elfenbein, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (LAIM)


Description of Potential Research Project(s):

Poultry are important in the US, with production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and chickens

in 2021 valued at $46.1 billion. Two primary issues plague and ultimately threaten the poultry industry: 1) Salmonella infections from contaminated poultry products and 2) the prospects of increasing drug resistance to the dwindling supply of effective antibiotics. Despite consistent reductions in the occurrence of Salmonella in poultry products, consumer illnesses in the USA still hover over 1 million annually, with roughly 23% of those illnesses arising from contaminated chicken and turkey. In 2021, the USDA named reducing pre-harvest Salmonella in poultry a top priority. The threat to consumer health and safety and the prospect of antibiotic resistance demands new approaches to Salmonella treatment and control. However, developing new treatment options is hampered by large gaps in our knowledge of the basic biological processes that promote the establishment and maintenance of Salmonella infections. To address this critical need, we will build on our recently optimized protocols and preliminary results to test the effects of a newly developed encapsulated iron supplement engineered such that iron should be bioavailable to hosts but not Salmonella (via a protected and controlled release in the intestinal tract). Our project combines both in vitro and in vivo assays with high throughput experimental evolution, mathematical modeling, whole-genome sequencing, and functional genetic analysis of potential targets of selection. Together, these results will deliver new drug targets and validated screens for practical, economical, and scalable management options to improve food safety and security.

Veterinary specialists appropriate as fellows for your research opportunity:

• Microbiology

• Epidemiology

• Avian Medicine

• Nutrition

Additional Training Opportunities:

The Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides an ideal environment for this project. PBS is a highly interactive group of scientists with notable strengths in mathematical biology, immunology, and antibiotic resistance. The department hosts invited speakers in a weekly seminar series that provides opportunities for graduate students and postdocs to present and get feedback on their research. The mentee will also receive one on one training from the mentor team in preparing and applying for external funding (e.g., K-award). There is additional grant writing training offered through multiple centers here at UW-Madison. We will also support the mentee to present their research at two out of state conferences per year, including one international conference.

Particularly relevant to the research proposed here is Wisconsin Drug Discovery and Development Center, a multidisciplinary group of investigators focused on identifying mechanisms of drug resistance and understanding how pathogens evade the immune system. The group hosts a seminar series that provides the mentee with a local outlet for presenting and getting feedback on his research and keeping current with the latest research in the field. Additionally, there is a strong group of postdoctoral researchers in the School of Pathobiological Sciences and across UW-Madison’s campus. UW-Madison’s has a significant commitment to providing resources and training for postdocs through the Office of Postdoctoral Studies (OPS). In addition to hosting grant writing seminars, OPS hosts workshops on a wide range of professional development topics, including CV/cover letter writing, mentoring, networking, and building a teaching portfolio.