Interview with an Animal Scientist

Answering Research Questions

By Shelby Wells

We had the opportunity to interview an Animal Scientist, Dr. Katie Schoenberg. She has extensive knowledge and experience answering a variety of research questions.

During her interview, she reflected upon her various past projects. One of her favorite research projects examined the levels of glucose and insulin signaling in calving dairy cows. They chose this research question because changes in insulin and glucose decrease the overall health and production of the cows. In turn, this influences the economics of the farmer because when a cow gets sick, it requires expensive treatment, and the overall mild yield decreases.

The first step in creating a research question is identifying “why should we study this?” Dr. Schoenberg and her fellows identified their research question because the answer could help farmers regulate the health of their cows, and financially they would prosper.

Something that is often understated is the planning and thought that goes into crafting an experiment. In this case, the scientists were researching a new question and their first step was to discuss and compare different methods to uncover the data.

In other words, since chemical signals and processes are complex, the researchers’ first question was “How are we going to measure and distinguish between these signals?” This is an integral part of the scientific method as a well-thought-out experiment and procedure can make the difference between usable and unusable data, which can impact the integrity of the study. It is important to design an experiment that leads to the most accurate results possible.

Dr. Schoenberg said that very early in the program they bounced questions off one another like: “What tests should we do? What endpoints should we be looking at?”

After much discussion, the scientists compared two different methods for collecting data in the form of a glucose tolerance test and an insulin clamp. These devices measure levels of glucose and insulin in cows and can help inform scientists of the chemical reactions occurring. Dr. Schoenberg admits that “one of my favorite parts of the research was how are we going to do the research?”

As always you can explore our YouTube channel to view the full videos, and, of course, some of these professionals will return in our Ag Science Cafe meetings.

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