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Washington State University Factsheets

Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Sciences

Faculty working with Students: 13
Students: 31
Students receiving assistantships or scholarships: 93.55%
Priority deadline:
  • Fall January 10
  • Spring July 1
  • Pullman: Yes
Tests required:
  • 1000 GRE (Combined) Minimum score
  • 550 TOEFL Minimum score
  • 80 TOEFLI Minimum score
  • GRE is optional

Degree Description:

Animal Sciences offers graduate work leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree with a major in animal science. Programs are flexible and designed to meet the needs and interests of the student and, as such, specific degree requirements are determined through individual consultation with an advisor and a special committee. The department maintains herds of dairy cattle, beef cattle, and swine for research and teaching purposes.

Admission Requirements:

Students considering graduate study in the Department of Animal Sciences should major in animal science, biology, genetics, zoology, or closely related fields.

Student Learning Outcomes:

All graduates will be able to:

  1.  Thorough command of knowledge and understanding in an area of emphasis offered by the faculty in the Department of Animal Science.
  2.  An ability to apply the scientific method and critical scientific thought in the application of a hypothesis formation, and the design and execution of experiments.
  3.  Competency in collection, analyses, and reporting of data.
  4.  Apply ethical practice in data collection, analyses, and reporting and an awareness of multiple responsibilities and the impact of their professional conduct.
  5.  Competency in oral communication and scholarly writing in the form of a doctoral dissertation and peer reviewed scientific publications.
  6.  An ability to recognize and appreciate the multifaceted and dynamic relationship between science and society in a diverse world.

Student Opportunities:

Graduates from our program are employed in a wide range of careers from applied animal production to teaching and research of molecular mechanisms in domestic and companion animals, as well as humans. Graduate students acquire cutting-edge knowledge and techniques in disciplines that are vital to the improvement of quality of life for animals and humans.

Examples of ongoing fundamental research include: the use of mammalian comparative and functional genomics in the search for genes of economic significance including identification of genes involved in disease resistance as well as production traits; understanding molecular events coordinating the physiology of uterine and testis biology using the mouse and domestic ruminants as model organisms; understanding and enhancing skeletal and cardiac muscle growth and development with stem cell and gene therapy approaches; developing deterministic models to evaluate the environmental impact of dairy and beef production systems; and examination of the bovine genome to examine the genetic x nutrition interactions associated with feed efficiency in beef cattle.

Examples of important applied research include minimizing the impact of animals on the environment; altering animal nutrition to enhance meat quality; and strategies to understand and enhance animal behavior and well-being.

The department’s dairy, feedlot, beef cow-calf unit, feed mill, research laboratories, experimental animal building, and meats laboratory provide the foundation for the department’s bench-to-application approach.

Industry internships
NSF IGERT Program: NSPIRE: Nitrogen Systems Policy-oriented Integrated Research and Education

Career Opportunities:

University faculty,
National agricultural laboratories,
Postdoctoral positions in prestigious laboratories,
Management, allied and agricultural industries ,
Extension and technical positions,
Teaching positions.

Career Placements:

Research scientist, Agricultural Research Service, Miles City, MT;
Research scientist, USDA Human Nutrition Lab, Grand Forks, ND;
Faculty Montana State University, Bozeman, MT;
Postdoctoral fellow, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia;
Postdoctoral fellow, EMBRAPA , Concordia, SC, Brazil;
International consulting Worldwide Genetic Resources;
Technical specialist at Elanco;
Research Scientist at Alltech Inc;
International and Biotechnology Postdoctoral fellows;
Teaching positions at 4-yr colleges and universities;
Animal behavior scientist at Nestle Purina;

Faculty Members:

Du, Min, Ph.D.

Location: WSU Pullman

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Our research is focused on the development of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Specifically, we are interested in exploring epigenetic mechanisms regulating the differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into myocytes and adipocytes. Our studies have applications to both animal agriculture and human health.

Harrison, Joseph Heywood, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Feed management and manure management practices that affect whole farm nutrient management, profitability, and environmental impact. Nutrients of interest are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Studies include the integration of feeding, crop management, manure management, and modeling. Additional projects focus on the fate and transport of pathogens in manure to the environment.

Hayashi, Kanako

Serves as: chair of graduate committee

Research Interests

The primary goal of my current research is to discover and understand the cellular, molecular and epigenetic mechanisms of gynecological diseases and reproductive functions influenced by environmental toxicants, as well as to develop novel therapeutic strategies that are more effective than those currently employed by the medical community.

Jiang, Zhihua, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests


Johnson, Kristen Ann, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

RUMINANT NUTRITION/BEEF CATTLE ENERGETICS. The focus of our research is to examine the use of dietary energy in the beef animal. This includes examination of the variation in maintenance energy expenditures and losses due to the fermentation occurring in the rumen. With up to 70% of total herd metabolizable energy intake going to maintenance functions, it is important to understand and examine the constituents of maintenance on a whole animal and cellular level and the relationship of these metabolic costs to animal productivity. Selection of adaptable cattle will reduce the cost of production. Current projects include an examination of energy expenditure at the whole animal, mitochondrial and gene level.
RUMINANTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES. Environmental issues are of increasing concern to the cattle industry. Our goal is to generate scientifically based information about air quality and ruminant production. Recent projects include the development of a measurement-based methane inventory and efforts to find economically sound mitigation options for cattle producers.

Law, Nate

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

DEVELOPMENTAL STEM CELL BIOLOGY AND REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY. Our research focuses on the development, function, and fate of tissue-specific stem cells. Specifically, we are interested in stem cells within the male germline that ultimately contribute genetic and epigenetic information to the next generation. Our goal is to understand the mechanisms driving specification and formation of germline stem cells, population dynamics of the stem cell pool, and the factors that control fate determination and stem cell maintenance. Using a variety of cutting-edge technologies, including single-cell RNA-sequencing, high-resolution microscopy, and CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing as well as molecular and transgenic approaches, we hope to identify the underlying etiologies of male-factor infertility and understand the broader influence of germline fate decisions on overall inheritance among humans and livestock.

Llewellyn, Donald A, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Effective nutritional management of beef cattle to enhance low-quality forage utilization and performance, and reduce reproductive failure. Management strategies to reduce beef cattle production costs, including alternative forages and protein supplements. Validating effective approaches to measure forage quality and forage quality effects on feeding programs. Developing Extension programming geared toward reducing the incidence of Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) in cow/calf operations.

Maquivar, Martin, DVM, PhD

Serves as: co-chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

•Development, implementation and optimization of practical programs for synchronization of estrus, follicular development and estrus detection in beef cattle.
•Understanding the nutritional and endocrinological mechanisms that drive the sexual maturation and the onset of puberty in males and females.
•Development of a non-antimicrobial therapies to alleviate clinical metritis and endometritis and improve reproductive performance in dairy cattle.

Marcondes, Marcos

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

DAIRY CATTLE MANAGEMENT AND NUTRITION. The overall focus of our research is feed evaluation, management strategies, nutrient requirements, and economics of dairy operations. Our research interest also includes the use of alternative feedstuffs to cattle, supplementation of replacement heifers on pasture and feedlots, and calf nutrition and development. My research program uses an integrated approach by collaborating dairy cattle nutrition, reproduction and behavior

Neibergs, Holly Louise, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

My research interests are focused on identifying loci associated with complex traits to better understand the physiology of the trait and to utilize the variants for genomic selection. Current studies are aimed at investigating loci associated with heifer and cow conception rate, feed efficiency and susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease.

Phelps, Michael

Serves as: chair or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

My research is broadly focused on understanding how genetic changes alter physiological function in aquatic animals, using trout and salmon (salmonids) as our primary model system. The laboratory has a special interest in skeletal muscle growth physiology. In addition to our physiology work, the laboratory also develops CRISPR genome-editing and other biotechnology tools to improve salmonid conservation and aquaculture.

Progar, Amber Adams, PhD

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Dairy Cattle Behavior and Welfare. My lab studies behavioral and physiological indicators of stress in dairy cattle to improve on-farm management practices. Our goal is to develop a better understanding of how production practices affect dairy cattle welfare and determine best management practices that promote better health, well-being, and performance in dairy cattle.
Specific Research Areas:

Identify reliable measurements of stress in cattle by integrating behavioral and endocrinal stress responses
Evaluate how technological advances in dairy management impact cattle behavior and well-being
Determine how to manage environmental stressors that negatively affect dairy calf health, well-being, and performance

Pru, James K, Ph.D.

Serves as: chair, co-chair, or member of graduate committee

Research Interests

Maternal embryonic interactions and endometrial regeneration.

Contact Information:

Holly Neibergs, PhD
PO Box 64-6351
ASLB 210
Pullman, WA 99164-6351