Using genetics to improve reproductive performance and response to disease is a vital component of the future of the pork industry, and new Iowa State University animal scientist Nick Serão said he hopes his research will help with both areas. Serão began his position as assistant professor in swine genetics in March and has been developing his research team and program.
"Iowa State University is well-known for Animal Science and Animal Breeding & Genetics education, extension, and research and the state of Iowa is the most important place to do work in swine," he said. "I wanted to take my research program to a place where I know that we (my research group) are positively impacting the swine industry. Thus, being able to be part of all of this is a unique opportunity."
Serão brings several years of research and teaching experience in animal breeding and genetics, as well as collaborative ventures in areas such as nutrition, meat quality and reproduction. He’s originally from Brazil where he earned both his B.S. in animal science and M.S. in breeding and genetics from the Federal University of Vicosa (UFV) and worked on several swine research projects. He obtained his Ph.D. in animal genomics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and came to Iowa State for the first time in 2013 as a postdoctoral researcher working on disease response and feed efficiency in pigs, under Dr. Jack Dekkers. In August 2015, he became a faculty member at North Carolina State University until returning to Iowa State this past March.
"Although I’m more of a quantitative geneticist, I’m also interested in incorporating biological aspects into my primary research focus, and my goal is to help the industry improve reproductive efficiency through genetics," he said. "However, this is complicated because these traits are usually lowly heritable. So, I look for new traits that are more heritable with a biologic relationship, so we can increase sow performance much quicker."
Serão said he hopes and expects to be able to introduce new traits that are heritable, easy to measure and economically important, into selection indices, with the objective of improving genetic response for reproductive performance in sows and boars.
"A good component of my past, current, and future research is on response to diseases, especially on PRRS. Thus, I hope my work can impact the swine industry to show that selection for improved response to diseases can be a reality," he said.
In addition to research, Serão will teach animal breeding and genetics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and will continue to promote the field of research to his students. He looks forward to sharing his research program and results with academic colleagues, students, the swine industry and producers.
July 12, 2017 - Iowa State University