Brenda Christensen

Role: HQP Scholar

Degree: PhD

Project: Investigations on the impact of maternal and perinatal dietary supplementation with enzymatically hydrolyzed yeast cell wall on immunocompetence in piglets until market

Department: Department of Animal Biosciences (OAC)

What inspired you to pursue your current degree? 

During my undergraduate degree, I became very interested in the integration between nutrition, physiology, and metabolism and decided to pursue a research position to see what happens when you alter the intake of nutritional components on digestive physiology and immune response.

What about your research area excites you? 

The area of swine nutrition research, particularly gut physiology really excites me. This stems from my initial interest in the integration between nutrition and physiology and how the provision of different ingredients can impact digestive physiology, from histomorphology to the expression of nutrient transporters. This area is very impactful since it can be applied to other species and can be applied to industry. Problems such as maintaining growth performance and gastrointestinal integrity following weaning can be targeted in this area of research.

What challenges do you find in your research, and how do you try to overcome them? 

Although my background is in animal sciences, I enjoy running lab work and have developed new lab techniques in our research group. However, I do not have a lot of previous exposure to lab methodology, and I have had to learn as I go. This has been a challenge in my research, as I have had to troubleshoot and read through many papers to develop techniques and learn the principles behind them.

How would you describe your research and the implications of your project? 

My research is looking at using a postbiotic provided to pregnant pigs to determine if it improves the microbiota of the sow in addition to immune transfer through the colostrum to their offspring. This will aim to benefit piglets during the nursery period to assist in the removal of in-feed antibiotics and pharmacological levels of zinc oxide in the diet. Additionally, we will follow their offspring to market to determine the lasting effects of postbiotic yeast on grower/finisher performance and carcass quality.

What are three of your favourite activities outside the lab? 

Rock climbing

What is one important thing you have learned during the pandemic?

During the pandemic, I learned the importance of maintaining a work-life balance. This was particularly hard during the pandemic as I was working from home with fewer distractions and found myself working all the time and feeling burnt out. Now I have learnt that no matter how busy I am, I need to dedicate some time to focus on something else other than work. This is why I enjoy doing activities outside of school so much because while I am doing them, I am focused on just that activity and not on all the things on my to-do list.