Graduate Ag Research Spotlight:
“At the research farm, I’m in coveralls and boots, super dirty and smelly. In the lab, I look like a scientist in a lab coat. Those are the two sides of being an animal researcher.” —Ayodeji Aderibigbe, PhD student, Department of Animal Sciences
In his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, Ayodeji “Ayo” Aderibigbe was interested in science from a young age. He credits his academic focus to his parents, a medical doctor and nurse. “I always wanted to do research that benefits the world, my neighbors and my country,” Aderibigbe says. “In Nigeria and many parts of the developing world, one of the main problems is food security. That drove my interest in increasing the food supply and led me to agriculture.” In his home country, he earned a BS at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) and an MS at the University of Ilorin, both in animal sciences. At a conference during his last year of undergraduate study, Aderibigbe met Layi Adeola, Purdue professor of animal sciences. “I saw the dedication and passion he has toward his research in poultry and swine nutrition, and I always wanted to work in an environment like that,” Aderibigbe says. “I walked up to him and said I’d like to do my PhD with him. He gave me his card. Five years later, I’m here with him.” Aderibigbe joined the Adeola lab in January 2017.
“Poultry and swine represent the major proportion of the world’s livestock industry,” Aderibigbe notes. “One of the largest costs of production — about 70 percent — is feed.” His research focuses on enzymes that are added to feed to improve the digestibility of food and the animal’s ability to take in nutrients. “My research evaluates the efficiency of these exogenous enzymes in poultry and swine nutrition to improve performance through improvement in nutrient utilization and reduction in nutrient excretion," he explains. “This helps to improve the quality of the feedstuffs and the overall long-term health of the herd.” Aderibigbe calls his dual goals of optimizing animal overall performance and improving profit margins for producers a win-win. “The animal trials are the most interesting part of my research,” he says. “Then going back to the lab, spending hours and hours doing the analyses — I like them both for different reasons.”
In part because Adeola is also from Nigeria, Aderibigbe has come to regard him not just as an academic mentor, but also as a father figure who helped him acclimate to life in the U.S. Aderibigbe also values the many conferences he has been able to attend as a doctoral student, as well as industry tours around the Midwest that allowed him to network with industry executives.
After completing his degree next year, Aderibigbe looks forward to a position in research and development in industry or a postdoc that might lead him to an academic position. “In every generation, there are new discoveries that shift the trajectory of the industry,” he says. “That motivates me to work hard, and to be among a group of people who are dedicated to improving global food security. I want to be a problem solver, not just a solution announcer.” Outside of the farm and lab, Aderibigbe enjoys spending time with his wife Susan and their 18-month-old daughter, Tiara. He also enjoys listening to instrumental music, and playing guitar and drums in church.