Graduate Ag Research Spotlight:
“Purdue has a very friendly environment and a great diversity of students and faculty. The overall positive environment has enhanced my assimilation into the culture.” –Hui Yan
Hui Yan’s academic career has been driven by his lifelong love of animals of all kinds. His passion for them led him from his home in Lanzhou, the largest city and capital of Gansu province, to China Agricultural University Beijing, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Animal Sciences. He knew of Purdue’s reputation in the field from academic rankings and friends who had participated in student exchanges with the university. “I wanted to broaden my vision in the area of the animal sciences and get properly equipped with world-class skills for a future career in this area,” he explains. Yan joined the laboratory of Dr. Kola Ajuwon, associate professor of Animal Sciences, in fall 2011.
The Ajuwon lab focuses on the biology of adipose tissue development with emphasis on obesity, a major disease problem in the United States, and optimization of efficiency of animal growth. Yan hopes his research will add to understanding of the molecular mechanism of nutrient utilization. He is investigating the mechanism of dietary fiber in mitigating obesity development and applying this work to study the role of fiber in optimizing metabolism and growth in animals. He finds the work fascinating: “For me, living beings are very mysterious,” he says. “I chose obesity because of its impact on our quality of life. I want to help solve this problem so we can live healthier lives.”
A NEWER APPROACH
Using a relatively new approach to solve an old problem, Yan is conducting his studies using pigs. Most similar studies use rodents, but the rodent gut and nutrition is vastly different from that of humans. “The pig in its nutritional requirements and physiology is much more similar to humans; it is a very good model,” he says, and believes his work will produce results more relevant to human health than similar studies done in rodents.
SEIZING THE DAY
The College of Agriculture offers unparalleled opportunities, Yan says. He particularly appreciates having a hard-working advisor as a role model; a chance to conduct research across departments; acquiring new mentoring skills by working with undergraduates and newer graduate students in the lab; presenting his results on campus and at national conferences; and especially having a cadre of friends who enjoy basketball, cooking, poker and karaoke. As far as he’s concerned, he says, “Purdue is the perfect place to be.”
Yan is in the third year of his doctoral studies, and anticipates remaining at Purdue for another two years. “I’m not in a big hurry,” he explains. “I still have a lot to learn. I want to make great progress in this field of research.”