Skip to Main Content

Esther Oluwagbenga - Graduate Ag Research Spotlight

It’s just mind-blowing to see how much one can grow in a short time with the right resources and people around you.

- Esther Oluwagbenga, PhD student, Department of Animal Sciences

The studentesther-oluwagbenga-02.jpg

Esther Oluwagbenga’s home region, Ondo State in southwestern Nigeria, is known for its cocoa crops, mountains and scenic landscapes. Although she grew up in the city of Akure, Oluwagbenga says being surrounded by agriculture fostered her love of science: “I always had this interest in the biology of how bodies function in animals as well as humans.” After earning a bachelor’s degree in animal production and health at the Federal University of Technology Akure, she completed her additional year of compulsory youth service as a graduate assistant at Kwara State University Nigeria, which involved research, teaching and mentoring undergraduates. In searching for a graduate program, “I wanted to do more cutting-edge research, and exposure to different backgrounds and fields,” she says. “I read amazing stuff about Purdue.” Noting that his research interests aligned with her own, she emailed Greg Fraley, Terry and Sandra Tucker Endowed Chair of Poultry Science, and “was just amazed how fast he responded.” She made her first-ever trip to the U.S. to begin a master’s program in Fraley’s lab in May 2021. She defended her thesis in April 2023 and started her PhD in May with Fraley as her advisor. “I love the positive work environment and the research,” she says. “I knew I had to continue this.”

THE RESEARCH

Oluwagbenga’s PhD research focuses on the effect of parent heat stress on the phenotypic alteration of the offspring. It builds on her master’s-level work with breeder Pekin ducks, as she looks for epigenetics modifications in the F0, F1, and F2 generations of ducks exposed to heat stress. “The interesting part is the how maternal environment during pregnancy in mammals or egg formation in poultry can modify gene expression in the offspring with long term effect on the physiology, immunity and behavior,” she says. “A genetic approach has great potential to provide a long-term solution to the effect of climate change on animal production.” Insights into the mechanism of heat stress effect across generations will provide valuable information for improving on-farm management practices, she adds. Identifying biomarkers for higher stress tolerance also may be incorporated into breeding programs to select animals with higher thermotolerance without compromising growth performance and welfare.

opportunities

Oluwagbenga credits Fraley for inclusiveness in his lab, his effort in making her an independent researcher, and facilitating her collaboration with people in the field and industry. She received a 2023 Louja Graduate Travel Award to present at a conference and her department’s 2023 Outstanding M.S. and Early Graduate Career Awards — a feat this introvert says she once couldn’t imagine. “It’s amazing to see how far I‘ve grown as a result of my constant practice, even if it’s out of my comfort zone,” she says. Her research has led to four published articles so far.

future plansesther-oluwagbenga-01.jpg

While still early in her PhD program, Oluwagbenga is looking ahead to a postdoctoral position and future in academic research. Outside of the farm and lab, Oluwagbenga enjoys spending time with her husband, whom she married a month before coming to Purdue. “He is here now, and we’re doing life together,” she says. The couple enjoys trying new food and cooking Nigerian recipes, and “I love making pastries and Nigerian cuisines,” she adds.

Featured Stories

Purdue College of Agriculture.
New "Legendary Leaders" Award Celebrates Study Abroad Leaders

Inaugurating a new College of Agriculture tradition, faculty and staff recently gathered to...

Read More
Mature open oak woodland with a diverse understory after implementing a shelterwood harvest and prescribed fire as stewardship practices.
Publication Teaches Landowners How to Support Oak-Hickory Ecosystems

Oak-hickory forests, which are comprised of a variety of different tree species, shrubs, grasses,...

Read More
A picture of the dairy judging team with their awards. Pictured from left to right are Emma Townsend, Evan Coblentz, Jackie Mudd, and Alaina Weaver.
Purdue Dairy Judging Team garners success at recent contest

The Purdue Dairy Judging Team competed in the Western National Collegiate Dairy Judging Contest....

Read More
Professor works in lab at Purdue
Purdue-led fishing expedition nets new pupfish family member in New Mexico

Scientists have identified a new member on the genetic family tree of an endangered pupfish...

Read More
pots of spruce and other native trees sit in the bed of a wooden trailer behind the Grounds Department Truck
Thousands of trees, hundreds of volunteers, five years and one giant leap for the Purdue Arboretum

The clayey Indiana soil, still saturated from the last spring shower, squishes under shovels. The...

Read More
Alex Dudley holds a black vulture; Alex is pictured through a hole in a rock formation; Alex holds her camera in front of a forested mountain landscape.
Meet FNR Outstanding Senior Alex Dudley

From her research on black vulture ecology in the Zollner lab and on digital forestry under Dr....

Read More
To Top