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Vitor Santos Haetinger - Graduate Ag Research Spotlight

From my research, we can formulate diets in the future based on digestible phosphorus to help improve the feed efficiency and mitigate excretion of nutrients, which will improve the sustainability of animal production.

- Vitor Santos Haetinger, PhD student, Department of Animal Sciences

The studentVitor Santos Haetinger

Vitor Santos Haetinger was 8 years old when his father, a farmer, and his mother, a teacher, enrolled him in English classes in their small Brazilian city of Cachoeira do Sul. When Haetinger’s opportunity to study in the United States came more than a decade later, he appreciated their foresight. He became interested in poultry nutrition as an undergraduate in animal sciences at the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil. Through a connection one of his professors had with Purdue, he spent the final four months of his bachelor’s program as a visiting scholar with Layi Adeola, professor of animal science. Haetinger returned to Purdue in fall 2021 to pursue a master’s degree under Adeola’s advisorship, which he completed last summer. “Dr. Adeola is renowned in our field of monogastric nutrition,” Haetinger says. “And I love it here. They have outstanding facilities, and the people are really great.” He especially likes the diversity in Adeola’s lab. “My advisor is from Nigeria and has students from Nigeria, the U.S., China and Korea, so I got to know not only American but also African and Asian cultures,” he says. Adeola, he adds, always encourages his students to be curious and proactive, which helps to bring out the best in them.

The research

Haetinger’s research focuses on improving the efficiency of dietary phosphorus utilization in the nutrition of meat chickens, including factors that affect phosphorus digestibility and enzymes that help improve the animal’s utilization of this nutrient. The plant-based ingredients in chicken diets have most of their phosphorus in the form of phytate. “But it’s not very available to animals because they can’t digest that very well,” he explains. “To meet their requirements for available phosphorus, normally you have to add inorganic sources of phosphorus to the diet. If we can improve that utilization of the phytate portion, we can increase the efficiency of phosphorus in the diet.” This has potential to lower feed costs, mitigate feed wastage, optimize growth of the animals and decrease the environmental impacts of excess phosphorus excretion, he says.

Opportunities

At Purdue, Haetinger has published three papers and presented at conferences in Philadelphia and Atlanta. Last semester he was a teaching assistant for the Animal Production class, which he credits with improving his presentation abilities. Being president of the department’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) has also improved his leadership and public speaking skills, he says, and coordinating visits to companies, and interacting with alumni and industry representatives through the GSA “has been insightful.”

Future plansVitor Santos Haetinger

After completing his PhD, Haetinger plans to pursue a career in technical or research support in animal nutrition companies. A shorter-term goal is to reunite with his girlfriend, whom he met at Purdue. “She is from the northeast corner of Brazil, and I’m from way in the south, but Purdue connected us,” he says. She remains in Brazil while awaiting her visa to return to a postdoc at Purdue. In his spare time, Haetinger enjoys playing soccer, travel, and getting together with friends to enjoy Brazilian foods and watch sports.

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