New faculty profile: Laura Hernandez

Laura Hernandez joined the faculty in the Department of Dairy Science as an assistant professor last summer.

Tell us about your career path.
I received my PhD from the University of Arizona in 2008 under the direction of Bob Collier in the area of lactation physiology. I then spent three years as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Cincinnati in the College of Medicine with Nelson Horseman, the scientist who initially discovered serotonin was synthesized in the mammary gland. The underlying theme of my research area has been the role of serotonin synthesized in the mammary gland and how it affects mammary gland development and lactation physiology. I have been involved in this novel area of research from the beginning, and it is the basis of my research program here at Wisconsin. I currently have one patent related to using serotonergic agents to modify mammary gland involution and milk production and currently have a second patent under review regarding the use of serotonin to induce calcium mobilization during the early postpartum period to prevent onset of milk fever in dairy cattle.

What is the main focus of your research program?
My research program is focused on manipulating the serotonergic system in the mammary gland during the transition period of dairy cattle in order to improve their health status during this time frame, as this is the time at which dairy cows are particularly susceptible to wide range of health disorders.

What drew you to UW-Madison?
The dairy science department at the University of Wisconsin is world-renowned, and to be the lactation biologist in this department is a highly coveted position by individuals who perform research in this area. Plus, Wisconsin is the dairy state, and to be at a university where dairy research is highly backed by the stakeholders is a great position to be in.