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Hunter Perez
September 6, 2023

Research and Teaching Roles Positioned Animal Science Major for Graduate Assistantship

After transferring to Berry, Hunter Perez ’23 took advantage of Berry opportunities, digging deeply into animal science research while serving as a campus leader. Currently pursuing a master’s degree in animal and dairy science at the University of Georgia, he anticipates earning a Ph.D. and teaching.

As a graduate research assistant, he continues to build on knowledge acquired at Berry where ruminant livestock intrigued him. Ruminants are hoofed mammals, such as sheep and cattle, that have a unique digestive system (including a four-chambered stomach).

“My research interests lie in the field of rumen microbiology, specifically the rumen microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms that live in the rumen [the first compartment of the stomach],” Perez notes. “By understanding how the microbiome is affected by diet and environmental factors, we can improve animal production efficiency and sustainability. Therefore, our lab is focused on unraveling the microbial ecology of the gut in food animals and understanding how this can affect foodborne pathogenic bacterial populations.”

While at Berry, he received a Richards Undergraduate Research Support (RUGS) grant under the mentorship of Amy Abrams, assistant professor of animal science. The grant allowed Perez to lead a research project alongside Abrams, which paralleled his role as head research assistant supervising student workers in the department.

“We analyzed how high and low parasitic infections can affect the colostrum of ewes and how that colostrum affects the microbial development of the rumen,” Perez says. Colostrum is the “first milk” produced by ewes after lambing, containing a high level of nutrients essential for lamb health as well as a high concentration of antibodies that protect against infectious agents.


He was also offered a position as a teaching assistant for Abrams’ veterinary microbiology course. Having taken the class, Perez knew how to leverage his academic and research experiences to best support his fellow students. “This course gave me the chance to test my teaching skills and help me develop them, as I want to be a professor someday,” he adds.

“There was nothing better than learning about animal anatomy and then being able to go to the barn and put our education into action.”

Working as a shift leader at the college dairy rounded out his training. “There was nothing better than learning about animal anatomy and then being able to go to the barn and put our education into action,” he says.

Though busy at the barn and in the lab, Perez made the most of his time at Berry by engaging with the tight-knit community. He remembers the joy of serving as the student director of orientation: “I truly enjoyed being able to welcome the incoming students home. Berry was my home for the past couple years, and I loved nothing more than being able to share my excitement and happiness that they were about to experience.”

Story by junior Zach Pishock

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