May 02, 2008

Student wins honor in international contest

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Metro East senior majoring in animal science and zoology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale has taken second place in an international contest aimed at fostering young scientists.

Jamie M. Douglas of Cottage Hills will receive $1,000 from Alltech, a global corporation specializing in animal and human nutrition, for her paper on the ill effects of fescue poisoning on beef cattle reproduction.

The competition drew more than 700 students from some 80 universities around the world. Judges considered clarity, validity, originality, scientific thought and understanding, significance and thoroughness in selecting the winners.

Douglas' paper grew out of her experience as an undergraduate research assistant for SIUC animal scientist Karen L. Jones. Jones has spent much of her career at SIUC studying the effects of a fungus, common in fescue pastures, on the reproductive health of both cows and bulls.

Douglas began her research assignment by looking for all the scientific publications she could find detailing the bodily processes affected by fescue poisoning, the symptoms it causes and research aimed at understanding or treating the disease.

When she heard about the Alltech competition, she decided to turn her findings into a contest entry.

"By bringing it together in one place, readers will have a more thorough grasp of the condition without having to read through 52 different papers (or more) - they can just read one," Douglas said.

Because her contest entry did not include details of the experimental work she has done with Jones, Douglas did not expect to win.

"I didn't see it coming, but it made me feel pretty good," she said.

Douglas, who plans to continue her study of fescue toxicosis as an SIUC graduate student next year, said she will use the money for research-related projects or for travel to conferences dealing with fescue toxicosis.