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California native finds success and comradery at WVU

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MORGANTOWN, W.VA. — A California native chose to pursue her passion at  West Virginia University  and found success — and her calling — in animal science research.

During her undergraduate years in California, Hannah Teddleton conducted research on sheep nutrition but knew it wasn’t quite what she wanted to do. 

“I loved research, but nutrition wasn’t for me,” Teddleton said. “My mentor at the time said she knew  Scott Bowdridge and connected me with him. I met with him and found his immunology research fascinating.”

After meeting Bowdridge, professor of food animal production in the  Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Teddleton decided to study immunology and parasitology. Though it was across the country, she realized WVU would be the best place for her. She said Bowdridge has been a great mentor and helped her develop her skills as a scientist. She said she is more well-rounded in her research abilities as well as her ability to speak with various audiences such as other researchers, producers and the general public. 

“Before I came here, I didn’t know anthelmintic resistance was a thing,” she said, referring to a parasite’s ability to adapt to medications meant to kill them. “I didn’t know parasites affected sheep. And now that’s two years of my life’s work.”

It was time well spent. Teddleton will graduate from the WVU Davis College this weekend with her master’s degree in animal physiology. 

Teddleton received a grant from the National Center for Veterinary Parasitology for $15,000, which covered her thesis for her degree.  Her research focused on understanding parasitic responses in different sheep breeds, primarily the Suffolk and the St. Croix. The Suffolk can easily fight off parasitic infection and the St. Croix cannot. In conducting experiments with white blood cells, Teddleton learned that the parasite can confuse the Suffolk sheep’s immune system using a specific protein. Conversely, she found that the St. Croix sheep’s immune systems are stimulated by the same protein.  This finding, she hopes, will lead to an understanding of how to prevent the Suffolk, a sheep extensively bred for meat and wool, from dying from parasitic infections.

“Research in general is difficult and challenging,” she said. “When you look at a scientific paper, you see the end result. You don’t see that it took me two years to produce six graphs. You don’t see that it took me six months to learn how to isolate a certain type of white blood cell to even do any of the experiments. Behind that paper was a lot of obstacles and a lot of learning curves.

“Being able to answer one question to provide disease resolution, that’s really what drives me. All the times in the lab when maybe my experiment failed and the white blood cells didn’t isolate, you just start over because people are relying on scientists to produce these answers.”

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While working toward her master’s degree, Teddleton worked as a teaching assistant for introductory animal science labs. After that, she became a research assistant and was involved in the  annual summer buck testand the subsequent research.

“The buck test is truly a labor of love,” she said. “My lab members made the experience so worth it. We were out there every week collecting feces for parasitic infections or deworming the goats or managing them. It was hard being out there in the humidity, but we always found the humor in it.”

Through her experiences at WVU, Teddleton forged both friendships and a path forward. She will go to the University of Tennessee where she will pursue her doctorate degree in animal science and continue her research in parasite immunology.

However excited for the next step of her education, she said she’ll miss her lab members as they are all going in different direction to pursue their respective passions. 

“It’s been such a good experience with the people I’ve spent this time with,” Teddleton added. “I have met some of the nicest professors and people I’ve ever met here.  There are so many professors I built a really good rapport with. They’re not even in my wheelhouse at all, but they are the nicest people I’ve ever met honestly. It’s that comradery here that I’ll miss the most.”

The Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design envisions a world sustainably fed, clothed and sheltered. To learn more about the Davis College, visit Keep up with the latest updates and news on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube by following @WVUDavis.



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Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design