UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Bora Nam

Bora Nam began riding horses at age 10 and competed in dressage and show jumping in South Korea.

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Name: Bora Nam
From: Bun-dang, Republic of South Korea
Degree and institute where received: BS in equine science and management with a minor in agricultural economics, University of Kentucky

Horses have been in Bora Nam’s blood since she was young. She began riding horses at age 10 and competed in dressage and show jumping in South Korea.

“I was fortunate to receive my dressage training with the Samsung Equestrian Team and my training in show jumping at Colleen Brook’s farm in Australia,” Nam said.

And in 2006, her first year in the United States as a high school exchange student, she watched the Kentucky Derby on television. She chose Barbaro to win and he did.

It was this equestrian background that sparked her desire to pursue a career in the horse industry.

“As soon as I heard the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games were to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park, I decided that I would apply to the University of Kentucky to further my education,” Nam said. “The equine programs at UK were very impressive. They helped to open my eyes and mind to gain an overall appreciation of the equine industry, both from a scientific and business viewpoint.”

As an undergraduate, Nam said she was fortunate to obtain a position at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center during her freshman year.

“While initially working in the virology laboratory of Dr. Udeni Balasuriya (BVSc, MS, PhD), professor of virology at the Gluck Equine Research Center, as an undergraduate research assistant, and later a senior laboratory technician, I became increasingly interested in research in specific equine viral diseases and the opportunity this provided to contribute to promoting equine health and well-being,” Nam said.

Her current research project is focused on equine arteritis virus (EAV) evolution during persistent infection of stallions’ reproductive tracts. The virus is behind equine viral arteritis (EVA), an economically important disease which can result in abortion in pregnant mares, fatal illness and death in neonatal foals, and carrier state establishment in 10% to 70% of affected stallions.

Nam's equestrian background sparked her desire to pursue a career in the horse industry.

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

As part of Nam’s research, she and colleagues established a model to study intrahost EAV evolution in seven persistently infected stallions. They monitored the stallions for about two years and collected samples from each stallion at monthly intervals for each stallion and sequencing the full-length genome of 53 isolates of EAV. Then, they carried out further technical analyses to study the EAV isolates’ evolution and quasispecies (a cluster of variant viruses that arise from mutations over time within a viral isolate) nature. Aside from evaluating the genetic relationship of the isolates over time, the researchers carried out phenotypic analysis to determine the effects of viral evolution on antigenic divergency among the viruses.

Asked what her biggest takeaway has been from the program so far, Nam said said, “It has helped me realize the importance of building a strong scientific background through enrolling in hard science courses. The knowledge I have gained has helped me improve my understanding and hone my critical thinking skills relative to my research. Research has taught me the value of collaboration when striving to accomplish a higher goal.”

Nam is currently completing her master’s thesis project in veterinary science with a focus on virology at the Gluck Center.

“I very much appreciate the support, encouragement, and guidance from my professor and colleagues in the laboratory,” Nam said. “The most valuable lessons I learned were to be patient, never give up, process step by step toward attaining a goal, and, above all, how to work with people.”

Nam plans to graduate in August and hopes to take advantage of her combined background in equine management and veterinary science to apply the scientific knowledge she has gained to the equine industry. She hopes to work for a veterinary biological or pharmaceutical company that seeks to promote equine health and welfare.

Nam said she also looks forward to interacting with people and helping them address their needs. She hopes to serve as a bridge between the United States and Asian countries in helping to promote equine business in both parts of the world.

Alexandra Harper, MBA, is the operations and communications coordinator for the UK Ag Equine Programs.

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