UK Graduate Spotlight: Catherine Whitehouse, BSc (Hons)

UK Graduate Spotlight: Catherine Whitehouse, BSc (Hons)

Catherine Whitehouse, BSc (Hons), and her four research horses.

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

Catherine Whitehouse

Catherine Whitehouse and her four research horses.

Name: Catherine Whitehouse
From: Market Drayton, Shropshire, England
BSc (Hons) in Equine Science from University of Lincoln, received a First Class with Honors and the Dean's Award
Currently pursuing a master's in Animal Science (emphasis in Equine Nutrition)

Catherine Whitehouse is the first recipient of the Kentucky Equine Research (KER) Lawrence Fellowship within the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture. KER established this fellowship in honor of longtime employee Larry Lawrence and to fund a graduate student in a study program related to applied equine sciences. Whitehouse, also a former KER employee, anticipates graduating during the spring of 2012.

"Having the Lawrence Fellowship set up between UK and KER provided me with the opportunity to stay in Kentucky and pursue a graduate degree in my field of interest under the supervision of two inspirational mentors whom are both admired in the equine industry and within academia, Drs. Bob Coleman (PhD, of the University of Kentucky) and Joe Pagan (PhD, president of KER)," Whitehouse said. "Since moving to Kentucky two years ago for the 12-month internship at KER, I have fallen in love with the state and what the U.S. as a whole has to offer career opportunity-wise."

Whitehouse is currently conducting a digestibility trial for part of her research project, looking into associative effects on fiber digestibility when horses are provided high-starch diets.

"The techniques I'm using allow us to investigate how much information indirect methods, such as glycemic response tests and fecal pH, can tell us about the mechanisms of starch and fiber digestion occurring in the small intestines and hindgut of the horse alongside the digestibility data," she said. "My research is being conducted at KER's facility in Versailles.

"My main interests are in equine nutrition and the link with sport medicine, and I would say my discipline of focus is racehorses," she continued. "A personal goal of mine, through nutrition and sport medicine research, is to extend the longevity of horses' athletic careers (in conjunction with) new commercial products or feeding techniques and training regimes."

Whitehouse says she plans to work for KER fulltime as a researcher and technical assistant at the conclusion of her master's degree.

"This fulfills my aspiration of gaining experience in product development and balancing the research side and interacting with the feed industry and consumers," she explained. "This is why Dr. Coleman was my first choice for leading the fellowship, due to his extension role and industry experience.

"I love being surprised by the research and the feeling you get when you look over your data and realize all your hard work during the trial paid off or that you discover something completely unexpected but equally exciting and it takes you off in a new direction.

"I cannot forget to mention the amazing horses which have allowed me to conduct my research project and the many research projects at KER," she added.

If you think Whitehouse looks vaguely familiar, you might remember her as the intern on camera when the Discovery Channel featured KER on an episode of Dirty Jobs.

"I think the length of time I was on the screen was due to Mike Rowe's fascination with my accent and a chance to poke a little fun at the English," Whitehouse said. "I was nervous throughout the filming, as there are no retakes or script, just a general plan of action that was discussed at 6:30 a.m. and 'go with the flow.' However, I managed to show off my skills in digestibility data collection, and the treadmill horse went on to be a successful racehorse and has now returned to the farm to become a successful research horse."

Holly Wiemers, MS, is communications director for UK's Equine Initiative.

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