John F. Kurtz

Hometown: Lakeville, MN (currently live in Oakdale, MN)

Degree pursuing: MS in Nutrition with Biochemistry Focus

Adviser: Dr. Chi Chen


Research focus

A Metabolic Investigation into Differences Associated with Genetic Selection in Contemporary Holstein Dairy Cows:

Dairy cow genetic selection has primarily focused on improving milk yield traits in the last half-century.  In 1964, a genetic selection project for improving milk yield of dairy cattle and to understand the selection-induced responses was conducted at the University of Minnesota.  This artificial selection process generated a line of high-merit contemporary Holstein (CH), while maintaining the original low-merit unselected Holstein (UH) cows in an attempt to monitor trait differences.  Since this original CH line, subsequent selection has been conducted in the attempt to improve milk yield continuously.  In addition to better milk production, CH cows have a larger body size, higher quality body shape, and an upgraded udder conformation relative to the UH subgroup.  However, contemporary Holstein cows are a greater financial burden, particularly in regards to health care cost largely due to mastitis treatments and appear to suffer more from the negative energy balance that comes along with lactation.  Genetic and hormonal differences between these to genetic lines of dairy cows have been well established in multiple studies, showing the contrast between specific alleles as well as showing within CH lines, an increase of hormones like somatotropin and insulin-like growth factor. Nonetheless, metabolic differences between CH and UH cows is not fully understood.  Identifying variation in metabolomes could help us understand not only milk production and phenotypic differences but also health disparities between these two cow lines.  Currently, I am conducting a metabolic investigation using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry by untargeted and targeted approaches to analyze serum and liver samples of UH and CH cows to access the differences in metabolomes between these to dairy lines. 

How did you become interested in nutrition?

I was picked on as a child for being overweight so I started eating better and working out. This is what sparked my interest.

Why did you choose the University of Minnesota?

I was born on the West Bank when my father was a graduate student and he was a gopher through and through. His love for the Gophers rubbed off on me through epigenetics and genetics, so I was meant to be a gopher. 

How does your research tie into the research being done in your adviser's lab?

It’s an investigation of the metabolic consequences related to genetic selection of Holstein cows, which is what we look at in our lab. 

Future plans

To hopefully gain employment in a research facility that utilizes liquid chromatography and/or mass spectrometry to analyze chemical compounds, specifically, metabolites.