Meet Alexandra Chaytor
The first-place award in Agricultural Sciences at this year’s Graduate Student Research Symposium went to Alexandra Chaytor for her study, “Effects of chronic exposure of low levels of aflatoxin and deoxynivalenol on growth and immune status of pigs.”
Originally from Stonington, ME, Chaytor moved to Burlington, NC, to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2008 from Elon University. By the time she was a junior, she knew that she wanted an advanced degree in the biological and agricultural sciences. Since she was particularly interested in animal nutrition, NC State was the perfect fit for her. She is currently earning her Master’s in Animal Science with Dr. Sung Woo Kim as her advisor and plans to graduate in August 2010.
Chaytor’s graduate research has expanded her knowledge of animal health and the animal industries, specifically in the area of swine health and mycotoxins. The study focuses on aflatoxin (AF) and deoxynivalenol (DON) because they are so prevalent throughout the world on grains such as corn, wheat, and barley. Swine are the most sensitive species to both of these mycotoxins. “This fact is very important for North Carolina, which is the second largest hog producing state in the US. When pigs ingest these mycotoxins, they can have reduced growth, organ damage, and suppression of the immune system. Together, these effects can result in significant economic losses for swine producers.”
She states that her research is unique in the field “. . . in that there are few studies which look at low levels of aflatoxin and deoxynivalenol, and even fewer that look at these two mycotoxins together.” Chaytor believes that studying these low concentrations together is important because not only are they commonly found on cereal grains in the United States, but multi-contamination of mycotoxins when more than one grain source is mixed together can also be common. “Our diets that we fed to pigs are representative of the contamination which pigs in farm or industry settings may be subject to on a daily basis.”
Although Chaytor has previously made PowerPoint presentations for conferences, she was confronted with a different challenge with the symposium poster -- limited space. She says that her method was to choose the right wording and to organize it in order to convey information while not taking up much space. She also found that having various ways to present information was also important, so she included not only narrative, but tables, graphs, and pictures as well.
During her time off, Chaytor enjoys spending time with her horse, Girlfriend. They ride for fun, and especially enjoy going along the American Tobacco Trail in Apex. Chaytor also enjoys quilting.
Chaytor advises her fellow graduate students to bring enjoyment to their research and says that research can be exciting. “It is important to have fun and remember that your research is important.”
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