Meet Dr. Jaswant Singh

Written by Dr. Kamilah Grant and Dr. Dawit Tesfaye (SSR Diversity Committee) in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPIH) Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPIH) month. The SSR Diversity Committee is participating in this celebration. For this, Dr. Kamilah Grant and Dr. Dawit Tesfaye (members of the SSR Diversity Committee) interviewed Dr. Jaswant Singh from the University of Saskatchewan. Enjoy the reading.

What is your current position, and what does it entail?

I am Associate Dean of Academic Excellence and Innovation in the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada. I support graduate students’ formal training and research endeavors across humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering and health sciences. I also lead my institution’s research mentorship program for early career faculty members in addition to fostering my research program in oocyte competence and ovarian function in large animals.

Can you talk a little bit about yourself, where are you from? What first attracted you to the world of science? And how did you get to be in your current position?

I am a veterinarian who graduated in 1983 from the Punjab Agricultural University in North India. After one year work in dairy sector, I joined Master’s in veterinary anatomy and then served as a faculty member from 1986 to 1992 in Punjab before joining the University of Saskatchewan for PhD (1993-97). It was very exciting and dynamic period in cow reproduction. Follicular waves have just been discovered in cattle and we were exploring underlying fundamental mechanisms of this phenomenon and designing new reproductive strategies for planned breeding in domestic animals. In 2000, I joined as an Associate Professor in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and continue to facilitate learning of first year DVM students. My graduate trainees and I are part of the One Reproductive Health Group and Biomedical Engineering Division on campus and we examine the maternal and follicular factors that influence an oocyte’s ability to develop into a blastocyst. I am passionate about mentorship in academia and transitioned into Associate Dean’s role in February 2024.

What are you most excited to do this year?

I am most excited about the commercialization of a new and simple estrogen-free ovulation synchronization protocol for beef cattle that we have developed based on our GnRH antagonists patent. We have partnered with a major veterinary biopharmaceutical company to fine-tune our clinical protocol for dairy cattle. As you may know, in spite of ban on use of estrogens in food producing animals, estradiol-based fixed-time insemination protocol continued to be used in more than 10 million cattle every year. Our new method requires only 3 animal handling and is as effective as estradiol-based procedure. We are very hopeful that this new method will become the industry standard in the coming years.

Are there ways in which you think your heritage has affected your perspective or career trajectory?

I grew up in the villages of Punjab where most homes have 2 to 3 water buffaloes or cows to provide milk to the family. Even in my fundamental work on molecular and cellular mechanisms or ultrasound imaging, I continue to think about how my group’s research work would contribute to animal health and farmers’ productivity. As a member of the Sikh community in Saskatoon, I continue to bring cultural awareness, diversity, traditions, equity, and values in my day-to-day work, be it in teaching, training, research collaborations, or now into my new role in academic programming.

What words of inspiration would you like to share with the future generation of scientists, especially those coming from diverse backgrounds?

My most-valued and amazing research discoveries have come from my inquisitive international students or from those who think differently than everybody else in the research team. I continue to be inspired by the exception value and richness that cultural heritage and diverse opinions brings to our scientific endeavors, but more importantly to our ethical living and shared vision to care for each other. So, believe in yourself and continue to broaden your vision by embracing diversity and inclusion in your profession and personal life.

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