In honor of Black History Month, John Odhiambo sent a questionnaire to Dr. Dawit Tesfaye, Associate Professor at Colorado State University to discuss his scientific career and experience in reproductive biology. I enjoyed reading his responses and thought you would too. Let’s take a look:
1. What is your current position, and what does it entail?
I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, at Colorado State University. My responsibilities include research, teaching, and service in the field of animal reproduction. My research lab at Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory (ARBL) has currently one Ph.D. student and one Postdoctoral fellow working on molecular mechanisms associated with female fertility with a special emphasis on oocyte and preimplantation embryo developmental competence.
2. 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 from Ethiopia, where I completed my undergrad education in the field of Animal Sciences at Haramaya University of Agriculture. After working as an animal science expert in the Ministry of Industry and later in a non-governmental organization, I had a chance to pursue my graduate studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. During my master's studies, I have investigated the animal husbandry systems in urban and peri-urban dairy farming in Ethiopia. After completion of my master’s degree, I continued my Ph.D. studies at the same University, where my passion and interest in animal reproduction started. During my Ph.D. studies under the supervision of Prof. Karl Schellander, I have studied gene expression regulation during preimplantation bovine embryos. After my Ph.D., I continued as a postdoctoral fellow in the same Institute of Animal Sciences, at the University of Bonn. I have also served as a faculty member in the Department of Animal Breeding and Husbandry of the University of Bonn. During my time at the University of Bonn, my research was focusing on the stage-specific response of bovine embryos to various culture conditions in terms of transcriptome profile. In 2017 I had a chance to visit Dr. Pablo Ross Lab at the University of California, Davis as a research scholar to work on CRISPR-Cas9 mediated gene knockout in bovine embryos. In October 2019, I joined the Colorado State University as Associate Professor in Animal Reproduction in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS).
3. What impact has the pandemic had on your daily activities and your research?
The pandemic hit just after I finished establishing my lab at Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Lab and we could not start research right away. We needed to wait for 5 months to start lab work and tried to run our IVF and cell culture work for the first time in our new lab. Because of the pandemic, we were not able to do research in full capacity to be able to generate some preliminary data for our grant application on time. However, we have used that time to write review articles and grant applications.
4. Have you gained any valuable lessons from life during the pandemic?
The overall impact of the pandemic revealed to us how vulnerable the Society is and how important is in-person interaction in the research arena. However, we were able to adapt to the new situation and could deal with it very well.
5. What are you most excited to do over this year?
I am excited to continue research and hope to generate more exciting new knowledge in the field of reproduction. Looking forward to participating in conferences in person and establishing new collaborations with other researchers in the field. Most exciting is getting grants for research, which is very important for expanding my research group and doing impactful research.
6. What words of inspiration would you like to share with the future generation of scientists?
A researcher's career is full of excitement and sometimes hardship. However, the best solutions for success in research include the following:
• Staying optimistic and working hard.
• Using every opportunity to learn more.
• Trying to work with people in harmony and collaboration.
• Don’t give up. Sometimes things that did not work today might work tomorrow.
• Think that you are not the only one working hard in your field of research
• Be passionate about your field of research.
7. Are there ways in which you think your heritage has affected your perspective or career trajectory?
I had the privilege to work with very open-minded mentors and researchers during my career, which I enjoyed and made the best out of those collaborations. The people with whom I worked in my career have influenced me in a positive way, that I did not even think of my heritage. I am also very lucky to currently work with excellent people in my institution and, I am collaborating with very friendly researchers worldwide.