Background Image for Header:
Growing up on a farm, Ruby Fellow recipient Heather Baldwin found a passion for animal science.
Baldwin, a native of Moorefield, West Virginia, earned her undergraduate degree in animal and nutritional sciences from WVU. She stayed at the University to earn her master’s degree in reproductive physiology, and she’s now working toward her doctorate in the same program.
After taking undergraduate physiology classes, she knew she wanted to take a biomedical route with her career.
“The idea of doing research in reproduction was always attractive to me because of the implications that it has for humans as well as animals,” she said. “I knew I wanted to have a career where I could do animal research if I wanted to, but also move over to the human side of research.”
During her graduate studies, she studied cattle fertilization techniques at University College Dublin in Ireland, and she’s currently finding ways to bridge the gap between animal and human studies.
Baldwin was recently awarded a grant through the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute to adapt the research she’s been doing on cattle since graduate school, specifically on agouti signaling proteins – a gene found in both cattle and humans.
“I’m going to be looking at the role of that gene in infertility in humans, and we think it might play a role in polycystic ovarian syndrome,” Baldwin said. “From the patients that are coming into the fertility clinic for in vitro fertilization, we’re able to collect some of the cells surrounding the egg and do some genetic analysis on them.”
She said that her program has set her and her classmates apart from others in the field because of the skillset they develop, and she continues to see these skills take flight when applying them to real-world situations. She also loves the tight-knit community formed within the program.
“The faculty here are really supportive and involved, so you get more of a one-on-one interaction. If we’re having an issue with research, everyone works together and helps you out.”
She is continuing her education with the help of the Ruby Fellowship program, which provides her a $34,000 stipend, a $2,000 travel grant and a University tuition waiver for her to continue her research. As a first-generation college student, she said this fellowship has allowed her to excel in her field of study.
“I didn’t grow up thinking that this was something that would be possible because just going to college was a huge accomplishment for my family."
Baldwin hopes to continue working in the reproductive research field as a clinical embryologist, ideally in a university hospital that would allow her to continue research while working in a medical setting.