Graduate Student Spotlight: Spenser Becker

January 6, 2021

Spenser BeckerSpenser Becker, a current swine nutrition Ph.D. student, is an emerging leader in the pork industry and on Iowa State’s campus. Spenser’s research focuses on dietary essential fatty acids and their impact on inflammation, joint health and fatty-acid metabolism in grow-finish pigs. The long-term goal of her research is to apply it to commercial gilt development units to improve sow longevity.

The Iowa State Department of Animal Science continuously prepares Spenser to meet her goal of becoming a swine nutritionist. Spenser has had the chance to attend and present at domestic and international scientific meetings, collaborate with professors over various disciplines, and visit multiple leading companies and their facilities. Additionally, the department helps Spenser expand her professional network by inviting leading scientists and industry professionals to speak with students.

Beginning as an undergraduate student, active involvement has played a key role in helping Spenser discover and define her passions. At Oklahoma State, Spenser found herself interested in nutrition and research when she was an undergrad research scholar and as an intern with Cargill Animal Nutrition.

Spenser grew up on a small swine operation in Keota, Iowa where she showed pigs for 12 years and was involved in 4-H and FFA. Knowing the large presence of Iowa’s commercial swine industry and Iowa State’s long-standing reputation for research excellence, Spenser returned to her Iowa roots for graduate school. At Iowa State, she is active in the Association of Graduate Animal Scientists, has supervised the Block and Bridle Swine Interest Group, judged the Block and Bridle Little North American Show, and served as a Teaching Assistant for AN S 320, Animal Feeds and Feeding, and AN S 225, Swine Science. 

Spenser encourages undergrads to seek research experience and step out of their comfort zones. “Ask. Talk with your advisor or reach out to professors with similar research interests as you. There are also many internships that focus solely on research.”  She also encourages others to meet new people. The connections she has made over the past few years have helped with her success. “It often is not what you know, but who you know that can make a difference in your career,” Spenser advises. “Take every opportunity you can to build your network.”