Meet the Members of the White Lab


Heather White, Ph. D.

Heather White did her undergraduate degree at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.  She then earned her Masters in (under the joint mentorship of Shawn Donkin and Mickey Latour) and her Ph.D. (under the mentorship of Shawn Donkin) in Nutritional Physiology at Purdue University.  SMC


After an NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Heather joined the faculty in the Department of Animal Science at University of Connecticut.  She joined the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in April, 2013.

Heather enjoys gardening, knitting, and spending time with her family!

Sandy Bertics

Nutrition Group Lab Manager

Sandy is the lab manager for the Nutrition Research Group in the Department of Dairy Science.  Sandy oversees all lab activities, animal trials, grants, and trains graduate and undergraduate students.

White Lab Current Members: 

Sophia Erb


Associate Research Assistant

I am currently working on understanding regulation of lipolysis during periods of adipose tissue mobilization, specifically the transition to lactation period and am primarily working on quantifying proteins in adipose and liver tissue during these periods. I also assist with ongoing whole-animal and cell culture studies and help new and current students with lab procedures.

Tawny Chandler


PhD Student
As a part of my master’s research I am conducting an efficacy trial that evaluates the effects of supplementing conjugated linoleic acid to transition cows on a commercial dairy farm. Because the herd is milked with 7 Lely robotic milk units we are able to investigate a multitude of daily measures from each cow. Using indicators such as daily rumination, activity, milk, milk fat percent, milk protein percent, milk temperature, milk conductivity, and body weight may help identify fresh cows more susceptible to metabolic disorders. 
When I need to relax I enjoy baking a batch of cookies and watching old black and white films.

Ryan Pralle

20141204_112616PhD Student, Dairy Science Major,

The objective of my research is to evaluate the expression of the gene patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3 (PNPLA3) in transition cattle. PNPLA3 expression, in preliminary data, has been found to be closely associated with the regulation of hepatic lipid infiltration. Better understanding of this genes role will further current knowledge of the etiology of fatty liver syndrome in dairy cattle and the
prevention of secondary metabolic disorders, such as ketosis.

Outside of the classroom I have always been an active individual on campus, especially with the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, Dairy Challenge, and Badger Dairy Club. Off campus, I am quite active with the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association and was recently honored by the National Holstein Association USA by becoming a National Distinguished Junior Member Finalist.

 Rafael Oliveira, MS


PhD Student

Rafael Oliveira did his undergraduate and Masters at Federal University of Lavras, Brazil. His thesis entitled “Supplementation of late gestation dairy cows with beta-carotene”, under the mentorship of Marcos N. Pereira, was concluded in August 2014. From August 2014 to February 2015 he interned at Heather’s lab where he had the opportunity of participate in the research projects entitled “The Role Of Hepatic Adiponutrin In Regulating Lipid Accumulation In Dairy Cows” and “Improving detection and treatment of sub-clinical ketosis in dairy cows”. Since September 2015 he is working as a Graduate Research Assistant to White Research Group.
Outside of the lab he’s just a normal guy that enjoys having fun with his friends.

Kristina Weld, MS

PhD Student

11392866_10206389865888534_8695155580884325406_nThe goal of my research will be to determine how different fatty acids may affect liver metabolism in transition cows. We will be examining the impact of different fatty acids  on liver health and metabolism, as well as milk production.

My Masters degree was completed at UW-Madison with Lou Armentano and my Bachelors is from Mount Holyoke College.

Outside of research I enjoy volleyball, biking, and cooking/baking!


White Lab Alumnae:

Qian Zhang

Postdoctoral Research Fellow


Qian joined Heather’s lab as a postdoctoral research fellow in August 2015. Her major focus is to investigate the effects of nutrients (different forms of methionine (Met), conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), etc.) on liver metabolism and function using bovine hepatocytes primary culture as a model. Benefits of supplementation of Met or CLA have been observed on production performance of dairy cows. The goal of Qian’s research is to illustrate the hepatic responses to these nutrients at the level of gene expression and provide fundamental guidelines for promoting production and health of dairy cows, especially during the transition period.

Qian got her master from China Agriculture University in June 2010 and her Ph.D. from Purdue University, Indiana in May 2015. Qian likes jogging, dancing, playing badminton and watch movies. 

Valentina Caprarulo


Visiting PhD student

I am PhD student in Nutritional Science at the University of Milan, Italy. The PhD research activity is focused on animal nutrition aimed to investigate different aspects of animal nutrition and feed technology. Under the supervision of Dr White I have a great opportunity to following a research study aimed to investigate the mechanism of choline action in transition dairy cows.

Frankie Tiberio, MS now a nutritionist at VitaPlus



For my masters research I am conducting a trial at UW’s Arlington Research Farm to determine the relationship between body condition score and onset of ketosis, and if residual feed intake (RFI) is correlated with incidence of ketosis. My master’s degree is unique in that I am Vita Plus’s fellowship student. As a fellowship student I work part-time for Vita Plus while completing my degree. I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois in Animal Science where I participated in Dairy Challenge, Dairy Judging, and the Illini Dairy Club.

Robert Fugate
Undergraduate Research Student, Dairy Science Major


I am currently researching the occurrence of sub-clinical ketosis in dairy cows. In particular, I am helping research a potential SNP or series of SNPs associated with the occurrence of sub-clinical ketosis in dairy cows, as well as attempting to construct a linear regression model based off of several factors to assist with the prediction of sub-clinical ketosis in recently fresh cows.

Dean Bowen, now in Pharmacy School
Undergraduate Research Student, Pharmacology & Toxicology Major with a Certificate in Business


I am currently working on a project involving methionine supplementation with primary bovine hepatocytes. My favorite part about attending UW-Madison is “jumping around” on football game days.

Courtney McCourt


Undergraduate Research Student, Dairy Science major

Courtney is working on cell culture projects examining the role of nutritional supplements to reduce oxidative stress in hepatocytes. Courtney is also helping with the ketosis research projects in the lab.

Mykayla Muench

Undergraduate Research Student, Animal Science major

I am currently involved in the ketosis research project by assisting with sampling at the Arlington Research Farm. Data gathered throughout this study will allow me insight into the prevalence of negative outcomes in the Arlington dairy herd associated with sub-clinical ketosis, which is my Bio 152 Independent Project.

Carlos Nova


I am an undergraduate student at the State University of Northern Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am currently an international student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I am helping with the ketosis research project.