The National Hispanic Heritage Month is annually celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in the United States to recognize the contributions and influence of Latinx to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Diversity Committee Chair Dr. Angela Gonella sat down with The Ohio State University Assistant Professor Dr. Alvaro Garcia-Guerra. Dr. Garcia-Guerra’s research focuses on ruminants' reproductive physiology, primarily cattle. His lab aims to investigate the biology of ovarian follicle development and corpus luteum maintenance to enhance fertility. They also focus on applying ovarian physiology for developing and implementing reproductive technologies to improve reproductive success, efficiency, and sustainability of ruminant production systems.
What is your current position, and what does it entail?
The current position in which I am employed is Assistant Professor of Cattle Reproduction and Production Systems Management in the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University. My responsibilities include both research and teaching. I currently teach the undergraduate student-focused Beef Cattle Production and Management course and the graduate student-focused multi-institutional course on reproductive physiology. In addition, I train/mentor graduate and undergraduate students.
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 originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and my interest in cattle is derived from my experiences on the small farm my family owned. Pursuing my interest in cattle, I attended veterinary school at Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina) and completed my veterinary degree program (DVM) in 2009. While a veterinary student, I did a 6-month internship in the research department of a human fertility clinic which sparked my interest in both research and reproductive biology. Soon after that, while still a veterinary student, I began working at a cattle embryo transfer and artificial insemination center, where I was able to combine my interests in cattle and reproduction. In 2010, I relocated to Canada to pursue a residency in Ruminant Field Service and an MSc degree at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan. Continuing to build on my passion for gaining a greater foundational knowledge base in reproductive physiology, I relocated to Madison, WI, in 2013, where I continued my Ph.D. studies in the interdisciplinary Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, working with Dr. Milo Wiltbank as my program supervisor. In addition, as a result of my residency, I became a Diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists in 2015. After completing my Ph.D. program early in 2017, I joined the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University as an Assistant Professor.
What are you most excited to do this year?
I could list numerous things, but a few stand out. First, I was able to travel back to Argentina with my wife and daughters to visit our family after nearly 3 years due to the COVID pandemic. Secondly, I am excited about the many projects we have going on, particularly some in which we have been working collaboratively with other institutions both nationally and internationally. Last but not least, I am currently involved in a multi-institutional graduate course on reproductive physiology, resulting from the collaborative efforts of the multistate group NE2227 (formerly NE1727). This is truly a remarkable experience for both graduate students and instructors.
Are there ways in which you think your heritage has affected your perspective or career trajectory?
From a career perspective, my heritage did not have a major effect in the sense of opportunities. However, my heritage and life experiences have affected my perspective and attitude toward the challenges I’ve encountered. Thus far, I have had the opportunity to live and work in three different countries, and each of these experiences resulted in the provision of different resources and challenges. This has made me more resourceful, adaptable, and creative when addressing difficulties.
What words of inspiration would you like to share with the future generation of scientists, especially those coming from diverse backgrounds?
First, be dedicated by having a strong work ethic! What you get out of something is proportional to your investment. Second, do not fear failure. I truly believe that we grow more, both personally and professionally when we fail at something. I remember one of my mentors told me once that we really make progress in science when things go wrong, or at least not as expected because that encourages us to “dig deeper."