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HEC scholar brings home research experience from US.

ISLAMABAD -- Dr Muhammad Saif-ur-Rehman after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in 'Genomic Selection' awarded by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has returned home to utilize his research experience. Dr Saif has completed his fellowship at Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, United States under the mentoring of Professor James M. Reecy: a well known animal biotechnologist for his research in the areas of growth and development in beef cattle genetics and for developing bioinformatics tools to allow livestock researchers complete genomics research in a timely manner.

Genomic selection, as a methodology, is a recent concept in animal breeding and genetics, which is now possible by the availability of high throughput genotyping of livestock.

In Pakistan this technology has not yet been introduced at institutional herds mainly due to lack of skilled human resource and less accurate performance data.

Dr. Saif did his postdoctoral research on "Application of high-throughput genomics for whole genome selection and cattle breed evaluation" using 14 cattle breeds of Pakistan.

Recently the genotypes of cattle breeds from the America's, Europe and Australia were compared to evaluate evolutionary history of cattle. Unfortunately, cattle breeds from countries like Pakistan were not included.

Dr. Saif used 54K SNP genotypes from 14 cattle breeds that reside in Pakistan and compare them to previously evaluated breeds. This has allowed evaluating the relatedness and genomic structure of Pakistan breeds. Furthermore, during his postdoctoral research, he worked as a team member of genomic selection research group of Iowa State University and learned several new techniques in whole genome selection involving 2300 heads of beef cattle.

Briefly, Dr. Saif evaluated some morphological traits to determine the amount of variance within a phenotype that can be accounted for by use of genomic data on 14 zebu cattle breeds of Pakistan.

According to Dr. Saif, the Animal Breeding and Genetics group at Iowa State University is a world leader in devising strategies and statistical procedures to implement genomic selection in cattle, chickens etc. and was right choice to gain hands-on-experience in dealing with genomic data.

An advantage of this method of genetic evaluation over the current methods is that the genetic merit of an animal can be estimated without any phenotypic data resulting in greater genetic gain and a lower overall cost.

He said that he learned a lot about evaluation of large data set followed by genomic selection that would be very beneficial for him during his scientific career.

He said that he was looking forward to promote genomic selection in the country to enhance genetic potential of animals in relatively shorter time to meet the increasing demand of the fast growing population.

He said that he was impressed with the research and extension programmes run by the Iowa State University to support livestock farmers.

Dr. Saif said it was a great opportunity to work in the US in order to gain valuable research experience at a leading institute in Animal Breeding and Genetics. It enlightened his spirit to work hard for the development of Pakistan and the international exposure broadened his vision for research.

While living and working under diverse social and cultural conditions in the US, he said "I realized that it has renovated my research aptitude and viewpoint. This was not possible without HEC funding. I strongly urge the HEC to continue postdoctoral fellowship for young faculty. It will be of great importance to uplift the science and education standards in Pakistan".

Dr. Saif has joined his parent organization and he developed a strong linkage with the academia and researchers of USA. He wishes to continue the peer networking for a long time to come for research programs between Pakistan and the US.
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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Sep 17, 2012
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