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Welcome to the USDA National Needs PhD Fellowship Program: Educating the Next Generation of Scientists in Animal Genomics  in the Department of Animal Sciences at University of Florida.

A core group of faculties from Animal Sciences and Animal Molecular and Cellular Biology with highly successful and collaborative research programs will provide extensive and integrative mentoring and training for graduate students.

Three PhD. Fellowships are available in the Department of Animal Sciences at University of Florida starting Fall 2019. The Fellowships will provide a stipend of $24,500 per year for three years and 100% tuition. Applicants must to be US citizens. Preferred qualifications are experience in the following areas: genetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics and statistical analysis. Students that have strong organization and communication skills are especially encouraged to apply.

Interested in applying? Contact one of the faculty listed below. A formal application through the UF Graduate School is also required.

NNF Students in Domestic Animal Genomics Interdisciplinary Concentration


Gabriel Zayas

Gabriel Zayas - PhD student

  • Gabriel is from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Being a lifelong UF gator football fan, after graduating high school he chose to start his college education at UF.

  • He graduated Spring of 2019 with a B.S. in Animal Science. During his time at UF, he found and developed his skills in programming and coding.

  • With his passion for both animal science and genetics he decided to pursue a PhD with Dr. Mateescu’s Animal Genetics and Genomics lab.

  • With his knowledge in genetics and his skills with coding he is working on uncovering the genetic/genomic factors influencing heterosis. 


Distinguished Professor, Reproductive Biology

Hansen Group

  • The principal area of research focus is the elucidation of the cellular and molecular processes by which cellular stress disrupts embryonic function and the intercellular defense systems that embryos use to limit these effects.

  • Research in the laboratory demonstrated that preimplantation embryonic development is disrupted by exposure to elevated temperature and that embryos acquire resistance to elevated temperature as they proceed through development.

  • It was also shown that embryonic resistance to heat shock is controlled by genetic factors, with embryos from Bos indicus being more resistant to heat shock than embryos from B. taurus.

  • My current focus is on understanding the molecular basis for these determinants of thermotolerance with emphasis on the role of apoptosis, heat shock protein synthesis, and free radical metabolism.

Hansen lab photo 2018.jpg

Associate Professor, Animal Genetics and Genomics

Mateescu Group

  • Our group does research in the area of beef cattle, sheep and goat molecular genetics.

  • Most biological traits of economic importance in domestic animals have a complex inheritance (are influenced by many genes and the environment) and the long-term research goal is to unravel the genetic basis for the phenotypic variability in this type of trait.

  • Our research is motivated by recent advances in the animal genomics field, which hold great promise for improving animal production efficiency and enhancing animal products for improved human health.

  • Our contributes molecular genetics knowledge and tools, which can make a real impact in our understanding of gene regulation of biological functions, while keeping the research relevant to stakeholders and society at large

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Assistant Professor, Genetics and Genomics

Peñagaricano Group

  • My research interests are in quantitative genomics and computational biology.

  • My research program focuses on development and application of methods to dissect the genetic architecture of economically relevant traits in livestock.

  • We typically combine large, nationwide phenotypic datasets or field experiments, with high throughput genomic technologies, and advanced theoretical, statistical and computational methods in order to elucidate the connection between (epi)genome and phenotype.

  • Our research involves gene mapping, gene-set analysis, genomic prediction, network modelling, methylome and transcriptome analysis, and multi-omics data integration.


Course work will cover broad areas of genetics, animal breeding, genomics, bioinformatics and related topics. Emphasis will be placed on excellent research training including regular research meetings, student and faculty seminar series, internships with major organizations, Historically Black Colleges or other Universities. Graduating Fellows will be well trained for successful research or academic careers, to apply scientific methods and knowledge of animal genomics, computational biology and quantitative genetics in solving needs of the animal industries.

Our vision is to prepare graduates to be able to think critically and apply the scientific method and their new found knowledge of animal genomics, computational biology and quantitative genetics in conducting research aimed at solving the needs of the animal industries.  This encompasses possession of field, laboratory and computer skills necessary to successfully carry out research, which includes the ability to plan, execute and interpret experiments.

Recent News

USDA-NNF grant awarded

January 2019

A group of faculty in the Department of Animal Sciences at University of Florida were awarded a USDA-NNF grant for "Educating the Next Generation of Scientists in Animal Genomics". Read details here.

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