Lauren Wesolowski was determined to keep horses at the forefront of her life from an early age. Wesolowski, a doctoral student in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Animal Science, had to convince her parents, who had no background with horses, to sign her up for riding lessons at age 10. Now, as a graduate research assistant, she is pushing the boundaries of exploration into equine health and performance. 

Setting the stage for a research career

a headshot of a smiling woman, Lauren Wesolowski
Lauren Wesolowski is a doctoral student in the Department of Animal Science who is pursuing research in equine exercise physiology. (Courtesy photo)

A surprising pivot from her intended path to veterinary school led Wesolowski to discover a passion for research. Now, she credits time in the Department of Animal Science with playing a crucial role in preparing her for a career in equine research. Through the high-impact learning experience as a graduate research assistant, Wesolowski is immersed in research directly related to her field of interest and is developing skills that will seamlessly transfer to her professional career.

Wesolowski earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in equine pre-veterinary science and a biology minor from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Late into her undergraduate studies, she discovered an interest in the research side of the equine field and decided to pursue graduate school.

To maximize her graduate school experience, Wesolowski sought a research assistant position. She reached out to professors conducting equine research and was captivated by the work being done in the Department of Animal Science, particularly under the guidance of Sarah White-Springer, Ph.D., associate professor of equine physiology.

Finding a research focus

In the fall of 2020, Wesolowski made Aggieland her next home and began her master’s program in animal science, focusing on equine exercise physiology.

“From elite competition horses to aged metabolic horses, appropriate immune responses are essential for overall health,” Wesolowski said. “I want to learn how to treat and manage horses to promote an ideal immune system and inflammatory responses.”

Under the mentorship of White-Springer, Wesolowski studied nutrition’s effects on mitigating chronic inflammation in thoroughbred horses in early race training. Wesolowski’s work was motivated by the need to combat the array of health issues that arise from the condition.

Understanding how the immune system plays a role during an inflammatory response was a critical piece in the research.

Wesolowski explained that immune systems are complex. On the one hand, an inflammatory response signals the immune system to remove damaging pathogens from the horse’s body. However, chronic or extensive inflammatory responses can harm the body because they interfere with normal cellular functions and prevent the body from returning to homeostasis. This can bring on an increased risk of injury and a decrease in athletic performance.

Based on research that vitamins and other nutritional supplements benefit inflammatory responses in humans, Wesolowski’s research studied how a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids could reduce inflammation in racehorses. The results showed a favorable reduction of inflammation in horses that received the nutritional supplement.

A woman, Lauren Wesolowski, standing behind a podium in the corner with a life-size statue of a horse behind her and a large screen above her showing four pictures of horse activities
Lauren Wesolowski presented her research findings on equine physiology and performance at the International Conference of Equine Exercise Physiology in Sweden in 2022. (Courtesy photo)

White-Springer described Weslowski’s research as “groundbreaking.”

“Her master’s research underscores her dedication to pushing the boundaries of our understanding of equine physiology and performance,” White-Springer said. “Most of the research procedures in this project had never been used in horses. Therefore, not only did Lauren perform a highly relevant and impactful study, but her findings could also shape the future of equine training and feeding programs.”

Since beginning her graduate program as a master’s student, Wesolowski has presented research at eight conferences worldwide, including conferences focused on animal science, equine science and human health. The breadth of her research does not start and end with horses; Wesolowski’s work spans multiple species, including beef cattle, sheep, pigs and rodents.

“The data and insights Lauren has generated have advanced our understanding of animal health, nutrition and performance,” White-Springer said. “Moreover, her research findings have practical applications in the fields of equine and bovine management, providing valuable information for an exceptional range of stakeholders.”

In her doctoral studies, Wesolowski continues studying the immune system, but she is now researching how to promote healthy immune systems by managing circadian rhythms through blue light exposure.

Support from department provides inspiration and growth

Research did not come naturally in the beginning, Wesolowski said. However, with a strong willingness and desire to learn, she welcomed the challenge of wearing the researcher cap. The new learning environment taught Wesolowski the importance of adaptability, learning from mistakes and moving forward.

Four women stand holding certificates between two banners, one from Texas A&M University Animal Science and the other from Equine Science Society
Lauren Wesolowski (second from left) at the 2023 Equine Science Society conference with her graduate chair Sarah White-Springer, Ph.D., (third from left) and fellow graduate students. Wesolowski was awarded third place in the graduate student oral presentation competition held during the conference. (Courtesy photo)

Wesolowski certainly faced challenges along the way, but she was not alone. She credits the faculty and departmental mentors for helping her overcome obstacles.

“I have learned and grown so much from working with my mentors and professors in animal science,” she said. “As an undergraduate entering graduate school and research, I had no idea what I was getting into. The biggest lesson I learned from my mentors is how to think, work and write like a researcher and scientist.”

She believes the people in the department, particularly the graduate students she learns alongside, make it a special place to learn and conduct research.

“One thing I have enjoyed most about being a research assistant is the other graduate students I have met along the way,” Wesolowski said. “Working with other graduate research assistants who share my passion for animal science is incredibly fun and inspiring.”

When asked what advice she would give a new graduate research assistant, Wesolowski said that taking the initiative is important.

“Professors and researchers will appreciate it when you’ve taken the time to dig deeper into the literature, step up to make the graphs ahead of a meeting or prepare the supplies for sample collection without being asked,” she said. “Once you understand what needs to be done in the lab, take initiative to get it done and go the extra mile when you can.”

Emerging leader and mentor

In addition to her research endeavors, Wesolowski broadens her student experience through extra-curricular activities, serving as a teaching assistant, mentoring undergraduate and master’s students, and participating in various animal science and equine industry professional organizations.

A woman stands beside a horse with a heart monitor on it while another woman holds the horse and students stand in the background of the barn scene
Lauren Wesolowski demonstrates the use of heart rate monitors on horses to a group of Texas 4-H Youth Development Program students in 2023. (Courtesy photo)

Wesolowski advocates for fellow students as the graduate student representative for the international equine research organization, the Equine Science Society, ESS. This role allows her to provide a student perspective to the ESS board of directors to shape beneficial programming and resources for students. Through her leadership and direction, Wesolowski coordinated and hosted five webinars for students in the first four months of her role.

“Lauren’s role as a tutor, mentor and lecturer has nurtured the academic growth of countless students, demonstrating her commitment to sharing knowledge and education within the life sciences,” White-Springer said.

Wesolowski plans to graduate in May 2026 and hopes to pursue a career as a research director in the equine pharmaceutical or nutrition industries.

“I am passionate about studying the immune system because I believe this research could improve the well-being of horses at many different stages of life,” Wesolowski said.

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