Hy-Line International, the global leader in poultry layer genetics, was proud to support our team of women in science who play a major role daily for helping feed the world with an affordable source of protein by celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11. Dr. Janet Fulton, Dr. Anna Wolc, and Dr. Kaylee Rowland, and Dr. Kayla Niel, apply their knowledge to ensure the future generations of Hy-Line varieties maintain their profitability advantage in every climate, system and country.

Upon joining Hy-Line International in 1996, Dr. Janet Fulton, molecular geneticist, established the first in-house molecular genetics laboratory for a primary poultry breeding company. Her role involves everything related to DNA for selecting the next generations of Hy-Line layers through the analysis done at the molecular level. Dr. Fulton received her BS from the University of British Columbia, Canada, Department of Poultry, her MS from University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada, Department of Animal and Poultry Science and her PhD from Iowa State University in immunobiology with a minor in genetics. 

“My advice to future women in science is to find something you are passionate about, follow it and do it well,” said Dr. Fulton. “Although it can be challenging for women to have a successful career and fulfil family obligations, it is doable when you find the right balance.”

Dr. Anna Wolc, genomic geneticist, joined Hy-Line International in 2012. Her role is split between Hy-Line International and Iowa State University, where she is an affiliate assistant professor. As a genomic geneticist, Dr. Wolc is responsible for estimating breeding values vital to Hy-Line genetic selection decisions. At Iowa State, Dr. Wolc donates her time to quantitative genetics research, supporting graduate students and offering lectures. She received her BSc and MSc in animal science from Poznan University of Life Sciences in Poland, in addition to her PhD in animal breeding, genetics and habilitation. She also completed two postdoctoral research positions at University of Edinburgh and Iowa State University.

“I have always loved science and it’s in my genes; my dad was an electrical engineer and my mom was a teacher,” said Dr. Wolc. “To all women and girls in science, if you like it, go for it. Don’t be afraid to speak up, even if you are the only girl in the room. Be open to new opportunities, even in a new research topic or country, because you will learn so much.”

Dr. Kaylee Rowland, the most recent addition to the research and development team in 2018, works on the pedigree farms as a geneticist within the breeding program collecting data, problem-solving and implementing genetic selection decisions. Dr. Rowland’s passion for poultry began through her high school FFA program, which led to college scholarships. She earned her BS and MS in poultry science from the University of Arkansas and PhD in animal breeding and genetics from Iowa State University.

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“Science and agriculture are a very rewarding combination for me. I enjoy seeing the impacts of my work on global food security and quality,” said Dr. Rowland. “I want to encourage future women in science to show your confidence, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Hy-Line’s Production and Regulatory Veterinarian, Dr. Kayla Niel, joined the team in 2019. As a veterinarian, she focuses on the health, welfarea and biosecurity of Hy-Line’s pedigree, great-grandparent and grandparent layer breeder flocks to allow them to achieve the maximum genetic potential. Dr. Niel earned her BS in animal sciences from Pennsylvania State University, MS in Food Safety from Michigan State University, and her DVM from Michigan State University. Although she always wanted to be a veterinarian because of her love for science, her poultry interest did not thrive until a vet school research fellowship with supportive mentors. 

“To future women in science: you are more capable and qualified than you give yourself credit for,” said Dr. Niel. “Don’t be afraid to go for something you really want or to speak up when you feel you should.”

International Day of Women and Girls in Science, initiated by the United Nations Assembly in 2015, recognizes the critical role and achievements of women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers.