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Department of Animal Sciences


Animal Sciences Student Spotlight

Jan. 30, 2023
Graduate Student Alejandro Pittaluga and Undergraduate Student Elena McGoey

Graduate Student – Alejandro Pittaluga

Graduate Research Associate – Animal Sciences Ph.D. Program | Advisor: Dr. Alejandro Relling

It started with a research internship at Ohio State back in 2017 and the opportunity to live in Columbus. Alejandro Pittaluga felt absolutely Alejandro Pittaluga captivated by everything the city had to offer and the overall college experience. The atmosphere of Ohio State, the excellent academic track record of the faculty specialized in beef cattle nutrition, and the outstanding research facilities of the Department of Animal Sciences led Alejandro to the decision to pursue a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences.

The recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, Alejandro has focused his Ph.D. on the evaluation of nutritional management strategies through the entire production cycle of cattle (from early weaning ages to harvest) to improve the intramuscular fat content of beef in a cost-effective manner. However, he has also designed and conducted research projects aimed to develop: 1) feed additives such as probiotics and enzyme preparations to improve feed efficiency of feedlot cattle and mitigate rumen methanogenesis; and 2) nutritional strategies to decrease the roughage content of feedlot diets without compromising growth performance and feed efficiency. Alejandro’s research has produced several peer reviewed publications with Dr. Ale Relling, his graduate research mentor:

Pittaluga, A. M., F. Yang, J. R. Gaffney, M. Embree, and A. E. Relling. 2023. Effect of supplementation with ruminal probiotics on growth performance, carcass characteristics, plasma metabolites, and methane emissions of beef cattle. Journal of Animal Science.

Pittaluga, A. M., M. Y. Ortiz-Fraguada, A. J. Parker, and A. E. Relling. 2022. Effects of calcium salts of palm oil inclusion and ad libitum feeding regimen on growth performance, carcass characteristics, and plasma glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide concentration of feedlot steers. Journal of Animal Science.

Pittaluga, A. M., C. Clark, and A. E. Relling. 2021. Effect of protein source and non-roughage NDF content in finishing diets of feedlot cattle fed free-choice hay on growth performance and carcass characteristics. Translational Animal Science.

Pittaluga, A. M., T. L. Felix, L. E. Moraes, and A. E. Relling. 2021. Effects of increasing levels of soybean hulls in finishing diets of feedlot cattle fed free-choice hay on performance, roughage intake, and carcass characteristics. Applied Animal Science.

Pittaluga, A. M., S. Yu, W. Li, and J. C. McCann. 2021. Effect of exogenous glucoamylase inclusion on in vitro fermentation and growth performance of feedlot steers fed a dry-rolled corn-based diet. Translational Animal Science.

When Alejandro is not focused on his Ph.D. research he spends his time hiking, playing soccer, and going to the gym.  Alejandro Pittaluga

When he thinks of his time as a graduate student, Alejandro’s favorite memory is the 2021 Midwest meeting of the American Association of Animal Sciences, Nebraska. He and his colleagues of the department presented data from their research during the day and gathered at night for dinner. Having this shared experience brought the group closer creating a community of support.

Alejandro is planning to graduate with his Ph.D. in April 2023. His advice to future students is to “evaluate in detail which specific area of interest they would like to master and how will this contribute with their long-term professional goals. In my case, having clear goals for my graduate degree was vital to keep pushing forward through hectic times. Also, try to engage with the research projects and professional interests of your colleagues as it will enrich your overall graduate experience at OSU.”  

After graduating and receiving his Ph.D., Alejandro will join the Ohio State Department of Animal Sciences as a Postdoctoral Researcher under the supervision of Dr. Alejandro Relling. He will also provide nutritional consulting services for feedlot operations in México and Central America.

Undergraduate Student – Elena McGoey

Animal Sciences Major | Biosciences

When Elena McGoey toured Ohio State, CFAES felt like its own community, set aside from the chaos of central campus, which was exactly what  Undergraduate Student - Elena McGoey she wanted. As an out-of-state student, she was excited by Ohio State’s spirit (and did not realize its magnitude until her first football game). As a large school, Ohio State could provide her with the resources and opportunities to pursue research as well as extracurriculars for her to find her niche. Her scholarship offers were an important draw, too.

Elena’s decision to work with animals in some capacity was very clear to her at a young age after she started volunteering at Glade Run Adventures. This facility located in Zelienople, PA provides animal-assisted therapy programs, mainly therapeutic horseback riding. Some of the most cherished moments of Elena’s life have been witnessing the profound impact of animal-assisted therapy on children who have behavioral disabilities, such as autism. Elena’s younger brother, Josh, has multiple disabilities, and watching him interact with his favorite animals (especially chickens) was powerful enough to make her eyes misty sometimes. Elena knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life in a serving profession with these animals who provide us with companionship, food, therapy and service, medical advancements, etc. She recognized that the Animal Sciences program at Ohio State was committed to providing her with hands-on learning and would welcome her into new experiences with unfamiliar species in a patient and non-judgmental way. She felt that the d truly wanted to help her succeed. Having a veterinary school on the same campus was another plus for Elena.

When asked what she enjoys the most about her major, Elena states it is a tie between the hands-on labs and the people. Labs that work directly with animals, especially livestock, remind her of why she wanted to get a degree in the first place. All the faculty, staff, and fellow peers have been supportive of her education, especially after she had her daughter. Without the compassion and flexibility of those in the Department of Animal Sciences, continuing her college education would not have been possible.

Elena’s favorite memory is the Buckeye Royal in 2019 during her freshman year. Growing up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and having zero livestock experience before coming to Ohio State, this event represented the first time she really stepped outside her comfort zone, by learning how to halter-train a Jersey heifer through the Buckeye Dairy Club.

Elena is involved in many programs and organizations at Ohio State: Ohio State Irish Dance Team; Towers Agricultural Honorary; founding member of Cultivate Columbus; CHAMPS Program Mentor; and Member of the Parasite and Pathogen Ecology Lab in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She is most passionate about the College and High School Aspiring Mothers Partnership for Success (CHAMPS) Program under Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s ACCESS Collaborative. This program pairs a college parenting student (mentor) with a high school pregnant/parenting student (mentee). As a mentor for her second year now, she loves the opportunity to help a young mother realize her worth and pursue her potential. She assists her mentee in the transition from high school to college, leading by example to show that earning a degree while parenting can be done.


Elena has conducted research in the Parasite and Pathogen Ecology Lab, in the College of Veterinary Medicine and is also a student surgery assistant in ULAR’s Experimental Surgery Core. During the Autumn 2022 semester, Elena was the teaching assistant for the 2300H course taught by Dr. Pasha Lyvers Peffer. Elena enjoyed seeing the students grow and adapt throughout the semester, especially since most of them were starting their first semester at Ohio State. She gained valuable leadership experience, which allowed her to grow professionally and increase her self-confidence. She encourages her peers to become a teaching assistant, “It’s a win-win: you help promote the learning of the students and prep them for success, and you gain communication and teaching skills that are transferable to every career.”

As Elena is working towards completing her degree, she absolutely thinks she is prepared for her future. Thanks to the Animal Sciences  Elena McGoey  curriculum, the well-rounded animal experiences, and the interpersonal skills she strengthened through all the classes and extracurriculars, Elena feels prepared to apply to veterinary school this upcoming cycle. She realized through her time at Oho State that while she had zero livestock background, she is drawn to working with food animals. Thanks to the welcoming attitude of people in the Animal Sciences department, she has not shied away from this possibility just because of her inexperience growing up, and she intends to become a food animal veterinarian.


Her advice to future students interested in pursuing a degree in Animal Sciences is “This department has so many opportunities for you to explore, both inside and outside the classroom, no matter what animal species you are interested in. Animal Sciences faculty and staff want to help you find and pursue your passion! Do not be afraid to reach out to them directly about getting involved in extracurriculars (research projects, student orgs and teams, internships, jobs); even if they say no, their connections within Ohio State and beyond will open doors for you in a different way than you expected.”


Elena has overcome many challenges to become the motivated, confident person she is today and provides encouragement to others to overcome stigmas. The following statement may be uncomfortable or triggering to read; however, Elena wants to share that “I am a survivor of domestic abuse and now struggle with PTSD. I believe that by openly sharing this, I can challenge stigmas associated with survivors of sexual violence, those with mental health conditions, and single mothers—we can pursue education and do achieve success. None of my labels should be a source of shame. With the labels of ‘survivor,’ ‘neurodivergence,’ and ‘single mom,’ I carry resilience and add the value of a unique perspective to my classrooms, department, and university at large. I encourage everyone to dig deep and overcome any stigmas they may have about ‘unconventional’ undergraduate students to make our university a more inclusive space.