Lab Members

Research Technicians 

Jackie Shelton

Jackie Shelton joined Dr. Desaulniers’ laboratory in January of 2023 as a Research Technician. She was born and raised in Madison, Indiana. Jackie spent 8 years in the U.S. Air Force, which is how she found herself in Nebraska. After separating from the military, she obtained her B.S. in Biology from Bellevue University in 2018. It was during her senior thesis work on Toxoplasma gondii that she discovered her profound interest in scientific research and working in the laboratory. After graduating, Jackie spent several years accumulating knowledge and experience in the veterinary field before working in industry research as a bioanalytical analyst. In her position, Jackie hopes to further her knowledge and technique at the benchtop while helping to grow and advance the Desaulniers Lab. In her personal life, Jackie recently started playing the piano for the first time, enjoys drawing, spending time with her family, and fostering kittens with local feline rescues. In the future, she plans to continue her education in graduate school with the ultimate goal of leading her own research laboratory one day. 

Danny Ahern

Danny Ahern joined the Desaulniers lab in January of 2024 as a Research Technician. Originally from Longmont, Colorado, Danny has family ties to the state of Nebraska making his decision clear to become a cornhusker. Recently, Danny graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Master’s of Science, in Animal Science with a focus on reproductive physiology. Danny worked with Dr. Desaulniers' graduate mentor, Dr. Brett White. During his time in graduate school, he worked on characterizing the reproductive phenotype of the first-ever Kisspeptin-Knockout pigs. This is a “castration-free” model of pigs, as the neuropeptide, kisspeptin, has been linked to the onset of puberty in many species. Thus it was postulated, that without kisspeptin, pubertal attainment in pigs would not occur, eliminating the need for castration. Before receiving his master’s degree, Danny also received a B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Danny is excited to be a part of the Desaulniers lab and help with anything related to lab and pig work. Outside of work, Danny enjoys maintaining an active lifestyle and sharing good laughs and memories with friends and loved ones. In the future, Danny wishes to pursue a career in the livestock pharmaceutical industry to continue his passion for animal health and building client relationships. 

Ph.D. Students

Brooke McAnally 

Brooke McAnally joined Dr. Amy Desaulniers’ Lab in January of 2024 as a Ph.D. student studying the effects and potential genetic mitigation strategies of in-utero heat stress on boar fertility. A Texas native, Brooke was raised in Shepherd, Texas, where she became interested in biology and agriculture. Her involvement with livestock and science led her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with a minor in Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. Throughout her undergraduate program, she obtained experience with a beef cattle reproductive physiology lab where her passion for laboratory techniques, the study of reproduction, and research was cultivated. After graduating with her bachelor's in the Fall of 2021, Brooke pursued and completed her Master of Science in Reproductive Physiology in the Fall of 2023. More specifically, her master's thesis covered the boar reproductive microbiome and its relationship to sperm quality parameters and toll-like receptor expression. During this time, she was able to attend several professional conferences, receive a few presentation awards, and even obtain a first-author publication! In her free time, Brooke enjoys reading, baking, and spending time with family and friends. As her time at UNL progresses under the mentorship of Dr. Amy Desaulniers, Brooke hopes to become more familiar with various laboratory techniques, expand her professional network, and obtain a deeper understanding of reproductive physiology in domestic animals. With these goals in mind, Brooke hopes to earn a career as an animal research scientist in the government or industry sector.

M.S. Students

Nicole Nordell

Nicole Nordell grew up in Lincoln, NE as a the youngest of four siblings. Throughout her childhood, she loved spending her days exploring the outdoors with her beloved dog Cody, cheering on Husker sports with her family, and visiting the Henry Doorly Zoo. From a young age, she developed a deep appreciation for nature, science, and animal health. With these passions, paired with her undying loyalty for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, it was an obvious choice to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for her undergraduate career. In 2017 Nicole began her first semester at UNL with a major in Veterinary Science. During her time as an undergraduate she worked as an animal care technician at the Nebraska Gnotobiotic Mouse Program where she gained many unique husbandry skills caring for germ-free mice. While with the NGMP group, Nicole assisted with many graduate projects that solidified her aspirations for graduate school and a future career in the lab. So after a few changes and additions along her academic path, Nicole ended up graduating in August of 2021 with two Bachelors of Science degrees in Fisheries & Wildlife and Biological Sciences. Since her graduation, Nicole has had her hands full with her cat, Lola, and a new puppy, Jasper. She enjoys exercising, reading, cooking, and spending her afternoons at the dog park. After such a relaxing semester break from school, Nicole is very excited to be returning to UNL as the first Master’s student in the Desaulniers lab!

Undergraduate Students

Grace Schlueter - FYRE (First Year Research Experience) 

Grace Schlueter is currently a freshman at UNL majoring in Animal Science. She grew up on a cow-calf operation just outside of Scribner, NE, with her parents and three younger siblings. Watching her dad Artificially Inseminate heifers at a young age was what first started her interest in Animal Science, specifically livestock breeding and genetics. During highschool, she raised her own small herd of commercial Boer goats while continuing to help out with the family cow-calf operation. All throughout highschool, she knew she wanted to stay involved in production agriculture and this is why she chose to major in Animal Science. She is a member of the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) Program here at UNL, and is excited for the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while working in a lab setting.

Morgan Hixson - FYRE (First Year Research Experience) 

Morgan Hixson was born and raised in Hutchinson, KS. As an only child, she wanted to stay fairly close for college, and after Morgan visited UNL and found everyone to be so kind and welcoming, she decided to attend UNL as a member of the Honors Program and on the pre-Health track. In high school Morgan was a full IB student, and throughout high school Morgan developed a love for biology and especially genetics. She loves the idea of studying the quintessential building blocks of how we work as humans, and Morgan is especially interested in being involved with research that can help people and be used to create effective solutions to real-world problems. Outside of school, Morgan loves to spend time with her family, play her viola, dance, watch movies, read, listen to music, and cook. She also gained a love for nature and the environment during her frequent visits throughout her childhood to the Colorado mountains with her uncles. As a biological sciences major, Morgan wanted to begin college gaining experience with biological research, which is why she joined the First Year Research Experience (FYRE) program. Morgan is so excited to work in Dr. Desaulniers' lab this year and get comfortable with the research process! After her undergraduate years at UNL, Morgan plans to attend graduate school and go into biomedical research as a career. 

Steven Faltas - FYRE (First Year Research Experience) and UCARE Student 

Steven Faltas spent the majority of his early childhood in Clear Lake, Iowa. Some of his favorite things to do in his early years were to participate in youth sports and spend time with friends. He moved to Elkhorn, Nebraska after his freshman year of high school, and graduated from Elkhorn High School in May 2021. Steven developed an interest in biology and health sciences through high school sciences courses such as AP Biology and Anatomy and Physiology, which is why he chose to pursue a Biology degree on the pre-med track. When it came time to choose a place to go to college, UNL seemed like the right fit for him because it was close to home, and he would get to experience college life while continuing to be a motivated student in the classroom and through involvement. Steven began working with Dr. Desaulniers in the Fall 2021 semester, and he is excited to continue research through his undergraduate career! 

Carlene Nguyen - FYRE (First Year Research Experience) and UCARE Student 

My name is Carlene Nguyen and I was born in Lincoln, NE. I'm also the oldest child in my family and am a first-generation student. In my free time, my hobbies consist of listening to music and trying out new foods. I chose to attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln because I'm already familiar with the campus and I wanted to continue my education near my family. My favorite subject has always been science so I took AP Biology and AP Chemistry at North Star high school as a senior. However, I chose to major in Biological Sciences/Biology while being on the pre-med track because I've also always enjoyed learning about the complexities of the human body and helping others. I even took a Medical Terminology course in the past and had the opportunity to tour hospitals as well as health careers which furthered my interest in the medical field. I'm currently in the FYRE (First Year Research Experience) program under Dr. Desaulniers because I want to develop skills that can only be obtained outside of the classroom. Through working in an actual lab, I am able to get more hands-on experience which I can apply in the future. 

Maddie Wegner 

Maddie Wegner is currently a Junior at UNL double majoring in Veterinary Science and Animal Science on the Pre-Vet track. She is a member of the Honors Program and works as an Honors Peer Mentor and a Veterinary Assistant at a local clinic. She is from Kearney, NE, and grew up with a younger brother and two bulldogs. Ever since she was younger, she knew she wanted to work with animals and become a Veterinarian one day. She’s never pictured herself doing anything else, and each year closer to vet school she becomes more and more excited for her future career. She chose to come to UNL to stay close to home, and also because she loved the veterinary and animal science programs at UNL. Her passion for helping animals has strengthened even more during her last two years here at UNL, and she is planning on applying to vet schools in the fall of 2023. She has become more interested in swine after a few courses that she has taken here, and also wanted to gain research experience at UNL. She spent time during the Summer of 2022 in Dr. Desaulniers’ research lab, and greatly enjoyed her experience. She is very excited to continue to work with Dr. Desaulniers during the remainder of her undergraduate career! 

Lab Alumni

Rebecca Metcalf

Rebecca Metcalf grew up on an acreage in Norfolk, Nebraska. She is the seventh child out of nine and was homeschooled by her parents throughout the entirety of her pre-college education. Life at Metcalf Acres afforded her the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of pets, including cats, dogs, horses, chickens, budgies, gerbils, geckos, and snakes. During her high school years, Rebecca adopted and trained a wild mustang and operated her own dog kenneling business, which was prompted by watching her entrepreneurial older brother. Her love of medicine, which she acquired from her father, combined with her enjoyment of animals has led into the veterinary field. Before arriving at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Rebecca attended Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska and Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska. In the fall 2022, Rebecca began her first year in veterinary school through the PPVM program at UNL. Along with reading and rollerblading, Rebecca enjoys growing succulents and spending time with her family.

Morgan Burns

McNair Scholar (Fall 2020 - Fall 2021)

Effects of corncob bedding on testis development and function in CD-1 mice

Morgan got into vet school at Oklahoma State!

Lauryn Clifton

Undergraduate Student Researcher (Spring 2021)

Impact of early weaning on fertility of CD-1 male mice

Lauryn is currently a vet student at K-State.

Amber Petty

McNair Scholar (Fall 2019 - Spring 2021)

Isolation of ZsGreen1-labeled exosomes within seminal plasma of the boar.

Amber is currently working at Marquette University studying sex differentiation in geckos.

Megan Ebrecht

McNair Scholar (Spring 2019 – Spring 2020)

Effect of gonadotropin releasing hormone-II (GnRH-II) on spermatogenic function of boars

Megan is currently a vet student at Mizzou!