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Prominent Animal and Human Health Scholar Joins Faculty

Researcher’s work on livestock fertility could help solve women’s fertility issues

March 30th, 2015

Story Contact: Jesslyn Chew,

By Mark Barna

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The University of Missouri is one of 34 public universities in the Association of American Universities (AAU) and is recognized for its national expertise in many academic fields.  MU’s prominent faculty scholars and scientists bring their discoveries into the classroom while attracting multi-million dollar grants and publishing more than 1,500 books and scholarly articles each year. Recently, Mizzou officials hired a prominent animal and human health scholar. Thomas Spencer is internationally recognized for his research in reproductive and developmental biology. Spencer accepted an appointment in the Division of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources with a joint appointment in the School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health.

“Tom is by all accounts one of the very best animal scientists in the world today,” said Hank Foley, executive vice president for academic affairs, research and economic development at the University of Missouri System. “His decision to join MU at this point in his career speaks volumes about the department, college and the university.”

Spencer studies how to increase fertility in beef and dairy cattle, which can help cattle farmers be successful economically while feeding a growing world population. Additionally, Spencer studies how to translate animal research to human medicine to solve fertility problems in women and improve their reproductive outcomes.

“This is an exciting and relatively under-explored area in the health profession,” Spencer said.

Spencer’s area of study has focused on the hormonal, cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating development and function of the uterus and placenta. For 20 years, he has focused on increasing livestock fertility. In the 1970s and ’80s, scientists at the University of Missouri and other institutions began research into methods to increase fertility. Since then, Spencer and other animal science experts like MU’s Jerry Taylor, Curators Professor of Genetics and Animal Sciences, have further advanced the field.

Spencer said he was drawn to MU’s “critical mass” of talent in animal science and commitment to One Health/One Medicine, which fosters research and knowledge sharing to improve human and animal health. Additionally, Spencer said he is excited to collaborate with a team using leading-edge technology to identify genes of fertile cattle that are also high producers.

“Rarely in life do you get the opportunity to be in a profession that really excites you,” Spencer said. “I’m in that profession and now at a university where the potential is unlimited.”

Spencer earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Auburn University and a doctorate in reproductive biology from Texas A&M University. After postdoctoral training at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, he became an animal science professor and researcher at Texas A&M and, most recently, Washington State University. He’s won numerous awards, published hundreds of journal articles, and his work has been cited more than 11,000 times.

Mizzou Advantage is a program that focuses on four areas of MU strength: food for the future; media of the future; one health, one medicine; and sustainable energy. The goals of Mizzou Advantage are to strengthen existing faculty networks, create new networks and propel Mizzou’s research, instruction and other activities to the next level.

To view a feature-length story about Spencer, visit: