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Animal Science's Gary J. Killian Was Honored in Brazil

Posted: October 23, 2012

Killian, distinguished professor emeritus of reproductive physiology, was recognized at the IV International Symposium on Animal Biology of Reproduction held last week in Brazil.

Gary J. Killian, Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus of reproductive physiology in Penn State's Department of Animal Science, was recognized at the IV International Symposium on Animal Biology of Reproduction in Brazil held Oct. 17-20.  The tribute is for his "lifetime contributions to research, education and mentoring in the field of reproductive biology."

The Brazil Symposium focused on molecular aspects of reproduction and the environment, and gave scientists from around the world the opportunity to share experiences in areas connected to reproductive biology.

Dr. Terry Etherton, head of the Department of Animal Science, said, "This international recognition is a well-deserved tribute to Dr. Killian and celebrates the many enormous contributions that Gary made to the field of reproductive biology. His support and mentoring of both graduates and undergraduates is an important part of his legacy."

Killian retired from Penn State's Center for Reproductive Biology and Health (CRBH) in 2006. He received his B.S. in zoology in 1967, and his M.S. in embryology in 1969 at Kansas State University where he was a teaching assistant. He earned his Ph.D. in reproductive physiology from Penn State in 1973. He first joined Penn State in 1973 as an assistant professor of biology and later moved to Kent State University where he was an associate professor. In 1984, he returned to the Department of Dairy and Animal Science to focus his research efforts almost entirely on cattle, taking advantage of the unique facilities available at Penn State at the Almquist Research Center for studying bulls and cows.

In helping develop the concept of the CRBH, Killian helped to move the Center forward and continue the legacy of excellence in reproductive biology that started under John Almquist. 

His general research goal was to understand and define factors that influence the fertility of mammals at the level of the gametes, studying how the oviduct impacted fertilization. He later studied fertility in males, and conducted research that studied how fluids in the male reproductive tract affect reproduction and fertility.

Amy Way, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and physiology at Lock Haven University, worked with Killian as an undergraduate, graduate student and doctoral candidate. She noted that he was extremely supportive of all the students who conducted research and worked in his labs. "He was really good about taking all those who worked in his labs to national and international meetings, creating opportunities for us to meet researchers with whom we might work, and opening up career opportunities. These meetings really helped us grow as scientists."

She noted that his long-standing interest in bringing international students to Penn State created a multi-cultural dynamic from which everyone benefited. Undergraduates, graduates and post-doctoral students of Killian have moved into academia, human fertility, science education, and industry - all positively influenced by Killian's mentoring and encouragement.

Killian was honored in 2001 and 2003 with the Gamma Sigma Delta research Award, in 1993 College of Agricultural Sciences Annual Diversity Achievement Award.

While at Penn State, he taught courses in human physiology, reproductive physiology, gamete physiology, introductory biology, mammalian physiology, mammalian anatomy, and reproductive techniques in cattle.

Aside from his interest in cattle, Killian worked with colleagues at the National Wildlife Research Center in doing research that led to the development of a single-shot GnRH vaccine that has proven highly effective in contraception for feral swine, white-tailed deer and wild horses among other species. He worked closely with staff at the Penn State deer research facility.

Killian has authored or co-authored more than 240 papers and abstracts in leading scientific journals, and has collaborated on research projects in nine other countries.