Lab Biographies

Photo of Joseph McFadden

Joseph W. McFadden, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance Faculty Fellow

Dr. Joseph W. McFadden is an associate professor and the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance faculty fellow in dairy cattle biology in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University. McFadden is the recipient of the 2019 Cargill Animal Nutrition Young Scientist Award and the 2018 American Dairy Science Association Northeastern Branch Young Research Scientist Award. He received his BS with Distinction in Research from Cornell University in 2003, his MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005, and his PhD from Virginia Tech in 2009. For three years, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neuroscience and Center for Obesity and Metabolism Research at Johns Hopkins Medicine. In 2012, he joined the faculty at West Virginia University as an assistant professor of biochemistry. In 2017, McFadden moved to Cornell University. His research interests center on the study of lipid nutrition and metabolism in dairy cattle. First, he is internationally recognized for defining the bovine lipidome, sphingolipid biology and the role of ceramide in the dairy cow. His on-going interest is to define the ability of ceramide to modulate insulin signaling and nutrient partitioning during lactation. Second, his lab is taking alternative approaches to define methyl donor metabolism in transition cows. Specifically, McFadden is working to identify fatty acid feeding regimens that optimize the ability of methyl donor supplementation to enhance hepatic triglyceride disposal in transition cows. Third, he has studied the effects of nutritional emulsifiers on fatty acid digestibility and health in cows. Within this same body of work, he is defining the digestibility of saturated and polyunsaturated very-long chain fatty acids. Further demonstrating his versatility as an animal scientist, McFadden is also characterizing the mechanisms that explain poor heat stress resilience in lactating dairy cattle. He is investigating the interactions between the gut microbiome, intestinal health, endotoxemia, immunity, and hepatic function in heat-stressed dairy cows. In parallel, McFadden is working with industry to develop the next generation of nutritional therapies to improve growth and milk production efficiency in cows exposed to extreme heat. As principal investigator, McFadden has secured over $4 million in funding to support these research initiatives. This includes three USDA NIFA AFRI Foundational Program awards and a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research Seeding Solutions award. Additionally, McFadden has authored 33 peer-reviewed papers, 81 abstracts, 7 extension papers, and presented 35 invited domestic and international talks. He has also served as primary mentor for 11 graduate student programs, 1 postdoc, 4 visiting scholars, and advised over 45 undergraduate researchers. He also teaches Nutritional Physiology and Biochemistry at Cornell.


photo of Amanda Davis

Amanda Davis, PhD student, National Science Foundation Fellow

Amanda grew up in the small town of Salem, West Virginia. She earned a BS in biology at West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2015, where she was awarded a WV-INBRE internship to conduct undergraduate research at West Virginia University using mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics as a tool to discover biomarkers for metabolic disease in dairy cows. Amanda then earned an MS in animal science at West Virginia University in 2017 under the guidance of Dr. Joseph McFadden. Amanda’s MS research focused on characterizing the mechanisms of insulin resistance in dairy cattle transitioning from gestation to lactation, with a specific emphasis on the role of the sphingolipids ceramide and sphingomyelin in liver, plasma lipoproteins, and adipose tissue. Amanda began her PhD program at Cornell in the summer of 2017. She was granted a National Science Foundation Fellowship to study conserved and divergent metabolic adaptations to nutrient availability and environmental stressors in wild and domestic ruminants (i.e. fallow deer, water buffalo, dairy cows, and sheep). Through her research, Amanda hopes to contribute a better understanding of the basic biological mechanisms that drive nutrient partitioning and homeorhesis across species.


Photo of Ananda Fontoura

Ananda Fontoura, PhD student, Vetagro Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research Fellow

Ananda Fontoura was born and raised in Belém, Brazil. In 2015, she received a DVM degree at the Federal University of Pará, in Castanhal, Brazil. During her program, she was involved in research projects concerning the biological basis of feed efficiency in cattle. Ananda received her MS at North Dakota State University in the Fall of 2017. Working under the guidance of Dr. Kendall Swanson, her MS research focused on the biological associations between feeding behavior, linear body measurements, blood metabolites and different measures of feed efficiency in beef cattle.

Ananda joined the McFadden Lab at Cornell University in the Spring of 2018 and was granted the inaugural Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) Fellowship. Sponsored by FFAR and her industry sponsor VetAgro Inc., she will study heat stress resilience in dairy cattle. Focusing on the gut microbiome and host interface, she will investigate if those interactions define poor growth and milk production; and test nutritional therapies aimed to treat increased intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut), a common condition that affects cattle exposed to extreme heat conditions. Considering the current climate change challenges faced by agricultural systems, Ananda hopes that her research can be translated and applicable not only to US farming systems, but at a global scale and may represent avenues for increasing animal welfare, profitability and food security.

Brianna Tate, PhD student

Brianna was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 2016, she graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina with a BA in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. Brianna went on to receive her MS in Cell and Molecular Biology from Appalachian State as well where she studied the anti-arthritic mechanisms of Moringa oleifera in primary human fibroblast-like synoviocytes. During that time, she worked as a teaching assistant for introductory biology laboratories.

Brianna joined the McFadden lab as a PhD Student in the Fall of 2018 where she will be involved in establishing precision-cut liver slices as an ex vivo model for the bovine liver. Using this model, she will study the effects of methyl donor and fatty acid supplementation on phosphatidylcholine synthesis and VLDL export of triacylglycerol. Brianna hopes to use her research in order to develop nutraceutical techniques as a means to provide more affordable, accessible, and safer methods to treat diseases in both humans and animals.

Awais Javaid, PhD student

Awais is originally from Pakistan.  He completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2019 from University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. During his Degree, he was actively involved in the research and  diagnostic laboratories of his University and vicinity. He worked as a Vet in both organic and conventional mega-dairies of his home country. After graduation, He started working as a research intern in the Population Medicine and Diagnostic Science at Cornell University. Therein, he worked with graduate students in the various dairy research projects of immunology and vaccine development. Further, he joined McFadden’s Lab as the research intern in 2020 at the Animal Science Department of Cornell. He is currently working on the effects of heat stress on liver damage, microbiome dysbiosis, endotoxemia and immune function of the dairy cows. Awais is pursuing his Ph.D. under Dr. McFadden’s supervision from August 2020. He is interested in the Climate change effect on the health of Dairy Cattle especially in the causation of syndromes like the leaky gut etc. He will study the effect of environment and nutrients on metabolism, milk production and immune responsiveness. Moreover, His study will include ex vivo effects of endotoxin and heat shock on hepatic lipid disposal, inflammation, and the APR in fatty liver slices. He would like to boost the immune system with nutrients, thus, minimizing medicine administration and maximizing disease prevention in farm animals. He believes that his research in dairy and nutritional immunology will have an impact not only on dairy but also on human health. Apart from the work, Awais is interested in horse riding, gaming, cooking and reading.

Tanya France, PhD student

Tanya grew up in Lindenhurst, Illinois. In 2017, she graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in Animal Science. Tanya then earned her MS in Animal and Food Sciences at the University of Kentucky in January 2020. Her Masters research focused on compost bedded pack barn management, bedding microbiology, and teat exposure in relation to mastitis incidence in transition dairy cows. During this time, she was a teaching assistant for the dairy cattle management course and helped with various dairy extension and 4-H events.

Tanya joined the McFadden lab as a PhD student in January 2020 where she will be studying fatty acid and methyl donor nutrition and metabolism, and their interactions with health and immune function in transition dairy cattle. She hopes her research will provide new approaches in feeding strategies to optimize transition cow health.  Looking ahead, Tanya plans to pursue a career in academia at a land-grant university.


Photo of William Myerss

William Myers, PhD student

William was raised in Morgantown, West Virginia where he earned a BS in Biology at West Virginia University. He first started working with dairy cattle and research in the winter of 2015 as a member of Dr. McFadden’s lab. William worked on a 700-cow dairy operation in Berlin, Pennsylvania for seven months before starting as a master’s student in Animal Physiology at WVU. During this time, he was also a teaching assistant in the chemistry department for inorganic chemistry laboratory classes. In 2017 he moved to Ithaca, New York to complete his masters in Animal Science at Cornell University. William’s focus is on transition dairy cow liver health and metabolism. More specifically, he is interested in VLDL export of triacylglycerol from the liver via increased phosphatidylcholine availability through the use of methyl donor supplementation. William was involved in developing a novel FPLC (Fast Protein Liquid Chromatography) method to isolate bovine VLDL, LDL, buoyant-HDL, and dense-HDL lipoprotein fractionations from serum and plasma. William will pursue a PhD and potentially secure a position in industry. He is passionate about animal welfare, sustainable agriculture, efficient resource allocation, zero human impact, and “Feeding Ten Billion People by 2050”. William enjoys working with animals, fishing, hiking, backpacking, camping, skiing, kayaking, and working on the farm.


Feiran Wang, Visiting scholar

Feiran Wang, visiting PhD student from China Agricultural University. Feiran received her bachelor degree in Agronomy from China Agricultural University in the summer of 2015 and started her PhD program in dairy nutrition at China Agricultural University in the fall of 2015. Feiran will spend 12 months in Dr. McFadden’s lab helping on the heat resilience trial in calves and lactating cows.



Victor Sainz de la MazaVictor Sáinz de la Maza, Visiting scholar

Víctor was raised in Lleida, Spain where he recently received a DVM degree and a BS in Animal Science at University of Lleida. In 2017, Víctor won an Erasmus Scholarship at University of Bologna, Italy where he followed the course in Animal Nutrition of Dr. Andrea Piva. Afterwards, he kept working under the Professor guidance to conduct his dissertations focusing on the use of synthetic amino acids in dairy cattle nutrition. Víctor joined the McFadden lab in the summer of 2019 as a prior training to his PhD program in Ruminant nutrition that will start in January 2020 at the University of Bologna. He will spend 6 months in Dr. McFadden’s lab helping on the heat resilience trial in calves and lactating cows.


Undergraduate researchers currently in the lab include:

Julia Siegel, Andrew Richards, Logan Goddard, Crystal Change, Ada Zhu, Arabella Park, and Lea Gamez Jimenez.

These students all have an interest in pursuing a veterinary, philosophy, or medical doctoral degree following graduation.