The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes R. Michael “Mike” Akers, the Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for putting the “science” in dairy science.
The head of the Department of Dairy Science for more than a decade, Akers continually maintained an active research program. He has authored or co-authored hundreds of peer-reviewed papers. He has worked to develop tools and systems to understand the essential biological functions and properties of dairy cattle.
Approaches have included creation of transgenic mice, development of bioengineered bovine mammary cell lines, and use of proteomics to identify proteins involved in stimulation of mammary cell proliferation. He also works with colleagues to identify bovine mammary stem cells and how they are impacted by nutrition and the endocrine system.
His research efforts have emphasized endocrine and growth factor regulation of mammary development and mammary function, the identification of local tissue elements that regulate mammary cell proliferation, and, more recently, the role of insulin-like growth factor axis molecules and extracellular matrix proteins on heifer mammary development.
He grew up in southwest Virginia and was active in 4-H. He completed his bachelor’s degree in biology and his master’s degree in dairy science at Virginia Tech, and received his doctorate at Michigan State University. He was a research physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s research center in Beltsville, Md., before joining the dairy science department.