New faculty fill key positions


Rodolfo Cardoso
Assistant Professor, Physiology of Reproduction

Growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dr. Rodolfo Cardoso gained a unique perspective on agriculture. After being raised in metropolitan Sao Paulo until he was 8 years old, his family bought a small ranch and started raising crossbred dairy cows. Helping his grandfather feed cows, dehorn calves, build fences, and care for the sick animals ignited his passion for agriculture. He knew then that he wanted to work with livestock animals when he grew older.

After working hard through high school, he achieved his goal of attending veterinary school at Sao Paulo State University. During his last year of veterinary school, he was presented the opportunity to do an internship in several different fields of veterinary medicine. It was during this time he became involved and interested in Physiology of Reproduction. After receiving his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, he completed a residency program in Veterinary Theriogenology at Sao Paulo State University. Soon after completing his residency, he pursued a Master of Science degree in Animal Reproduction investigating strategies to improve pregnancy rate in bovine embryo recipients. Cardoso then had the opportunity to come to Texas A&M University to obtain a doctoral degree in Physiology of Reproduction studying reproductive neuroendocrinology in cattle. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan working on a sheep model of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

During his free time he likes to enjoy the great outdoors and be close to nature with his wife, Ximena, and his dog, Woody.

What research projects are you working on?

I am currently working with two lines of research:

  1. The first aims to investigate how nutrition during the perinatal development can affect reproductive neuroendocrine function in heifers. A better understanding of this process may help develop nutritional and pharmacological strategies to optimally time puberty in beef heifers and to shorten the postpartum anestrous interval in sexually-mature females, thus benefiting the beef industry.
  2. My second line of research studies how prenatal exposure to androgen excess negatively impacts metabolic and reproductive function in female offspring. Female sheep prenatally exposed to androgen excess develop reproductive and metabolic alterations that closely resemble those seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Therefore, understanding the mechanisms underlying these perturbations in sheep may help develop strategies to treat and/or prevent some of the alterations seen in women with PCOS.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

The aspect of my job that I enjoy the most is the great opportunity I have to positively impact the lives of many. This can be achieved by teaching and mentoring students, by carrying out research that can help improve reproductive health in women, or by developing strategies that can significantly improve profitability of beef cattle farming, thus benefiting large communities.

What are you looking forward to about in your new position here at Texas A&M?

I am very honored and excited to be back at my alma mater. It is great to see Texas A&M thriving – I was very excited to see A&M ranked among the top 20 U.S. research universities by the National Science Foundation (NSF), based on annual expenditures in research and development. I look forward to helping Texas A&M achieve its long-term goal to become one of the top-10 research universities in the U.S.


Jessica Leatherwood
Assistant Professor, Equine Science

Dr. Jessica Leatherwood grew up a short drive from College Station, off TX Hwy 6 in Hearne, TX. Her parents were not from a rural background, but they always supported her interest from an early age for horses and other livestock. Despite Leatherwood’s parents’ thoughts of horses simply being a phase, as every young girl has a love for pony muzzles, manes, and tails, she continued her passion for horses competitively throughout high school. Leatherwood really credits the long hours of devotion from her parents (driving her across TX and further), 4-H leaders, and FFA advisors, for preparing her to receive both academic scholarships as well as an athletic scholarship to become a member of the NCAA Texas A&M University Women’s Equestrian Team. She enrolled as a freshman, and can still remember the first day of ANSC 107 that was taught by Dr. Ramsey, and she knew then she had made the right decision to continue her passion for the livestock industry. Dr. Ramsey would continue to advise Leatherwood throughout her academic career as an undergraduate and assist her with other aspirations, such as obtaining a national championship as a member the wool and mohair judging team.

The faculty in this department as well as the equestrian team coaches were instrumental in setting high standards of excellence throughout Leatherwood’s undergraduate tenure. One in particular, Leatherwood met in the fall of 2006, when she arrived to Freeman Arena from the University of Georgia, with a short and wide palomino horse named Gus in-tow, was Dr. Josie Coverdale. They began a relationship that developed Leatherwood from taking on tasks to becoming a professional. Despite Coverdale’s best efforts to encourage her to seek out other graduate programs at the completion of her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science, Leatherwood continued to work for her over the next six years. “When the world lost Josie in February, I lost a friend and mentor who will never be replaced, but it was her personal interest in my success that has allowed me to become the person I am today,” said Leatherwood.

In her free time, Leatherwood enjoys spending time with her husband, horses and two dogs, Bella and Eddy. The Leatherwoods are expecting their first child in December and look forward to their interests and hobbies centering around her.

What projects are you working on or plan to work on?

My interests in research, similar to the mentorship I received as a graduate student, have been predominately driven by graduate students interested in the area of equine nutrition and physiology. I have a personal interest in continuing to identify markers of cartilage metabolism as well as further evaluation of the interface between subchondral bone and soft tissue.  I am facilitating a project evaluating the influence of chelated trace minerals in weanling horses challenged with intra-articular LPS. I hope to continue the scope of this study to include others relating to the growth and health of young horses.

What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

The greatest aspect of my job is the ability to interact with students in order to shape them in becoming employable graduates and contributing members to the equine industry and society. I hope to find ways to actively engage students during class as well as in student activities. I enjoy teaching hands-on laboratories and devote time outside the classroom to allow students the opportunity to interact and develop skills relating to all aspects of animal science.

What are you looking forward to or are excited about in your new position here at Texas A&M?

I am really looking forward, beyond the teaching opportunities, to have the ability to dedicate time in refining the scope of my research. This department is filled with outstanding scientists and mentors in each of their respective disciplines. They are leading innovators and take on novel approaches. I am really excited to become a part of this faculty team and I look forward to the potential to collaborate and seek mentorship from the senior faculty.


Sarah White
Assistant Professor, Equine Physiology

Ever since a young age, Dr. Sarah White has been engaged in the equine industry. Growing up north of Orlando, Florida, Sarah got on her first horse at 6 months of age and her passion has never diminished. At 6 years old she was able to begin riding lessons and soon started showing in local 4-H shows. At age 13 she began training her own horse, a half-Arabian named Comet. Her passion for performance horses began after taking her purebred Arabian, Mister, to a reserve national championship in dressage.

Attending the University of Florida with the intentions to pursue veterinary school, Sarah soon discovered her passion to find ways to improve the well-being of performance horses. After developing a love for teaching, she knew pursuing a PhD was the right fit. Sarah attended graduate school at the University of Florida and achieved a Master’s of Science degree in Equine Nutrition, and soon after a PhD in Equine Nutrition and a minor in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. Wanting to further her knowledge on equine muscle physiology, she entered a post-doctoral position at the University of Kentucky to gain experience and the tools necessary to expand equine exercise physiology research into a new realm.

During her free time, Sarah competes in dressage with her Arabian mare, Amira. She also loves to be around water, whether it’s fishing, scalloping, or just being in a boat. She is active in two non-profit organizations, and is hopeful her time here at Texas A&M will present her with more opportunities to give back to others.

What projects are you working on or plan to work on?

We currently have a few ongoing research projects aimed at identifying the effects of various supplements on muscle health in young horses. Additionally, we are working to better characterize muscle phenotypes in a range of age groups of horses to use as a starting point for future muscle physiology research ideas. A main focus of our lab is the aged horse and how exercise may prevent age-related decreased muscle mass and overall quality of life. We hope to be able to improve not only our aged horse population but also be able to use the horse as a model of human aging, so that we may learn more about how to prevent muscle wasting in older individuals. Lastly, our lab has an interest in preventing or minimizing equine gastric ulcer syndrome in performance horses.

What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

The part of my job that I absolutely love is that no day is the same. There is no clocking in at 9 and out at 5. There are days spent at the computer researching new ideas or generating new project proposals and there are days spent at the farm with the horses. There are workdays that last 14 hours and there are collections that happen at 2 am. I can honestly say my job is never boring and I am always excited to come to work in the morning. I think that is truly a blessing that not everyone is afforded and I am beyond grateful for the opportunities with which I have been presented.

What are you looking forward to or are excited about in your new position here at Texas A&M?

I am most excited at the seemingly endless number of opportunities I will have here at A&M to expand our knowledge of equine muscle physiology. There is an amazing group of individuals here between Animal Science, the vet school, and across campus that are more than willing to collaborate so that we may achieve a greater good. It is wonderful to see so many brilliant minds working together! I have also heard that the students are top notch so I am eager to begin teaching in the spring.


For more information regarding news from the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, please contact Maggie Tucker at or (979) 845-1542.

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