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Colgate professor Barbara Hoopes steps out of genetics lab and into Westminster competition

By Tim O'Keeffe on February 10, 2014
Barbara Hoopes's dog Tommy takes part in the agility competition at Westminster. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Barbara Hoopes’s dog Tommy takes part in the master agility competition at Westminster. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Associate Professor of Biology Barbara Hoopes, who is recognized for her recent studies of how genetic variation affects different breeds of dogs, found herself in a different kind of spotlight this weekend as she took her love of dogs to a new setting —  the Westminster Kennel Club’s first-ever master agility competition.

Hoopes and her dog were mentioned in an Associated Press story that was picked up by media outlets across the nation, including The Seattle Times, The Washington Post, and The Dallas Morning News.

The story noted how Hoopes’s dog Tommy, a 5 1/2-pound toy poodle, flew over the jumps and tiptoed through the weave poles to finish third in the championship round for his height group.

“He’s a big dog in a little dog’s body,” Hoopes said.

The AP story said that the competition put a fast-growing canine activity on U.S. dogdom’s biggest stage, with the finals nationally televised on Fox Sports 1.  It also marked the first time that mixed-breed dogs appeared there in 130 or more years.

Hoopes said she has been showing dogs since she was a child and that it was a big reason why she became a geneticist.  She got Tommy after seeing his father when she was helping another laboratory collect DNA samples at a poodle show.

In her research lab at Colgate, Hoopes is working to understand how variation at the genetic level can be linked to size differences in purebred dogs and what the molecular and cellular explanation is for how those variations actually affect body size in different breeds of dogs.

Students get to explore this subject through her Eukaryotic Molecular Genetics research course and through summer research funded by the university’s Division of Natural Science and Mathematics.  Additional students are assisting her through a semester-long investigative project for the laboratory for her Molecular Biology course, where they  study aspects of the molecular genetics of dog-body size.

Learn more here about Hoopes’s research and her interest in molecular biology and molecular genetics.

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