Jonathan “Jonny” Matthew Hancock began his graduate career in toxicology at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine in May of 2020, when the COVID pandemic was putting fear and doubt into occasions that would otherwise be marked by joy and anticipation.

“Both my lab and department were in a difficult place financially with pandemic restrictions preventing many aspects of normal academic life,” Hancock says. Coincidently, the inaugural CVM Matching Assistantship – which supports 50 percent of the salary for a new Ph.D. student for the first three years of their graduate study – started in May 2020. Hancock was competitively selected as a recipient of the inaugural CVM Matching Assistantship. Hancock acknowledges that “the CVM Matching Assistantship is one of the main reasons I can call myself a Ph.D. candidate. By receiving the award, I significantly reduced the financial burden on both the lab and department, while still securing funding to pursue my graduate education,” he says. Hancock advanced to Ph.D. candidacy in July 2022 and is being recognized globally for his research in the field of reproduction.

Jonny is currently a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program. His Major Professor is Dr. Xiaoqin Ye in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology. Their research revolves around the cellular and molecular mechanisms of establishing early pregnancy, and how these processes are disrupted, using mouse models. Hancock and his lab mates have been leading the research of uterine fluid regulation. Proper regulation is an essential step for fertilization, embryo transport, and embryo implantation into the uterus for development.

“Our basic research is the first step for future drug development to treat infertility caused by uterine fluid dysregulation,” Ye says. Hancock has presented his Ph.D. research 12 times at local, regional, and international conferences. He has published four original research papers, and he is the first author for one of them. He has multiple first-author manuscripts and co-author manuscripts in preparation.

As a child, Hancock dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but when he began taking biochemistry classes as an undergraduate at UGA, his interest shifted to graduate school. “I pursued graduate school to continue developing my skills as a scientist and person. After applying to the Integrated Life Sciences program at UGA, I was approached by an excited, young-at-heart professor (Ye) who I knew I would work well with. After our first meeting, I was certain her mentorship and the lab culture were crucial for my development,” he says.

“Working together with Ye has been foundational in becoming a leader both in and out of the lab, communicating my research, and building a worldwide network of other reproductive biologists.”

Their partnership has been a successful one. In spring 2023, Hancock was selected as one of only 20 recipients worldwide for the prestigious Frontiers in Reproduction Training Scholarship sponsored by the World Health Organization and National Institutes of Health. In fall 2023, he won the first place Graduate Student Poster Presentation Award at the Southeast Society of Toxicology Annual Meeting.

In addition to research and communication skills, Hancock has also been honing his mentoring skills and leadership skills. He has mentored more than two dozen junior students in the lab with many of them winning research and presentation awards. He is a past president of UGATOX and is the current vice president of the Physiology and Pharmacology Graduate Student Association. He was selected as an emerging leader by the UGA Graduate School in 2022.

Hancock is a well-rounded student and a positive presence in the lab. Ye describes him as “a very thoughtful and very cheerful person” who helps maintain a nurturing environment for lab members to build up confidence, which is essential for future success. She states that “Jonny continues building solid foundations for becoming a leader in the near future.”

Give to the CVM Matching Assistantship Fund using this link.

Above: Jonny Hancock at work in Dr. Xiaoqin Ye’s lab in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology. Hancock was awarded first place for the poster presentation at this year’s Southeastern Society of Toxicology. He was the first recipient of funds from the CVM Matching Assistantship started in May 2020.

This article was originally published by the College of Veterinary Medicine on February 21, 2024 by Amy H. Carter