Dr. R. Michael Akers is the Graduate Studies chair and Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor of Dairy Science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va.   Mike grew up in southwest Virginia and was active in 4-H.  He completed his BS (Biology) and MS (Dairy Science) at Va Tech under the guidance of Dr. Bill Heald and his Ph.D. at Michigan State University in 1980 with Dr. Alan Tucker.  After time as a research physiologist at UDSA, Beltsville, he moved to Va Tech in 1981.  He was appointed full Professor in 1992 and was named Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor in 1996.  His research efforts have emphasized endocrine and growth factor regulation of mammary development and mammary function.  Work has focused on identification of local tissue elements that regulate mammary cell proliferation more recently the role of insulin-like growth factor axis molecules and extracellular matrix proteins on heifer mammary development.  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 is also currently working with colleagues to identify bovine mammary stem cells and how they are impacted by nutrition and the endocrine system.  After more than two decades of teaching and research, Dr. Akers became head of the Department of Dairy Science in 2004 while maintaining his research program.  The department has reorganized and expanded in faculty and resources under his leadership.


He has maintained work with several long-term collaborators both in the U.S. and internationally.  They have exchanged graduate students, shared research projects, and published manuscripts jointly.  The graduates of Mike’s research program and occupy a variety of respected academic and industry positions.  He authored or co-authored more than 160 full refereed scientific papers and 165 abstracts.  In 2002 he completed a book, Lactation and the Mammary Gland, published by Iowa State Press.  In 2008 he and Dr. Mike Denbow published “Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals”, Blackwell Press.  He has received three ADSA research awards: Agway Young Scientist, Borden Award, and Pharmacia & Upjohn Physiology and the Growth and Development Award from the ASAS.  He also received the Alumni Award for Research Excellence from Va Tech in 2000.  In 2006 he was named a Fellow by ADSA.

Recently, we have utilized immortalized bovine mammary epithelial cells to determine effects of secretion of recombinant insulin-like growth factor-I (rIGF-I) on cell growth, morphogenesis, and gene expression especially related to extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules. Whole animal studies focus on nutritional and hormonal factors that regulate peripubertal bovine mammary development. Specifically, we are evaluating the impacts of IGF-I axis related molecules (IGF-I, IGF-I receptor, IGF-I binding proteins, Growth Hormone (GH) and GH receptor, and steroid hormone receptors on mammary cell proliferation, expression of selected extracellular matrix components (collagen, fibronectin, laminin), and ontogeny of putative mammary epithelial stem cells using a DNA label retaining technique with immunocytochemistry.

In summary, there are three primary elements to my current research program:


  1. Study of effects of extracellular matrix molecules on secretion of recombinant IGF-I and IGF-I binding proteins and effects of proliferation and morphogenesis in immortalized cells.

  2. The role of local growth factor production in mammary growth in peripubertal dairy cattle as impacted by nutrition and mammogenic hormones.

  3. Discovery of techniques to identify and understanding cellular mechanisms involved in modulating populations of putative epithelial stem cells in the heifer mammary gland.

Two Books
~ 160 Refereed Journal Articles
6 Book Chapters,
10 Refereed Conference Proceedings
170 Scientific Abstracts



Akers, R.M. and D. M. Denbow, 2008, Anatomy and Physiology of Domestic Animals, Blackwell Press, accepted for publication in production ~ 600 pages.

Akers, R.M., 2002, “Lactation and the Mammary Gland”, Iowa State Press, ISBN 0-8138-2992-5, 278 pages.




Akers, R. M. and A. V. Capuco. 2009. Lactogenesis in Encyclopedia of Dairy Science 3rd Edition, Academic Press Volume 3: (accepted).


Nickerson, S.C. and R.M. Akers. 2009. Mammary Gland Anatomy in Encyclopedia of Dairy Science 3rd edition, Academic Press Volume 3: (accepted).


Capuco, A. V. and R. M. Akers. 2009. Galactopoiesis – Effects of hormones and growth factors in Encyclopedia of Dairy Science, 3rd Edition Academic Press Volume 3. (accepted).


Akers, R.M. 2004. Milk Synthesis in Encyclopedia of Animal Science, Marcel Dekker, 629-631.


Nickerson, S.C. and R.M. Akers. 2002. Mammary Gland Anatomy in Encyclopedia of Dairy Science, Academic Press Vol 3: 1680-1689.


Capuco, A.V. and R.M. Akers. 2002. Galactopoiesis – Effects of hormones and growth factors in Encyclopedia of Dairy Science, Academic Press Vol 3: 1452-1458.


Capuco, A.V. and R.M. Akers. 2002. Galactopoiesis – Effects of BST treatment in Encyclopedia of Dairy Science, Academic.


Akers, R.M., 1999. Lactogenesis in Encyclopedia of Reproduction, Academic Press Vol 2 37-43.


Akers, R.M. 1994. Lactation in Encyclopedia of Agricultural Science, Vol 2: 635-643. Academic Press.




Visit PubMed to view Dr. Akers' peer reviewed articles.

Symposium Presentation, 5th International Congress on Farm Animal Endocrinology, “Ovarian and IGF-I Axis Control of Mammary Development in Prepubertal Heifers”, July 5, 2004 Budapest, Hungary


Advances in Mammary Biology: A Tribute to H. Allen Tucker, March 4, 2005, “Mammary Development Like Politics Starts at Home”, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey


Invited Speaker European Association Animal Production Meeting, “Mammary Growth and Alveolar Secretory Cell Differentiation: Keys to Milk Production”, August 26, 2007 Dublin Ireland

2006 – Named Fellow of the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA)


2003 – Animal Growth and Development Award, American Association of Animal Science


2000 – Alumni Research Award for Research Excellence, University-wide VT award


2000 – Pharmacia & Upjohn Physiology Award, ADSA


1996 – AgResearch Senior Research Fellow, Agriculture Research Centre, New Zealand


1996 – Research Award of Merit Gamma Sigma Delta


1993 – Borden Award, ADSA


1986 - Agway Young Scientist Award from ADSA

Benjamin Enger, PhD



  • Brandy Huderson
  • Kristy Daniels [PhD] 2009, Assistant Professor, Dairy Science, Virginia Tech
  • Bisi Velayudhan  [PhD] 2009
  • Kristy Daniels [MS] 2004
  • Jamie Forrest [MS] 2003, Physicians Assistant Program, Wake Forest University, working in medical field
  • Sarah Berry [Ph.D.] 2003, Senior Research Physiologist ViaLactia, Auckland New Zealand
  • Miriam Weber [MS] 1995
  • Miriam Weber [Ph.D.] 1998, Associate Professor at Michigan State University
  • Steven Ellis [Ph.D.] 1998, Post Doc at University Georgia, Associate Professor, Clemson University
  • Steven Ellis [MS] 1994
  • Terry Woodward [MS] 1991, Completed Ph.D. McGill University, currently works for Canadian Government
  • Donato Romagnolo [Ph.D.] 1993, Post Doc, NIH, Professor University of Arizona
  • Rene Filep [MS] 1990, Currently teaching school
  • Thomas Daniel [MS] 1989, Completed Ph.D. at NC State, currently owner Nutritional Consulting Business
  • Thomas McFadden [Ph.D.] 1987, Professor and Department Head, Department of Animal Sciences, University of Vermont
  • Thomas McFadden [MS] 1985
    James Smith [MS] 1985, Completed Ph.D. at University MD, Post doc at Duke University, Senior Regional Medical and Research Specialist Neurosciences

06/2004 – Current | Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor & Graduate Studies Chair, Department of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech


06/2004 – 2016 | Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor & Department Head, Deparment of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech


06/1996 – 06/2004 | Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor,  Department of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech


11/1981 - 06/1996 | Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor,   Department of Dairy Science, Virginia Tech


03/1980 - 11/1981 | Research Physiologist, USDA, Milk Secretion and Mastitis Laboratory, Beltsville, MD


09/1974 - 02/1980 | Graduate Research Assistant,  Virginia Tech and State University and Michigan State University, Blacksburg, VA and East Lansing, MI

AS     1972    Wytheville Community College  
(Pre-Teacher Education)    


BS     1974    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

MS    1976    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Dairy Science  


PhD   1980    Michigan State UniversityDairy Science

American Dairy Science Association

Endocrine Society

American Society of Animal Science

American Society for Advancement of Science

Sigma Xi

Gamma Sigma Delta


Dr. Mike Akers

(retired 09/01/2018)
Horace E. and Elizabeth F. Alphin Professor
Department of Dairy Science
175 West Campus Drive
2130 Litton-Reaves Hall
Blacksburg, VA 24061


(540) 231-8895


Areas of Expertise

Mammary Gland Biology




Lab Group

Cathy Parsons
Laboratory & Research Specialist

Hannah Tucker, PhD Candidate

Benjamin Enger, PhD Candidate