Dörte Döpfer

Credentials: Professor, Food Animal Production Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine. Faculty Affiliate: Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, Department of Population Health Sciences, Food Research Institute

Position title: School of Veterinary Medicine

Email: dopfer@wisc.edu

Veterinarian and epidemiologist Dörte Döpfer says she is not a “classic vet” who drives a truck and treats a single cow. Instead, she studies infectious and production diseases in animal populations, working with large data sets to identify risk factors for bovine metabolic diseases, and diseases such as lameness-associated bovine digital dermatitis.

Dörte is passionate about optimizing mathematical models for statistical prediction and performance. She applies data science methods to co-optimize prediction models not only for meat and milk production, but also for the longevity and well-being of food animals. Her goal is to arrive at a more sustainable agriculture focused on animal welfare.

Covid-19 opened up a new area of research for Dörte. Working with time series, she estimates and predicts confirmed cases and hospitalizations for both UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Her participation in the Data Science Institute’s Covid-19 Research Group helped her overcome feelings of helplessness during the early months of the pandemic.

Dörte is an artist as well as a data scientist. Her portraits of cows reflect how they can thrive in human care. She sees her paintings as data catalysts where patterns of perception come together, and she believes data science can function in a similarly creative way.

“The creativity that lives in art is similar to the creativity seen when discovering and connecting patterns in data. Data science tools applied for the benefit of humankind, animals, and the environment result in a heartfelt and ethical connection to what we do.”