Case study

BSc student — Kerry Holtham

Kerry's love of animals led her to study BSc Bioveterinary Science at the University of Lincoln. Learn more about her course and where a qualification in this field can lead

Why did you decide to pursue this particular course?

Growing up I was fascinated by animals beginning with my own pets, which unlike most households included honeybees. Watching the colony grow and evolve, I was enamoured by the hive's instinctual biological processes.

While at high school I worked with animals in various volunteer roles, however, I felt in my element working in veterinary clinics. Here I witnessed consultations, vaccine and treatment administration and surgical procedures. At an on-site laboratory, I was exposed to diagnostic and disease monitoring techniques.

When searching for university courses I was initially unfamiliar with bioveterinary science. Upon investigation, I quickly realised the course's potential to fuse my love of animals and the biological sciences, providing me with a platform to develop a career in this field.

Tell us a bit about your course and what it involves

Studying bioveterinary science allows you to explore the science underlying animal behaviour, health, and disease. It combines key concepts of animal science through relevant theory, laboratory and field practicals and computer analysis.

It encompasses a broad array of modules, including molecular biology, clinical biochemistry and diagnostics, animal nutrition, veterinary parasitology and immunology. Plus, the opportunity to study these aspects in a range of host species, including exotic, companion, livestock and wild animals, as well as in humans.

In July 2020, I began a year-long placement at The Pirbright Institute. Working in the Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive (PRRS) Immunology Group under the supervision of Professor Simon Graham, I have been looking at the immunogenicity and efficacy of candidate vaccines. PRRS is a major disease of swine, causing reproductive losses in sows and respiratory pathologies in growing pigs, resulting in substantial economic losses for farmers. This work has allowed me to apply my scientific theory, diversify my practical skills and enhance my sterile technique.

What have been the highlights of your placement at The Pirbright Institute?

Being at Pirbright, I have been lucky enough to attend a variety of interesting seminars and workshops that I wouldn't have otherwise had access to. The Institute hosts scientific professionals from a variety of backgrounds and the ability to learn from and collaborate with these individuals has been invaluable in shaping me as a researcher and as a person.

My time at Pirbright has also introduced me to the exciting possibilities of a career in immunological research. I love investigating unknowns and understanding more about biological mechanisms through the performance of assays.

How is the course assessed?

This varies depending on the module, but examples of assessment methods include coursework - such as written assignments, reports and dissertations, practical exams - like presentations, laboratory performances or observations and time-constrained examination - including written exams and in-class/online tests.

What do you hope to do when you graduate?

I would love to explore different immunological themes in the animal health sector, potentially in diagnostics, vaccines, or other pharmaceutical formulations. Regardless, I hope to continue my education perhaps via postgraduate study and to work in the bioveterinary science field.

I would also like to ensure that whatever my career path, it is underpinned by my belief in 'one medicine', whereby vets, doctors and researchers all collaborate so that all benefit from equal and sustainable medical progress. Through 'one medicine', not only can we speed up research progress, we can also avoid current limitations in our own research, which I think the emerging generation of scientists should look to tackle.

What areas of work could you go into as a result of your study?

Graduating from bioveterinary science you can go into a range of careers in animal-related professions. Examples include roles in research and development, technical support, sales of animal pharmaceuticals, vaccines, nutrition products, as well as in animal health, laboratory diagnostics, toxicology, forensics and animal care at wildlife parks and zoos.

Many students continue to study at Masters and PhD level, while some go on to study veterinary medicine.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to a career in science?

My advice would be to carefully research courses and keep an open mind. Until attending shared modules with biomedical science peers, I wasn't so aware of the commonalities between human and animal health. From a young age, we're taught to recognise being a doctor and a vet as two very distinct career paths with no middle ground. This doesn't have to be the case. There are loads of courses out there that fuse both areas of study and I have no doubt the perfect course is out there for everyone.

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