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Meet Bri!

Bri with a calf
Bri working with calves at the Cornell Teaching
and Research Dairy Center.

Bri is an animal science student at Cornell University and will be entering her senior year. Originally from Mont Vernon, New Hampshire Bri transferred to Cornell from John Hopkins University after studying for a year in the area of chemical and bio-molecular engineering. When asked why she chose to make such a dramatic change in study focus her response was "…I really just missed the farm since I grew up on a dairy."

Bri has sought out work experience opportunities while at Cornell. She currently works as an undergraduate research assistant with 4 different labs. We asked Bri to tell us more out those experiences and how she found them.

How did you hear about this work experience opportunity?
"I just told [my academic advisor] I was interested in doing research in dairy nutrition or something related and a couple weeks later he had found some place that I could do work. …I’ve never had to give anyone a resume… Its all been through other people mentioning positions or asking."

Word of mouth is an excellent way to learn about work opportunities. In Bri’s case she was proactive and made her interests known, which most likely landed her the job!

Describe a typical day for you! What are some of your responsibilities in this position?

"The summer has been all over the place because I am helping out with four labs right now… a lot of it is animal care stuff and sample collections."

As a research assistant Bri routinely feeds and weighs calves, takes fecal samples and blood samples, helps in the lab with preparations for the study and sample analyses. Working in department labs on various research projects is an excellent way to learn if post-graduate studies are for you!

Bri in the lab.
Hard at work in the lab sorting fecal samples.

Have you had a particularly exciting or memorable day at work? 

 "I remember when we had to put in abomasum lines. Keenan was showing us how to do that and I realized how challenging … and how stinky it was. I think I remember the smell the most [laughs] rumen fluid is pretty pungent…. That sticks out in my mind. …By the end of the day I was drenched in rumen fluid all the way down and [my supervisor] was laughing at me. …I made the mistake of washing those clothes with other clothes to then the whole load smelled. So it took a few [washes to get rid of the smell]."

For those non-cow folk the abomasum and rumen are compartments of a cow’s stomach! Scientists will sometimes use a cow with a rumen fistula, an opening into the rumen, to learn more about how cows digest food.  You never know what kind of unique experiences you will have when working with dairy scientists on research projects!

What is something important you have learned? 

"I guess I’ve learned that I can handle more than I thought I could. This past semester has been a real challenge with getting up for 6AM feedings for one study and running around and then doing class work. So I found I have better limits than I thought I did. And I guess working in the labs have given me a lot of confidence in my skills and shown I am capable of doing stuff."

Bri with a cow.
Taking time to visit with the cows!

Do you have any advice for students interested in getting experience with animals?

"Really it is just about networking and asking and showing that your committed to what you’re doing. …Even if it is a tedious task, do it well! Seriously … like I found out this semester… I collect fecal samples, its not very glorious at all but you know if you do it well enough and they recognize that your working hard and that your committed to the lab they will start giving you more things to do."

Has this experience helped you move closer to your dream job? How?

"Definitely. Oh ya. Its been a great experience. If it weren’t for the labs I wouldn’t know 1) that I really WANTED to do research, 2) that I COULD do research and that I was capable of doing all these things."