Joseph Lee’s Story
During his undergraduate degree, Joseph has been involved at the UBC Dairy Education and Research Center in Agassiz. He first got involved in the summer of his first year when he took a short-term research assistant position with the Animal Welfare Program (AWP) that was advertised to students through email. With no prior experience working with animals, he said he felt unqualified for the position but decided to apply with an open mind and willingness to learn on the job! He was hired as a research assistant, where he performed routine chores and health check-ups on the dairy calves that were included in studies on cognitive bias testing, calf weaning, and heifer training.
Although this first experience with research was only 3 weeks long, it sparked Joseph’s interest in animal welfare and dairy science. While taking APBI 314, Animals in Society, Joseph reached out to Dr Nina von Keyserlingk in search of opportunities at the Dairy Centre as he was eager to return and learn more. She recommended the applied animal biology practicum course APBI 496; he was accepted into the course and he completed a 4-month practicum in 2021. Through the practicum, he was able to build upon his existing skill set by shadowing experienced graduate students in their specialized studies in animal welfare and reproduction.
Soon after the practicum, Joseph was approached by a former supervisor who was looking for a student with prior research experience on the farm to assist with the heifer training project. He had the opportunity to return as a research assistant in the summer, working closely with a postdoctoral fellow. He had the opportunity to assist in the preparation and execution of a brand new study in heifer training. Over the period of two months, he trained heifers to walk into a confined chute with target training and positive reinforcement. He was able to follow the study through from start to finish, and experience the heifers training progress up close. It was an exciting chance to work through a project from beginning to end!
Before working on the farm, Joseph felt he had limited knowledge of the career possibilities coming out of Applied Biology, however, his experiences have introduced him to a wide array of jobs in the dairy industry and animal welfare. He is now considering graduate studies in the same field. Joseph’s advice for students considering getting involved in undergraduate research is to be open to exploring these undergraduate research opportunities because despite feeling under-prepared or unqualified for the job, there is no harm in applying!
The Applied Animal Biology Practicum (APBI 496) is through application to a number of different potential partners. Check out the wiki site to learn more about these opportunities. You can also follow the APBI Student Blog to hear about other opportunities for students.