Vet Science Grad Program Unites Passion for Science, Horses

Vet Science Grad Program Unites Passion for Science, Horses

Students enrolled in graduate programs are uniquely positioned for immersion in research that will advance understanding of equine infectious diseases, genetics, reproduction, pharmacology, parasitology, and musculoskeletal disease.

Photo: David W. Horohov, PhD

With new tools and discoveries rapidly emerging in every area of equine research, it is an exciting time to be an equine scientist. Students enrolled in programs such as the University of Kentucky's (UK) Graduate Program in Veterinary Science at the College of Agriculture are uniquely positioned for immersion in research that will advance understanding of equine infectious diseases, genetics, reproduction, pharmacology, parasitology, and musculoskeletal disease.

Who Applies?

A typical Graduate Program applicant has both a passion for scientific investigation, and for horses, according to Daniel Howe, PhD, Director of Graduate Studies at UK's Department of Veterinary Science. "We are looking for students who are interested in doing research and have interest in helping horses and the equine industry," he said. A passion for horses is not an absolute requirement, but many are drawn to the program due to an interest in horses and research. "Passion for the horse tends to make students more enthusiastic about their work," he added.

The program draws 20 to 30 applicants each year. Of those, according to Howe, about 15 are truly competitive. Five students were accepted last year, and five are starting in the program this coming year.

Students who are competitive for admission to the program have good undergraduate preparation in the life sciences. It is critical that applicants have taken courses in chemistry (particularly organic chemistry), biochemistry, physics, and mathematics. Some applicants already have professional degrees. "Students with veterinary degrees who have the urge to get into research do a fantastic job," said Howe.

Master of Science Program

In the Master's program, the student chooses an advisor and research area, which culminates in a Master's Thesis and final exam. The Master's Degree curriculum provides a solid preparation in the subject matter and tools required to do research in academia or industry. Master's program graduates are likely to be those working at the laboratory bench doing the hands-on experimentation.

PhD Program

The PhD program provides more extensive training in the methods and creative thinking required for scientific investigation. The PhD candidate will complete more thorough and in-depth research. "The expectation is that someone with a PhD will become an independent scientist and go on to run a research program," explained Howe. "Very likely, they won't spend much time in the lab, but will supervise research in academic institutions or industry."

Students with a PhD from the program are competitive for any postdoctoral position in the life sciences, said Howe. "We emphasize equine health, but our main goal is to train students to be scientists," he said. "We hope they will continue to work in the equine field, but it is important that they be qualified for other research areas. We want to make sure they have a well-rounded education and training in being a scientist so they can go into other fields if they choose, or where the opportunities arise."

Students who attend the graduate program are prepared to make important contributions to equine science. 


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More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK Ag Equine Programs.

About the Author

Nancy Zacks, MS

Nancy Zacks holds an M.S. in Science Journalism from the Boston University College of Communication. She grew up in suburban Philadelphia where she learned to ride over fields and fences in nearby Malvern, Pa. When not writing, she enjoys riding at an eventing barn, drawing and painting horses, volunteering at a therapeutic riding program, and walking with Lilly, her black Labrador Retriever.

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