Laura Tennant

Qualification & subject:
Honours and Integrated Masters Degrees BSc (Hons) Zoology
Profession:
Research Technician at The Institute for Medical Research

What I do

I’m at the National Institute for Medical Research, which has 700 scientists. A massive part of medical research is animal research, which is where my degree comes in. My job is in genotyping – so while I’m not directly responsible for discovering a new drug, I can say that everything I do plays a part.  

I specialised in dairy fertility at Hartpury and my thesis looked at a condition called mastitis in the dairy cow. When I graduated I got really good advice from my lecturer that I should consider getting experience in human sciences so I went to St George’s in London for a masters in human reproductive science and medicine.

Getting my job at the institute was very competitive. There were 135 applicants and  I think the fact that I had an animal science degree stood out because a lot of the other applicants had biology or human biology degrees – so my background was different. My boss looked at my animal reproduction knowledge and saw how it would be helpful with the research we do at the institute. 

Why I chose Hartpury

The original plan was to be a vet, but I didn’t get the grades at A level. I wanted to stay in animal science and carve out a new career. A big part of choosing Hartpury was that I could bring my horse and the fact that I could specialise in large animals. 

While I was putting together my dissertation project, I had to spend a lot time at the Hartpury dairy unit swabbing the cows and the team on the unit were massively helpful with my research. They even asked me to work part-time at the dairy and I absolutely loved it. 

Advice for graduates

My ultimate goal is to do a PhD and move back into dairy research. I am an animal scientist through and through, but in a time of change you have to adapt and be open to new possibilities. 

For me it’s about finding something you are passionate about. If you go into something half-hearted, it’s never going to work. I love dairy, but I know some people thinking about university won’t be exactly sure what their passion is. Animal research is a really good place to start and once you get to uni you need to be really homing in on what fires you up and grab it with both hands.

Work experience is also key. You might not want to be a vet, but if you are interested in animal and animal science, you should get experience in a vet practice, or a cattery or help out with lambing. Be around animals and it will progress from there.