Dr Wanda McCormick, the new Head of Animal and Agriculture at Hartpury University, is relishing the opportunity to enhance its reputation as a leader in driving forward impactful industry-led research.
After more a decade working in animal welfare, Dr McCormick is excited to be joining the renowned specialist institution set within 360 hectares of beautiful Gloucestershire countryside and with its own commercial farm and 70 different species of animal.
She heads up a strong team of programme leaders and lecturers whose expertise and experience spans all areas of animal and agricultural sciences, with all research activity informing not only current industry practice but also the curriculum.
Dr McCormick said: “Having gained university status only relatively recently, in 2018, Hartpury is at a really exciting point in its development and I can see huge potential for us to become leaders in animal and agriculture.
“I have been lucky enough to supervise several students to successfully complete their PhDs as well as helping early-career researchers in other ways.
“I hope that my experience in these aspects will mean that we can grow an amazing portfolio of research alongside our excellent teaching.
“It is brilliant for me to be in at the start working with an amazing team, plus who wouldn’t want to work somewhere with such an amazing animal collection – you can never see too many llamas, guinea pigs or cows!”
Students at Hartpury University, which offers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in animal and agriculture studies, have access to modern research facilities and industry-standard equipment.
Strengthening industry links, Dr McCormick believes, is vitally important to advancing improvements in the animal and agriculture sectors and ensuring students are ready to make a difference when they move into the world of employment.
“Working with industry will allow us to further grow the employability of our graduates through their involvement in research that matters and enhanced work placement opportunities,” explained Dr McCormick.
“Ultimately, they are studying with us as a way of improving their future lives so the more we can do to help them secure their dream jobs the better.
“I believe passionately that we should be working closely with people in the animal and agriculture industries.
“They are facing the challenges head on and therefore should be the first place we go to find out what issues need to be resolved through impactful real-world research.
“I have built strong working relationships with many different industry and professional bodies, which I value greatly, and these will help to strengthen the programmes we have available in our department at Hartpury.”
Dr McCormick brings to Hartpury the passion for animal welfare that has developed since she was a small child, when her parents had their work cut out trying to ensure her menagerie of insects didn’t get out of hand.
Since then she has gained a master’s degree in biological sciences and a doctorate in physiology, as well as occupying senior academic roles at other UK universities.
“As a small child it wasn’t unusual for me to have boxes of woodlice and snails!” Dr McCormick explained. “I would always opt for a zoo if there was a family outing to choose.
“During my university placement year I spent at Paignton Zoo in Devon and that was where I really got interested in animal nutrition.
“From there I grew my understanding of the physiology and biochemistry behind nutrition through postgraduate studies in some amazing labs at the University of Manchester.
“I guess that was when I really realised that it wasn’t enough for me just to work with animals, I wanted to get much more involved in studying them and understanding how we could make their lives better.”
Picture: Wanda McCormick, Head of Animal and Agriculture at Hartpury University