Research Experience for Vet School: Why Bother?

Somewhere down on the laundry list of admissions wishes for the perfect veterinary applicant you will often see “research experience.” Not necessarily veterinary-specific research, just plain “research.” You may be thinking, “Of course. Let me just tack on a research intensive honors thesis that requires 20 plus hours a week in some laboratory to my 20 plus weekly clinical hours and my sixteen credit course load and additional extra curriculars (that make me look like a socially functional person). I’m on it.”

I totally get it. I never thought research would be for me and never thought I could find the time, but it ended up being one of the most rewarding experiences of my undergraduate career. In fact, I wrote a whole other blog about it.

If you are someone, like me, who struggled to find work at a vet clinic for an 8-10 week summer stint, but still wants to find a productive, vet-school-relevant way to spend a summer and make some money, research is your answer.

My research had nothing to do with vet school (or even mammals). I studied cucumbers. But, not only did I make a respectable summer income, I also developed a fabulous relationship with my research advisor who provided incredible support throughout my undergraduate career.

Paige first research conference
Yours truly at her first research conference!

As someone who was admittedly anxious about my science capabilities, research was a great way for me to learn a lot without the pressure of tests or competitive classmates. The key with research is, theoretically, no one knows more about your topic than you do, so when you go to a conference, you are automatically the expert. That’s a great feeling.

Research also requires that you stick to a project, navigate challenges and ultimately present your findings in a compelling way to experts in the field. If that doesn’t teach you perseverance and confidence, I don’t know what does.

John and Paige at research conference
Research conferences make great date nights (just ask John). If you aren’t into plant biology, you can at least count on free food.

Even if it’s a tight squeeze in your schedule, I recommend making time for at least one semester or summer of research. I truly believe it provides new scientists with the confidence and drive to pursue ambitious futures in science and medicine.

If you are interested in learning more about my trying and often humorous transition into the life of a science student and researcher, read my essay “Counting Cucumber Hairs” here.


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