Meet our student researchers - Madeline Heys



Q: Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a mature student at Liverpool University, and I will be starting my final year of Veterinary Medicine in September. I want to be a smallies first opinion vet with a particular interest in shelter medicine, and love the puzzle of trying to work out a diagnosis for my patient.

Q: How did you hear about the AWF student grant scheme and what made you apply? 

I heard about the AWF student grants through internal emails from Carri Westgarth, who was to become my supervisor. I wanted to become a vet to improve animal welfare, so a research project within this remit suited me perfectly. As a bonus, I was able to count the weeks as EMS (Extra-Mural Studies) and the grant helped me a lot, as it meant I didn’t have to work as much as I usually would during summer. Fitting in completing EMS placements and earning a living can be difficult.

Q: Why did you choose this project to work on? 

I am interested in the human animal bond, and wanted to discover tools we can use to improve animal welfare. I have always used enrichment feeding, such as puzzles and kongs with my own dog, and I believed it was something he enjoyed, though there is surprisingly little research on the uses and benefits of it in the literature. This project felt like the start of an area of research that could go much further in the future.

Q: What did you hope to achieve? 

I hoped to get a good idea of what it would be like to do my own research, in a smaller window of time. And to add to the literature of canine enrichment feeding!

Q: What did you enjoy the most about your project? 

I enjoyed developing the methodology and constructing a survey, as well as getting all the results in. It’s very satisfying to see more than a thousand people engaging with your project.

Q: What did you find challenging (if anything)? 

I found the statistics and writing up the discussion the most difficult. Being a statistician is a whole area of academia in itself and not one I am very experienced in. Writing a discussion of the results was also challenging as I wanted to ensure I was not misinterpreting anything as well as keeping the discussion relevant and interesting.

Q: What have you learned from your project and this experience? 

I was given the opportunity to experience the process of conducting research - from making the application to writing the paper. The hard work of getting it published was done by my supervisors Imogen Lloyd and Carri Westgarth.

Q: Finally, what advice would you give to students wanting to get into research/apply for an AWF student grant? 

Choose an area you really care about adding to the literature on, or that will give you the opportunity to gain new skills you can use in the future. And make sure you have a supervisor who is enthusiastic about supporting your project- I would have been lost without mine!