Meet our student researchers - Madeline Heys


Student researchers

Thinking of applying for an AWF student research grant? Find out what it’s like to undertake a student research project and get advice from previous researchers in our mini Q&A series.


Research topic: Investigating the usage of enrichment feeding for pet dogs and the associated perceived benefits and challenges

Name, degree, university

Madeline Heys, Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool.  

Research topic and why you chose it

My research project investigated the use of enrichment feeding devices with dogs, looking at how and why they were used, and the benefits and challenges owners associated with their use. My aim was to gather information on whether enrichment feeding offers tools to aid weight loss in obese animals and could assist with behavioural management. I chose this area as I hope to work in the field of animal rescue, rehabilitation and rescue of small animals, and enrichment feeding is currently widely used yet little research exists of it’s demonstrable benefits.  

What made you apply for an AWF Student Grant?

The AWF grant enabled me to focus on my research project without having to take a second job to support myself during that time-this project would not have been possible without the grant. The aims of the AWF align perfectly with my own career interests as well as the topic of the research, which I hope will improve the welfare of dogs through scientific development around the use of enrichment feeding.  

What have you learned on your research project so far (focus on your personal development; not project results)?

During my eight week research project I have able to apply my academic research training to a practical project enabling me to develop my research skills; planning and writing the survey, cleaning data, becoming competent in using statistical software, data analysis and writing a report. In working closely with two research supervisors I benefitted from personal mentorship and was able to use the their knowledge and experience to fulfil the potential of this project.  

One piece of advice you’d give to future applicants

The research grant is an amazing opportunity to improve your research skills and dive in to an area that interests you. My best advice is to really plan your time well and make sure that you understand the commitment you are undertaking – there will always be some work outside of your scheduled research weeks in order to complete paperwork and plan the project. In the same vein, make sure you focus your research – do not attempt to create a project too large to complete during your allotted time.