Student testimonial

Iris de Munck - MSc Animal Sciences (specialisation Adaptation, Health and Behaviour)

Iris de Munck has a target in mind: working with datasets to improve animal health and welfare. That is why she chose the specialisation Adaptation, Health and Behaviour in her Master’s Animal Sciences.

During my thesis, I found out that I really enjoy doing research. For this reason, I would like to increase my knowledge in veterinary epidemiology, so I can become an independent researcher one day.

“During my bachelor’s Animal Sciences in Wageningen I was mainly interested in courses on animal health, welfare and (the spread of) diseases. What I definitely wanted to do was studying in another country and therefore I did my BSc minor at Aarhus University in Denmark. Although this was a really nice experience, I enjoyed the life and education in Wageningen the most. Therefore, I decided to continue my master in Wageningen. In my master I chose the specialisation Adaptation, Health and Behaviour with Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology (QVE) as study track. QVE is the chair group that lies emphasis on the transmission of infectious diseases within and between groups of animals and on factors that influence that transmission. They integrate knowledge from veterinary science, animal science, mathematics and statistics. The core business of QVE is to generate and distribute knowledge on the epidemiology of diseases in animals, especially in livestock. This I find most interesting, because I learn how to give an overall advice on how to fight a disease successfully.”

Thesis

“I recently finished my major thesis at the QVE group in collaboration with Royal GD in Deventer. My thesis was about risk factors that are associated with mortality in lambs of sheep and goats. To study the possible risk factors, like a very low or high birthweight, amount and type of colostrum and gender, data needed to be collected. Five intensive dairy goat and sheep farms in the Netherlands voluntarily participated in the project. During one of their lambing periods, the farmers were asked to write down several parameters related to the first 24 hours of life, the weaning period and the age of 12 weeks. I could help with weighing the animals on two farms and I also got the opportunity to visit two other farms. During these visits, I discussed the collected variables, their management and the theory of the farmer on risk factors of mortality. I gained more insight in the background of the farm, as well as my observations. After data collected, I combined all the data and performed descriptive and analytical analysis. An interesting result was that male lambs had a higher change of mortality compared to female lambs. There were also large differences in the quality of the data and the mortality rates between the five farms. For some farmers it can be hard to keep good track of what is going on at their farm during a lambing period. It is however really important to do, in that the next lambing period can be improved. I really enjoyed the process of collecting data and transform the raw and quite vague data in information that could be useful for farmers and veterinarians. I hope my thesis will contribute to a lower mortality on dairy sheep and goat farms.”

Future

“During my thesis, I found out that I really enjoy doing research. For this reason, I would like to increase my knowledge in veterinary epidemiology, so I can become an independent researcher one day. I am not sure yet whether I would like to work at a research & development department in a company or if I want to do a PhD at a university or company. Hopefully, I will figure this out during my internship and otherwise I will study an extra semester at Michigan State University. Their epidemiology programme is ranked quite high and the courses they offer seem interesting. In this way, I hope to increase my knowledge in epidemiology and be of value to increase the knowledge on animal health and welfare.”

Student life

“Even though doing a master can be quite time consuming, I think it is really important to enjoy some other activities besides your study. That is why I am an active member at study association “De Veetelers”, this is the study association for students that study Animal Sciences. I have been in some committees, like the photography and theatre committee. Besides that, I like to join discussion evenings, excursions to farms and companies and parties. It is nice to meet your peer students from different years and to come into contact with companies and graduated alumni. I am also an active member at student orchestra “De Ontzetting”, where I play the flute and trombone. Besides that, I like to cycle with the student cycle association and to go to the gym of the university.”

Take home message

“For me, the balance between studying hard and having an active student life is important. So, do not forget to enjoy Wageningen besides your study!”

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