Student testimonial

Vivian van der Nat - MSc Animal Sciences (specialisation Nutrition and Metabolism)

Vivian van der Nat is interested in animal nutrition, as this topic is involved in almost all domains of animal sciences. Therefore, she is writing her major thesis at the chairgroup of Animal Nutrition (ANU) in the specialisation Nutrition and Metabolism.

When you enter the study as a white page, you quickly develop a preference for subjects that other students do not interest themselves for, in my case the intensive husbandry, especially pigs and sows. Gradually I emerged myself in subjects involving intensive husbandry and now I really enjoy it.

“Becoming a (livestock) veterinarian, that was my dream, until the fourth year of secondary school. That time I visited an open day of the study programme Veterinary Medicine and, although I still believe the study itself is wonderful, the ambience did not suit me. So in search of another academic study involving animals I found Animal Sciences at Wageningen University. The ambience at Wageningen University was so good, so relaxing, I knew I had found my study! Fortunate for me, I still feel that way. The bachelor’s Animal Sciences (BAS) was incredible, the programme offers you a broad perspective on all kind of subjects. I learned a lot in these three years and got the confirmation that I want to continue in this field.”

Thesis

“In your masters you have to choose a specialisation/discipline in which you would like to become an expert. As most students end up working for (large) feed companies, I thought it would be wise to at least know more about the subjects these companies work with and what it entails. During BAS you only follow one course on animal nutrition, which for me is far too little to form a well thought opinion on such a relevant field in our society. Animal nutrition is involved in almost all domains of animal sciences, whether you want to make it circular, study its effects on behaviour, reproduction, growth, or even the manipulation on genetics. This all made that I wanted to continue MAS in the discipline of ANU. But most importantly, I have always really liked chemistry and within animal sciences the discipline of animal nutrition is related to this, since it concerns the properties of materials and ingredient composition.

Currently, I am writing my thesis about the impact of heat stress on nutrient utilization in growing pigs. Unfortunately, I cannot explain my thesis in too much detail, due to confidentiality. However, to give you an idea about what to expect, I will explain some parts of my thesis.

We all know the term ‘global warming’ these days. Unfortunately, these increasing temperatures also affect the animals that we keep. Especially pigs are susceptible to these rising temperature. This is due to the fact that pigs are not able to sweat, unlike you and I. Therefore, heat stress becomes more and more common in pigs during warm summers or in tropical countries. During my thesis I investigate the effect of heat stress on nutrient utilization. But I am also looking into the effect of diet on heat stress responses. By using data, obtained from experimental work with the pigs, I hope to find some answers to these important questions. Hopefully, we are able to provide the most optimal nutrition to improve performance of pigs in heat stress. It would even be possible that we find a way to reduce heat stress by changing the feed.

ANU covers all kind of subjects related to animal nutrition. Think of research that provides animals a certain type of food and after dissection they study how the intestines have physiologically changed/been affected or what kind of immune response it provoked. But the focus could also lie on how the animal reacts and adapts to intake of certain nutrients (like I do in my major thesis) in milk production, reproduction, growth, and so on.”

Student life

“As I did not want to experience an initiation in a student association, I decided to join study association “De Veetelers” instead. They are almost as active as a student association and throughout my studies I became a very active member, even a board member as treasurer. I learned a lot during in this function. Furthermore, I visited my parents every weekend, as many other students, and rode horses. Unfortunately, now I am finishing my masters, Wageningen is my home and I visit my parents a few times a month. Therefore, I quit horse riding and am I still looking for a new hobby. So for the moment I am more focused on writing my thesis and during my breaks I going for a walk through the beautiful landscapes of Wageningen.”

Future

“I am still quite open about the job opportunities after my studies. I think it is wise not to set too many requirements for your first job. It is more important to search for a job that is available on the market at that time. But I find it also important that the team and colleagues are open to train a freshly graduated student. So I guess I will search for vacancies that are available. What I do know is that I would like to work for a large company, because in a large company you will encounter more different kind of functions and specialisations. In that way, there is more chance to get a taste of all job possibilities.”

Take home message

“ANU courses or thesis subjects are by many students experienced as difficult. However, that is not the case when you are intrigued by these topics. So don’t let something difficult restrain you from what you really want. Honestly, you will learn a lot more when you have to work a bit harder.”

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