The impact of veterinary research is broad, affecting areas which are essential not only to animals but to humans too. Through the idea of ‘One Health’ it is now commonly understood that the health of animal populations is directly related to the health of people.
Food security, for example, is a significant area in which veterinary research takes place. It is estimated that, between 2005 and 2050, global food production will need to have increased by at least 70% in order to accommodate the growing human population. Veterinary research plays a vital role in ensuring that food production meets the demand while remaining safe to humans and ensuring the proper treatment of food animals.
Another key role that veterinary researchers have is in the study and prevention of disease in humans. A disease which transfers between animals and humans is called a ‘zoonotic’ disease, and around 75% of all new diseases discovered in humans in the last twenty years are known to be zoonoses, or to have transferred from animals. This puts veterinary researchers at the forefront of crucial work in virology, bacteriology, epidemiology, and population health.
For more on the role that veterinary research plays see this Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons publication, Veterinary research in the UK: a snapshot.
A few of the many areas in which veterinary researchers work are listed here:
- Reproductive biology – The study of reproduction in animals, including understanding environmental and nutritional influences.
- Neurosciences – The study of animal brain functions, encompassing the disciplines of neurology and neurosurgery.
- Genetics – The study of genetic structure in animals and how this affects heredity and variation. Involves many different disciplines in veterinary research.
- Microbiology, virology, pathology and immunity – The study of disease and infection in humans and animals.
- Bioinformatics – The use of computer technology to collect and analyse biological information. This area has seen significant growth in recent years.
- Comparative medicine – The study of both animal and human biology in order to determine parallels and translational approaches.
This programme offers excellent opportunities for undergraduates to get a sense of a career as a veterinary researcher: