What is veterinary research?
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.
These programmes offer excellent opportunities for undergraduates to get a sense of a career as a veterinary researcher:
Postgraduate studies: veterinary research
There are a variety of options in veterinary science for postgraduate study depending on the route that an applicant wishes to take. These can be broadly divided into three areas: research programmes; taught programmes; and clinical training scholarships. Not all the following options are offered by all schools and there may be variation in duration and naming of the qualifications themselves, as well as the final qualification obtained.
There is a range of taught programmes suitable for both recent graduates and those looking to refresh specific skills. These include Masters courses in Veterinary Medicine (MSc or MVM), Masters in Veterinary Public Health (MVPH), Masters in Wild Animal Health, Postgraduate Certificates (PgCert), Postgraduate Diplomas (PgDip) and Postgraduate Professional Development courses (PgProfDev). These courses will mainly consist of supervised learning and are usually assessed by examination.
As well as taught programmes there is a range of options available to those graduates looking to pursue a career in research. These programmes generally involve a greater degree of independent study, and are focused on a specific topic or area. These include Doctorates (PhD), Masters in research (MScR/MRes), and Doctorates in Veterinary Medicine (DVM, VetMD) or Doctorates in Veterinary Surgery (DVS).
Postgraduate studies: clinical specialisation
Clinical training scholarships
Clinical Training Scholarships can be divided into two separate classifications: internships, generally lasting one-year; and residencies, generally lasting three years. The majority of time is spent engaged in supervised clinical activities with the remainder focused on a related research area. Internships are open to new veterinary graduates while residencies are only open to qualified veterinary surgeons with appropriate experience. Senior Clinical Training Scholars may in some circumstances be registered to complete either Master of Veterinary Medicine (MVM of MVetMed) or Master of Veterinary Surgery (MVS) programme as a result of their studies.
Each veterinary school will state what previous qualifications are suitable for application to the various courses offered. Further Information can be found on the individual veterinary school websites:
- School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol
- Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge
- The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh
- School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Glasgow (Research/Clinical)
- School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool
- School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham
- Royal Veterinary College