Saturday, November 7, 2009

I figure the first thing I say on this blog should be a basic orientation to who I am and where I'm coming from. I'm a veterinary and graduate student at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I say both "veterinary and graduate" because I'm in a dual-degree program: I spent two years working on my DVM degree; this year I'm working on my MS degree in Comparative Biomedical Science; and in the fall of 2010, I'll return to the DVM program for its final two years.

My graduate work is in stress in hospitalized dogs: can we develop behavioral tools for helping us tell how stressed they are? And once we've done that, are there ways of making them less stressed?

What I really want to study, though, is dog brains — well, dog minds, since I like them operating more than I like them preserved. I feel very lucky to have managed to find a way to spend a year studying domestic dogs at all. When I came back to school after 12 years working in online publishing, veterinarians told me they only studied sick dogs, and researchers told me they only studied wild animals. So it's been hard to find a way to straddle that border — to study the normal, healthy behavior of a domesticated animal. (It sounds fairly wild in my house during Middle Aged Golden Retriever Wrestling Hour every night, with snarls, barks, and body slamming, but I guess that doesn't count as the opposite of domesticated.)

It's hard to say what this blog will become, but one of the things that seems to be lacking in veterinary medicine and scientific research is good communication with people operating in other walks of life. The new culture of science blogging is trying to overcome that division, so I'm throwing my cap into that fray.

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