Spanish Study for APS PhD Candidate

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Written by Maggie McCormick

Emily Miller-Cushon has been experiencing a “whirlwind of change” in the past three weeks. The OAC PhD candidate has taken her work across the Atlantic to Spain with the aid of the Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements Program.

A PhD candidate in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science, Emily has been studying animal behavior with Professor Trevor DeVries. Her research specifically focuses on the effect of early management factors on the development of feeding behaviour in dairy calves.

Emily holds a NSERC-CGS award, which is awarded based on academic merit, research experience and communication.  Her award made her eligible for the travel supplement. The program supports high calibre Canadian graduate students in building global linkages and international networks through the pursuit of exceptional research experiences at research institutions abroad.

“My interest in animal behaviour evolved from watching and playing with my pets and working with horses,” Emily says. Her interest was also fostered by her grandfather, Dr. Murray Miller, professor emeritus at OAC, who would show her around campus on College Royal™ Open House weekends and exposed her to animals within the university setting.

On January 14th, Emily left Canada to take her interest to Caldes de Montbui, in the northeastern Spain, close to Barcelona. Emily is working with a research group at Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries, led by Dr. Alex Bach. Emily had met Dr. Bach and his grad students at conferences and was interested in the work they were doing. Currently she is running a study with calves, looking at the effect of palatability of feed types on dietary selection and performance. “With this study,” she says, “I’m interested in whether dietary selection in young calves is driven primarily by palatability of feed types or by nutrient requirements.”

Working in a lab in Europe is not so different from Canada, Emily says. “There's a bit of a language barrier, but everyone is very friendly and welcoming. The dynamic in the office with the other grad students feels familiar, and we have a lot of experiences in common - having been to the same conferences, worked on similar things - and obviously share some similar interests.”

Emily has already had the chance to visit Barcelona in her first three weeks, and has been enjoying the architecture, landscape and culture of Spain. “I really enjoyed walking through the Gothic quarter and exploring all the narrow maze-like streets.”

Emily’s study in Spain will wrap up in April 14th, when she will return to Guelph to continue working on her PhD.

Emily poses with lion statue in Barcelona
Emily site-seeing in Barcelona, Spain

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