Recent graduates Caitlyn and Kristen Splaine may have inherited a love of science from their physician mother, but each found her own way to pursue a career path.
Caitlyn grew up loving animals, particularly horses, and plans to become a veterinarian, preferably in a larger facility that caters to both small animals and horses. She decided to become a vet because she wanted to be an advocate for animals, what she calls a “voice for the voiceless.”
An avid sports enthusiast, Kristen was intrigued by science and how the human body works at a cellular level. She is interested in diagnostics and decided to pursue a career as a physician’s assistant. As a volunteer EMT, she has been able to assist people in a variety of situations, and hopes to work in emergency medicine, as she finds the productivity and pace of an emergency room interesting. Here’s what they each had to say about their experience as CAHNR students.
What attracted you to the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources?
Caitlyn: The main thing that really drew me to UConn CAHNR was having the barns on campus, which allowed me to gain hands-on animal experience during my first semester at Storrs. I also loved that UConn is a big school with lots of school spirit and big school opportunities, such as undergraduate involvement in research, while the Department of Animal Science provides the small school feeling of a close-knit community.
Kristen: I was planning to study pre-PA, and when I was looking at schools, UConn had the best Pre-PA program and curriculum.
Why did you choose your particular major?
Caitlyn: I have had a passion for animals for as long as I can remember. While I have never had a cat or dog of my own, this has not stopped me from pursuing opportunities to interact with animals, such as dog walking and horseback riding. My love for animals combined with my interest in science and innate curiosity led to my decision to pursue a degree in animal science.
Kristen: I chose allied health sciences as my major because it was the most direct path/major for a Pre-PA curriculum.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?
Caitlyn: My most memorable UConn activity was being an animal science ambassador, which allowed me to provide tours to prospective students and help out with Open House. I felt overwhelmed while I was applying to colleges, but after touring the animal units during my Prospective Student’s Day and interacting with the student tour guides, I knew UConn was the place for me. After the first few weeks of my freshman year, I had settled into life in Storrs and I knew that I wanted to help other prospective students make their college decision. I asked Professor Zinn if I could help out during the next Open House and provide the prospective students and their families with a freshman’s perspective. I loved being able to share with the students why I chose UConn and answer their questions about college life. The eleven Open Houses I’ve participated in and nine barn tours I led enhanced my leadership skills and allowed me to cultivate life-long friendships.
Kristen: Having an opportunity to volunteer at the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) on campus and be involved in their multitude of research projects, both human studies and office-based studies.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies.
Caitlyn: I was involved with Peer Allies Through Honors (PATH) as both a mentee and a mentor. During my first semester on campus, I was grateful to have a PATH mentor with the same major to help me acclimate to college life. I especially appreciated having a friendly face around campus and a resource to ask specific questions about my major. After having a great experience with my PATH mentor, I joined PATH as a mentor myself so that I could help other first year Huskies settle into Storrs.
Another experience that enriched my studies was my involvement with Professor Sarah Reed‘s lab. I began my involvement with the Reed lab during my freshman year, when I volunteered a few times a week to help feed and clean the pens of the ram lambs on study at the time. During my sophomore year, Professor Reed and I developed an honors thesis project to combine her interest in maternal nutrition with my interest in reproductive physiology. My honors thesis research suggests that poor maternal nutrition throughout gestation alters placental expression of insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1, IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-2 and IGFBP-3 in sheep. Working in Professor Reed’s lab allowed me to hone my laboratory skills, delve deeper into a topic of personal interest and has given me a greater appreciation for the scientific process.
Kristen: I enjoyed participating in ooze ball on campus and being an FYE mentor for a semester during my sophomore year.
What has been the biggest challenge in your UConn career?
Caitlyn: The biggest challenge in my UConn career was adjusting to college life. While I considered myself an expert in sharing as I had grown up with a twin sister, I was not as prepared as I thought to make the transition from life in a small suburban town to life on a large college campus. The close-knit communities of CAHNR and Honors helped me to make the UConn campus feel small and make a group of amazing friends.
Kristen: The biggest challenge in my UConn career was balancing class work and a social life; easier said than done when you’re taking biochemistry with Dr. Bruno, as many know.
You graduated in May 2020? What now?
Caitlyn: This fall, I will be attending Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine to pursue a DVM and realize my life-long dream of becoming a veterinarian.
Kristen: I am currently in the process of applying to graduate programs to become a PA.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Caitlyn: Over the past two years, my family and I have fallen in love with Spartan obstacle course racing. Spartan races can range from three to fourteen miles and can have from twenty to thirty-five obstacles in them. I love Spartan racing because it fuels my competitive nature, pushes me beyond my comfort zone and has a welcoming community associated with the brand. While COVID has interrupted the current racing season, I am eagerly awaiting the end of the pandemic so I can get back out on the course!
Kristen: I was able to find a social and work balance through my involvement in the Panhellenic organization, Alpha Chi Omega, research at KSI and being in the Honors program on campus.
Has the COVID pandemic affected your studies, research or how you will go on to graduate work?
Caitlyn: I took Advanced Broodmare and Foal Management this past semester and, due to the COVID pandemic, I was unable to fully participate in the births of the 2020 UConn foals. I was upset that I couldn’t watch over my broodmare while she gave birth after taking care of her for the first half of the semester, but Dr. Reed did a great job at keeping all of the “foal watchers” as involved as possible via a remote platform. My first semester of veterinary school may also be taught online due to the pandemic, depending upon the infection rate over the next few months.
Kristen: Transitioning to online classes during my last semester at UConn was saddening for sure, but all of my professors made it a smooth transition. I did unfortunately have to end my research assistant position at KSI earlier than expected, as I was working on a project in conjunction with the US Army that requires human subjects for performance tests. Luckily, I still have a job lined up as a physical therapy aid while I am applying to graduate schools; just a later start date once the quarantine ends.