Catherine McVey

Hometown: Graham, NC

School: North Carolina State University

Major / Species: Animal Science (Science Concentration) + Statistics; Minors: Math, Nutrition, Graphic Communications

Career Goals:

In order to complete my double major in, I’ll be taking a full fifth year of classes at NCSU. In the name of further  broadening my horizons, and in order to gain first-hand experience  in an increasingly globalized  field  of food  animal  agriculture,  I’m seriously  considering pursuing graduate  work  abroad. This fall  I will  be applying for  a  Marshal  Fellowship, which would  allow  me to complete  two  masters programs in two years in the UK. I’d specifically  be applying for the SRUC’s Masters in Applied Animal Behavior  and  Welfare,  which  has  a  heavy  emphasis  on  food  animals  and  on  hands-on  learning experiences, and also University College of London’s Masters in Computational Statistics and Machine Learning, which  would   provide  a   broad  background   in  statistical  learning,  machine  vision,  and bioinformatics.  I hope to pursue my PhD on a topic focusing on developing applications of machine vision technology to on farm monitoring of swine behavior to assess welfare, health status, and overall productivity.

After completing my graduate work, I intend to enter industry. Initially I hope to find a position either within a welfare research team with one of the larger US pork producers, such as Smithfields, or potentially within a large genetics company like PIC (anywhere with lots of data to access and play with). Welfare research is often criticized as not being readily adaptable to on-farm conditions,  so my goal with  leaving academia  for  industry  in the  early part of my career is to gain a more intimate  understanding of  practical welfare  concerns,  and to get  into the  habit of being held accountable directly to the farmers themselves. After a few years with an established industry group, I hope to strike out on my own. I specifically hope to pursue commercialization of my current research into facial biometrics as proxy indicators of individual variations of innate personality, and to further investigate their applications in breeding and husbandry decisions. I also would like to do some consulting work, combining me diverse academic background to work directly with farmers to develop interdisciplinary solutions, and potentially to assemble larger teams of individuals with more specialized agricultural and technological backgrounds to tackle bigger and more complex husbandry issues.  Ultimately, once I have established a strong reputation in industry and acquired a depth of practical experience to draw from, I hope to return to academia where in addition to research I can also teach the next generations of animal scientist.

These goals probably seem pretty scattered, but my grandfather worked hard his whole life to become one of the most successful and respected professionals in our little home town, and I intend to follow his example – do what you love but never stick with one thing for too long, never get too comfortable, and under no circumstances become bored with what you’re doing.