Contributed by Dr. Rebecca Bellone

Over the course of three weeks at UC Davis this summer, I had the pleasure of working with 12 motivated and enthusiastic high school students in a unique hands-on course designed to help propel them toward college. These students, mostly California residents but some from as far away as Washington, came to us as part of the Pre-College Program offered through UC Davis Extension. 

This year, the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the School of Veterinary Medicine led one of the educational tracts. As Associate Director of Education and Outreach, I developed the curriculum for this tract, designed to expose the students to important concepts and techniques in veterinary genetics while also exposing them to the field of veterinary medicine.

With the help of several faculty, staff, and students at the VGL and the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), we taught them how to perform horse parentage-testing experiments and the importance of those tests in population management. They also conducted genetic studies to identify changes in the DNA that are responsible for many different traits in the horse from eye color variation to cancer.

The students took part in observing several different types of clinical examinations and learned how these contribute to scientific discovery. Finally, the students visited both the UC Davis Animal Science horse and goat facilities and learned important animal husbandry practices for several species. I asked Mari Aitken from Capital High School in Olympia, WA what she liked best about the program. 

“Throughout the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Program, I have been able to meet incredible people, engage my passion for learning, and explore my next step towards my life goals. I have a clearer idea of how to create a pathway to reach these specific goals, and am more confident in what I want to do in life.  I have really loved the hands-on opportunities we have experienced, like observing canine cardiac exams and equine exams. It was so rewarding to see how everything we have learned in the program ties into different situations. This program with Dr. Bellone has truly opened my eyes to a world of possibilities for my future.”