Animal scientist reaches STEM for BRITAIN finals

March 2020

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Writtle University College PhD student, Sarah Jowett, reached the finals of the prestigious 2020 STEM for BRITAIN competition. The annual event aims to raise the profile of Britain's early-stage researchers, and is divided into five separate categories. Sarah was the only Animal Scientist to be selected to appear within the Biological and Biomedical Sciences section. She joined other finalists to present her work to a panel of judges on March 9th in Portcullis House in Westminster, London.  

Sarah said: "I was absolutely thrilled to be selected for the STEM for BRITAIN finals, it was a unique opportunity to discuss animal science research and welfare issues with the policymakers. I was very pleased to be representing Writtle University College, networking with some of the best early career Bioscience researchers in the UK. The future aims of my research are to work towards improving the welfare and reproductive performance of commercial pigs."

Sarah's social network analysis study modelled the behavioural interactions of gestating sows in a dynamic production system in which individuals were frequently added and removed from the group. The mixing of unfamiliar pigs created an unstable social environment leading to increased aggression, reduced welfare and reproductive performance. The aim of the study was to identify key animals, using social network metrics, who have the capacity to impact - positively or negatively - upon the social structure of the group.

Sarah was joined at the event by her Member of Parliament, Rebecca Harris, MP for Castle Point, who asked a number of questions about her research. STEM for BRITAIN exists to raise the profile of Britain's early-stage researchers at Westminster by engaging Members of both Houses of Parliament with current science, engineering and mathematics research being undertaken in the UK, especially that by their local constituents and in their local Universities. Around 100 MPs attended throughout the day.

Dr Jonathan Amory, Principal Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Writtle University College, said: "Sarah brings a wealth of experience and professional skills that has made her stand out as a PhD candidate. Her research has been presented at both academic conferences and pig farmer discussion meetings and is well-received at both. I have no doubt she will make a major contribution to STEM teaching in the future and was delighted to hear she had been offered the opportunity to present at STEM for BRITAIN 2020."