Veterinary and biomedical sciences senior looks back on her time at Penn State

Jack Ouligian
March 08, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Though she came to Penn State as an undecided freshman, Brooke Migdal always knew that she wanted to work with animals.

“When I was younger, my parents would take me to zoos and aquariums, and I would talk about animals all of the time,” Migdal said. “They were the places where I always wanted to be.”

In her sophomore year, Migdal’s interest in animals led her to enroll in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences as a veterinary and biomedical sciences major. Soon after joining the college, she began working as a research assistant at the Poultry Education and Research Center under Paul Patterson, professor of poultry science.

Migdal worked on two projects at the center. The first studied the effect of different diets on broilers’ immune systems, and the second examined the impact of outdoor paddock vegetation on growing pullet behavior. She weighed chickens, examined cells and samples through a microscope, distributed feed to the birds, and performed other tasks.

Migdal was co-author on a presentation and an abstract that Patterson’s lab presented on the first study in summer 2020 and will be credited in future publications for her contributions on the second study. While these are important credentials, the most valuable aspect of working at the poultry center may have been the opportunity it afforded to explore her career aspirations, said Migdal.

“When I started, I was especially interested in learning about the interaction between nutrition and agriculture, and I got a lot of hands-on experience,” Migdal said. “It also gave me a new perspective into what I could do with veterinary medicine. I learned that I could be a small-animal vet, a large-animal vet or even go into research or agriculture.”

Migdal’s work was valuable for Patterson as well. “Brooke is a very motivated individual and worked at the Poultry Education and Research Center on top of her extracurricular activities and schoolwork in a rigorous pre-veterinary program at Penn State,” he said. “She was a great help in these studies.”

“If you want to study animal or veterinary science, Penn State will prepare you for graduate school. The classes are interesting, too."

— Brooke Migdal, senior in veterinary and biomedical sciences

In the summer following her sophomore year, Migdal worked as a marine mammal intern at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. There, she interacted with dolphins, otters, pelicans and sharks, while helping animal trainers conduct their tasks and running animal encounter programs for visitors.

“One of the most interesting things I learned is that trainers and veterinarians work together to take care of these animals,” Migdal said. “For example, the otters had to learn how to enter a kennel to go to a vet, and the trainers taught them different behaviors so that they could receive the best care possible.”

She added that she has always been interested in animal behavior and animal training. “I want to work with marine animals in my career,” she said. “This internship helped me take another step in that direction.”

At Penn State, Migdal’s research and internship experience supplemented her coursework, and she credited her classes with preparing her for applications to veterinary school.

“If you want to study animal or veterinary science, Penn State will prepare you for graduate school,” Migdal said. “The classes are interesting, too. I’m really happy that I’ve gotten the opportunity to take classes in subjects that I care about in veterinary medicine.”

At Penn State, Migdal also became involved with Phi Gamma Nu, a professional development organization focused on preparing its members for the post-graduation workforce. She served as its recruitment chair, external vice president, vice president of risk management and THON finance chair, and she danced in THON 2021 as a representative of the group.

“PGN exposed me to a professional environment,” Migdal said, citing the organization’s focus on resumes, LinkedIn profiles and mock interviews. “It taught me how to network and communicate in college and not to wait until I entered the workforce to start doing those things.”

Migdal also serves as an Ag Advocate — helping to recruit incoming freshmen to the College of Agricultural Sciences, among other activities — and during Penn State breaks works as a technician assistant at Big Rock Veterinary Hospital, an animal clinic located near her hometown of Beaver.

Though Migdal has been accepted to Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in St. Kitts in the Caribbean, she has several pending applications to graduate schools and is unsure where she will be in the fall. Still, she is comfortable with the uncertainty.

“I’m hoping that, wherever I go to school, I’ll be able to make the necessary connections and gain the right experiences,” she said. “I just want to be a veterinarian and to work with marine animals. Wherever that happens, I’ll be happy.”

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Last Updated March 11, 2021