Photo by Monica Moriak
November 21, 2022
Aspiring veterinarian Rory Raymer furthers her love for animals through hands-on animal medicine and lab research
Like most aspiring veterinarians, University of Delaware student Rory Raymer has dreamed of caring for animals since she was very young. Now a senior pre-veterinary medicine major in the UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Raymer has long since transitioned from practicing on her stuffed animals to working with real ones.
For six months, Raymer spent her Sundays in Wilmington, Delaware at Windcrest Animal Hospital. Inspired by a clinical veterinary medicine course taught by Stephanie DeMarco, a practicing veterinarian and UD instructor, Raymer worked as a technician’s assistant in the intensive care unit.
“As a member of our veterinary ICU, her positive attitude was much needed in a world that can be overwhelming and stressful,” DeMarco said. “She appreciated her time there and really never looked at it as a job, but as an opportunity to further herself in a field she is so dedicated to.”
This crash course in veterinary medicine taught Raymer the core abilities of any successful veterinarian. From phlebotomy to anesthesia to surgery preparation, she received an up-close glimpse of the skills she needed to master.
“I wanted to start kind of pushing my boundaries and see what else I could learn,” Raymer noted.
When she arrived on campus, Raymer immediately put her passion for veterinary medicine to the test. Aside from tagging along to pets’ vet appointments, her coursework showed off the UD Department of Animal and Food Sciences calling card — early, hands-on experience working with animals big and small.
As a first-year student, Raymer enrolled in a class called, “Animal and Food Science Laboratory” (ANFS111). This interactive course allowed her to care for animals like horses, sheep, beef and dairy cattle.
“The ANFS111 lab in our first semester was the first thing that solidified for me that, yes, veterinary medicine is absolutely where I want to go,” Raymer said.
The course also re-introduced Raymer to horses, which she rode briefly as a child and now studies in the lab. Now, she is analyzing how to best optimize in-vitro cultivation techniques for protozoans of the equine hindgut for her thesis project. Put more plainly, this research attempts to determine the ideal growing conditions for bacteria in the intestines of horses. If Raymer can establish a protocol that works, it can be used in future experiments.
Alongside other researchers, Raymer is working on UD’s Equine Microbiome Project under the supervision of Amy Biddle, associate professor of animal science.
“Dr. Biddle immediately welcomed me into her lab,” Raymer said. “I started going to lab meetings and then slowly I got more involved in projects before deciding to do my own.”
“The opportunity to participate in undergraduate research gives UD students a chance to understand what really goes into the research process,” Biddle said. “Many students are unable to persevere through the tedium, complexity or inevitable failure that is part of doing research. But then there are students like Rory, who discover that they actually thrive in the ambiguity of scientific inquiry.”
A few times a month Raymer pays a visit to UD’s Webb Farm to gather samples of horse feces for her experiment. Once she collects the sample, it is placed inside a jar, which contains a candle to soak up oxygen and create an anaerobic environment.
Raymer then brings the samples back to the lab to start her cultures, which require time that she somehow manages to find amidst her many other UD commitments. In addition to her Spanish minor, Raymer is also pursuing a One Health certificate.
“One Health is a health philosophy that states that human, animal and environmental health are inextricably connected, and it’s a concept that I hold to be true,” Raymer said.
She was first introduced to one health as a second-year student; Raymer jumped at the opportunity to add another merit to her collection.
Raymer is also an Honors College student, pursuing an Honors Degree with Distinction. When she isn’t tutoring students or remembering about her study abroad in Rome, she serves as the vice president of the Animal Science Club and gives tours to prospective students as an Ag Ambassador.
“I love sharing my passion for our college with other people,” Raymer said. “Sometimes, I’ll go on tours with people in other majors; I get to learn about how incredible the other majors in our college are, and then simultaneously brag about how incredible the pre-vet major is.”