Freisha Patel

Freisha

Patel

United Kingdom
My studies at NTU gave me extensive theoretical zoo knowledge and a good level of understanding of animal behaviour and the care of animals.

More about Freisha

“I decided to study an animal-based subject at university following numerous years of volunteering at my local animal rescue centre, and discovering a passion for animals.

“I chose to study Zoo Biology at NTU based on the description of the course modules, practical experience prospects, links the staff have within the industry, and also my love of zoos.

“Throughout the course, the mix of laboratory, classroom and zoo based study made the course interesting and enjoyable. One of the highlights was our “five zoos in five days” field trip where we were able to experience the specialisms of different zoos. Another highlight was learning how to carry out nutrient and faecal analysis in the university laboratory.

“During the course I chose to do a ‘Diploma in Industrial Studies’ following my second year of study which I completed as a Research Intern at Bristol Zoological Society, Bristol Zoo Gardens. Through this, I gained invaluable experience in a zoo environment and was able to participate in various departments and therefore network and discover job prospects.

“Through networking during this placement I was able to collaborate on a study which resulted in becoming co-author on a published paper. Because of this placement, I felt highly motivated and well equipped with practical experience to complete my final year and consequently gain a first class grade in my degree.

“As an NTU graduate I still receive employability support and advice from supervisors, and have therefore gained roles within an aquarium, as a research assistant, and taken part in voluntary internships across various continents. I am currently employed as a research assistant in human-animal relationships in zoos, which has been a great opportunity and step towards the career I am aiming for.”

Since graduating from NTU, Freisha is now working as a Research and Conservation Administrator at Twycross Zoo. Here’s what she had to say about getting into the zoo sector, and what her job currently entails.

What is your current job title and what does it entail?

“After graduating in 2015 from BSc (Hons) Zoo Biology I came back to NTU and studied MSc Animal Health and Welfare graduating in 2018. I’m now working as a Research and Conservation Administrator at Twycross Zoo.

“The zoo hosts over 70 research projects a year, and my role is to liaise with students, universities and partners to process research applications and facilitate research data collection onsite. This requires working with both internal zoo teams, and external partners to collaborate and discuss feasibility of research projects. Alongside the Research and Conservation Manager, I also plan and deliver conservation evening events for our visitors at the zoo.

“As part of a large European collaborative project called the Ape Heart Project, I help organise the transfer of samples from across Europe. I also communicate with our conservation partners to receive updates on their projects and advise on our contributions.

“Alongside this I am a member of the BIAZA Research Committee, meaning I help review project applications which require support letters for multi-zoo studies, and with a passion for sustainability I also help review and implement sustainable actions across the zoo, such as conducting a palm oil audit every year.

“My role is very varied, so no two days are the same, and although it requires a lot of administration work I get away from the office for research inductions, bespoke talks for universities, supporting research volunteers, and liaising with zoo staff for project feasibility.”

How did your experience at NTU help you get to where you are now?

“I enjoyed my time at NTU so much that I came back to complete my MSc in Animal Health and Welfare. I think one of the best assets is the teaching staff. They all have vast experience within their fields which means a lot of their experiences are shared within lectures. Their real life examples help you understand what is being taught in lectures.

“I have also been lucky enough to collaborate with the staff on numerous research projects after graduating, which have aided me throughout my career path so far.

“The employability team at NTU are also extremely helpful, and even after graduating they give you support with CV writing and advise on how to take your next career step. I would say to students that if you don’t really use the employability team at the moment, make the most of their expertise and the different resources and job pages they have.”

What top tips would you give to students looking to get into your field of work?

“Experience and network. I think practical experience is really key within this field and will put you above other applicants. I hear many students say “it’s hard to get experience”, but there are many opportunities out there and it’s just where you look and who you know. This is where networking comes in. The animal/ zoo industry is really quite a small one, and even by just attending one conference you might meet people from all over, so I would definitely advise going to conferences, zoo events and meetings.

“You don’t have to meet someone and say “do you have any jobs”, it’s more about understanding the different fields your career could take you, and widening your network which could then lead to opportunities. Experience can come in lots of different forms, through volunteering or seasonal jobs, keep an eye out on relevant websites and NTU’s employability resources as these are updated regularly.”

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