Career Exploration: Academia

Hay Everybody!

It’s one of my favorite times of year – time to head back to school! Can you believe there’s a hint of fall in the air and students are returning to campus? All of those returning students bring plenty of snacks and attention for me! As much as I love the food and care showered upon me, I have to admit I also look forward to having classes start because of all the cool new things I get to learn from my friends. As I look forward to heading back to school, I thought I would continue my series on careers in the equine industry by interviewing someone who decided to make a career out of teaching and discovering cool things through research. 

Featured in this second installment of my series is Dr. Danielle Smarsh, Assistant Professor of Equine Science and Equine Extension Specialist at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Smarsh is another one of our very own alumni! She completed her Ph.D. here at Rutgers, and she’ll tell you a little about about one of her favorite experiences while she was a student here. Take a look at my interview with Dr. Smarsh and see what you think about making this your job in the future!

Lord Nelson (LN): What does your typical day at work look like? 

Dr. Smarsh: There is no typical day! It depends somewhat on the time of year. In the fall and spring, I teach classes, so my days are more focused on the undergraduate students. This means I am busy lecturing, grading, prepping for class, meeting students, and advising undergraduate clubs. In the summer, I have more time to focus on research and extension and travel a bit more for extension programs and conferences. 

LN: What is your favorite part of the job?

Dr. Smarsh: I love teaching. It doesn’t matter if it is a college course or an extension program; I enjoy teaching others about equine science. I also like to travel, so I like that my job allows me to travel around the country and world. 

LN: What is your least favorite part of the job?

Dr. Smarsh: Catching up on emails! (Do you think I should let her know this is a good reason to keep plenty of help around? I keep all of the folks at the equine science center busy with all of my correspondence.)

Dr. Smarsh conducting research in the field.

LN: If someone were considering a similar career path, what advice would you offer to them?

Dr. Smarsh: To work and teach in extension/academia, you will need to attend graduate school and obtain advanced degrees (M.S., Ph.D.). Think carefully about what programs you would like to be a part of in graduate school, so that you are well prepared for your career. Also, work on your public speaking and communication skills – you will need them! Finally, networking is important. Make sure to meet plenty of people in your field of study; it could very well lead to your next job. 

 LN: What is your most memorable or favorite memory

Dr. Smarsh: A top memory is my trip to South Africa with my Ph.D. advisor, Dr. Carey Williams. We attended the International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP) in Cape Town. Not only was it my first time giving a talk at a conference, but the audience members included scientists who had written my textbooks! I remember being scared as I went up to give my talk, but I survived. I ended up learning a lot at the conference, met a lot of well-known scientists, and got to explore an amazing country! (I’m still very disappointed they didn’t take me along on this trip. Can you imagine how much fun I would have had?)

Dr. Smarsh in Switzerland – traveling is definitely a fun part of her job.

LN: What made you decide on a career in academia, and how did you establish yourself within this field?

Dr. Smarsh: I was an animal science pre-vet undergraduate, but by my sophomore year I realized I did not want to be a vet. Around that same time, I became involved in undergraduate research and became a teaching assistant. I realized I liked research and teaching, and after talking with my professors I knew I wanted to stay in academia. So, I applied to graduate school in the fall of my senior year, and the rest was history! To establish myself within this field, I made sure to attend professional meetings and conferences and talk with other attendees at these events. Networking is important!

LN: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me and give my readers a glimpse into your career!

Dr. Smarsh: It was my pleasure Lord Nelson!

I hope you guys learned something new today! You know, if I decided to pursue a second career, I might just decide to go into the equine academic field. Can’t you just picture me in my own classroom with the students hanging onto every word of wisdom I offered them or out in the field putting on an extension program for all of the horse owners? I’m pretty sure I would be amazing in either one of those roles!

Enjoy another great fall semester! As you study for your classes and store lots of new information in your brain, keep thinking about what career you want to pursue in the future. To help you out with this, keep an eye out for more installments featuring even more equine careers! 

Until next time!

Your Friend,

Lord Nelson

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