Tag Archives: SLU

What is Animal Science?

Imagine. It is Wednesday night and you go with your friends to the nations for a drink. Upon arrival you realise there’s a new face in the group so you introduce yourself. This itself can be already quite challenging, especially if the group is international – you may hear a name you’ve never heard before and seems impossible to pronounce. When I say my name is Rosan the reply will either be “Roxanne?” or “Rose?”, after which I try to explain it’s like ‘Rosa’ but with an additional ‘n’ in the end. Sometimes you also ask each other where you are from but it won’t be long before the topic changes to studies.

“So you are studying to become a vet?”

I guess for some people this is a very easy question to answer. Imagine studying mathematics, history or English language… However, for people studying at SLU it is usually not that straight forward. I guess my programme is not as hard to explain as for example ‘Rural development and natural resource management‘, still sometimes I secretly wish I could just say I studied biology. After mentioning you are studying animal sciences, nine out of ten people will reply: “So you are studying to become a vet?”. No, I am not. I am hoping to graduate as an animal scientist!

“Animal science focusses on animals kept in a human environment – mainly farm animals but occasionally also pets, horses and zoo animals.”

As most people are well aware of what a veterinarian does, I try to use this when explaining animal science. A vet will look at a sick animal and needs to recognise the disease and will try to cure the animal. As an animal scientist you look at an animal kept by people and try to find the best way to do it – how to prevent it from getting sick in the first place. What is the best way to house this animal, what is the optimal feed for it and how do we breed the next generation? Of course the fields of veterinary and animal science have some overlap, but I think this is a fundamental difference. There is also a lot in common with biology, though animal science focusses on animals kept in a human environment – mainly farm animals but occasionally also pets, horses and zoo animals.

Within animal science there are several subdisciplines. Right now the master’s programme at SLU is going through a transition, but by choosing certain courses you can give a kind of ‘profile’ to your degree. At SLU these tracks are divided into the following three main categories:

  • Ethology / Animal Welfare / Animal Environment
  • Nutrition / Production Biology
  • Genetics / Breeding

Back to the storyline of the nation pub. Because sometimes it happens that people are quite interested in what you explained about your studies. They they might ask this most difficult question: “What will you be when you graduate?”. Or in other words; what will you do for a living after you finished studying? The easy answer is saying studying animal science will lead to graduating as an animal scientist. This is not really clarifying though. Animal scientists kind of end up everywhere – you’ll find them working at universities, companies, governments and ngo’s. I absolutely appreciate animal science being such a broad programme with aspects of economics and social science, but when it comes to future jobs it is not very specific. Which is not necessarily a bad thing – you have a lot of opportunities.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love my studies. Though there are days when I stand in the pub wishing I was studying to become a vet and my name was Roxanne. How easy life would be!



So I went to this class in zotero. After salsa, bachata and kizomba I thought it was time for a new challenge. Just kidding, zotero is a system to sort your references, like endnote. But don’t you agree the name fits quite well in that list of social dances? Anyway, the zotero workshop was hosted by the library and you had to sign up by email beforehand. I had received a reply with the question if people could come an hour later to an extra workshop, as there was such a huge interest. When I arrived it turned out everyone else had shown up at the original time, and therefore I had a private workshop in zotero.

“The librarian called it enthusiastically ‘Magic for scientists!’”

As I told you a few weeks ago, I recently started with my degree project. Right now I am doing literature research and soon I should start writing. You are probably familiar with the concept of reference lists at the end of a project or report. I knew that some smart software had been developed to make this easier, but I had never used it myself. If the project is not too big and the reference list not that long, I think it’s a small effort to type it. But for the degree project I expect to end up with a big pile of references, so when I saw the invite to the workshop this seemed the perfect moment.

“If you are aiming for an academic career – publishing in scientific magazines – you are going to love this.”

It may sound like a dull topic, but it was pretty eye-opening! The librarian called it enthusiastically ‘Magic for scientists!’. It takes a small effort because you have to download a programme, a plug-in and make yourself a web account, but I think it’s going to be extremely time saving in the future. It seems very user friendly and easy to learn. And if you are aiming for an academic career – publishing in scientific magazines – you are going to love this. Scientific magazines usually all have their preferred style of reference lists and by using a programme like zotero with one click the lay out will change. That can be a life saver!

SLU has some very useful information about the programme on their webpage to get you started. Go have a look and become a science wizard 😉 Still some questions? Feel free to post them below.



Exams and grading

To be honest I am quite stressed right now. The written exam on the horse course is already this Monday. Even though I went to almost every lecture and managed to pass the multiple choice exams we’ve had so far easily, I am worried. First of all, I started preparing for the exam later than I should have. Ever heard of procrastination? Well, let’s say it’s one of my specialities, and I solemnly swear I wish it wasn’t. Second of all I am worried because the exams here at SLU are quite different from what I am used to. Even though courses provide obligatory grading criteria, the exams remain a bit mysterious to me.

“What makes it complicated is that every course seems to have it’s own requirements on how to obtain these higher grades.”

It starts with the system of how grades are scored. At home in the Netherlands the scoring runs from 1 up to 10. Here in Sweden the grading is divided in 1,2,3,4,5. You might think: “That’s easy, just double the grade and you are back to your Dutch system!”. However, the reality is very different. A grade in the Dutch system is usually precise on the decimal. For example you may obtain a 6,3 or a 6,4 for an examination. This mark will reflect the exact amount of points you scored in proportion to the total amounts possible.

Here in Sweden the numbers reflect classes. Grades 1 and 2 will make you fail; grades 3, 4 and 5 means pass, where 3 is simply ‘pass’, 4 means a ‘good pass’ and 5 is an ‘excellent pass’. What makes it complicated is that every course seems to have it’s own requirements on how to obtain these higher grades. It may be a more in depth analysis on the written exam, it could be handing in extra exercises or a combination of different aspects. When it is depending on the written exam, an example on the requirement for grade 4 could be to score 75% of the points, while grade 5 might require 90%. Therefore you can not really say that a ‘Swedish 4’ is the same as a ‘Dutch 8’, and how to translate a Swedish 5?

The forms of examination have also been very diverse. It is kind of eye opening that there are more forms than only a multiple choice exam or a written exam. Here in Sweden I had to make home exams, group exams and even roleplay has been included to pass a course. However every time something new is demanded you’ll be surprised how insecure this can make you feel. This can be especially stressful if the full grade is depending on it. I hope it will improve my skills on being flexible though, haha.

“One thing that I think is absolutely amazing about examination at SLU is the anonymity.”

One thing that I think is absolutely amazing about examination at SLU is the anonymity. When a written exam takes place, or you have to hand in an essay, you will first be given a number. The list that shows which number corresponds to which person, will not be seen by the examiner of the course. At the end of the written exam, the last student will put their signature on the sealed envelope which will go to the student administration. The student administration will receive the graded exams from the teacher and match these back with the students who made them. In this way the grading is ‘blind’ and can not be influenced by the personal opinion an examiner might have on a student – of which he/she may not even be aware. I don’t know if this is a common procedure in other countries too, but I think the Netherlands could take an example here from Sweden.

Allright, I really have to get back to my studybooks now, or I might not even make a 3! And of course I would rather get something higher 😉 I hope this post was not too confusing, let me know if you have any questions.




The horse-course!

This is really happening. Last week I started my course for the coming half semester, named ‘The biology and use of the Horse’. Even though I doubted a lot beforehand whether I should choose it or not, I am thrilled about it. Because as some of you may know, well, I ‘kind of like’ horses… as in, I guess I am what you call a horse-freak. And that may still be an understatement 😉

The main focus of the study of animal sciences is on farm animals, such as cows, chicken and pigs. These are production animals – responsible for a farmers income – whereas horses and pets are often just kept for hobby. It is the farming sector that provides most jobs related to animal science. Therefore you may doubt how much time you want to spent during your studies on pets, horses and wildlife. It may be fun, but… where will it lead to?

‘Nowadays there are more horses than cows in Sweden’

Well. Think twice. Because nowadays there are actually more horses than cows around in Sweden. Who would have thought?  The horse sector is responsible for a yearly turnover of about 5 billion euros. The estimated number of horses in Sweden was about 360.000 in 2015. This large amount of horses needs to be provided with many hectares of land for grazing and hay production, which has a large impact on both farming and the landscape. The first lecture of the course stretched the importance of the horse industry and I think it was really interesting to look at it from different perspectives.

So far, one of the things I really like about the course is that we are having several excursions and projects scheduled. Guess I might change my mind about it when the first deadlines approach, haha. In the first week we already went to see some horse business which was both interesting and fun. I will tell you all about it in a next blog post!

If you have any questions, comments or whatsoever, please leave a reply and I will come back to it 🙂