The British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) announces the winners of its Undergraduate Thesis of the Year Award 2021

25 Oct 2021

The British Society of Animal Science (BSAS) is pleased to announce the winners of its ‘Undergraduate Thesis of the Year Award 2021’.  Launched in June 2020, this award acknowledges the best of undergraduate research, and aims to demonstrate the quality of animal science students and their work, globally, to both academic and industry audiences.

The winning dissertation was by Sara Lind Valdimarsdottir of Aberystwyth University, on “MeDIP-AFLP; a novel approach for the discovery of DNA Methylation Biomarkers”.  The panel felt that this dissertation exemplified excellence in all aspects: the quality of the science, the writing, and the potential applications for the enhancement of animal welfare.  As the winner, Sara will get the opportunity to present at the BSAS Annual Conference 2022, have her abstract printed in the proceedings and receive a complimentary conference ticket to the event.

Originally from Iceland, Sara came to Wales to study for an undergraduate degree in Equine and Veterinary Science at the University of Aberystwyth’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences. The aim of her thesis was to develop and test a low-cost system for identifying changes to DNA chemistry that occur during development or when an animal is under stress. Her research combined two existing generic procedures to create a new, low-cost method that find DNA markers. These markers vary with age, between organs, or change after the animal contracts a specific disease or cancer. The technique can also help identify the part of an animal used in meat products.

‘I’m delighted to have won – it’s a great honour. I would like to thank the staff at the University of Aberystwyth for all their support. It was a challenging and exciting experience and came with a steep learning curve.

I have a wide range of interests in Biology, and as my studies progressed in Aberystwyth, I became increasingly drawn to research that harnesses the power of molecular biology to improve animal welfare or enhanced food quality. Having now experienced real-world laboratory science, I am keen to pursue a career in research and I am starting a Doctorate program at the University of Kentucky, USA in January.’

Joint second place was awarded to Louise Rayment, University of Reading, for her thesis “In vitro effects of fresh hops and spent hops (Humulus lupulus) on enteric methane production” and Rebecca Atkinson, Harper Adams University, for her thesis “The Effect of a Passive Warming Intervention on Preoperative Temperature Maintenance in Felines Undergoing Ovariohysterectomy”.

All entries to the awards will be listed on the BSAS website and the top 12 entries will be summarised for publication in the BSAS animal bytes series ‘fledgling bytes.’

All applications are equally judged using set marking criteria, applicant names and locations are not supplied to the selection panel. The 26 theses that were submitted, were whittled down to a long list of 12, which were then marked against the criteria:

  • Quality of Writing and Presentation
  • Quality of Science and Methodologies
  • Originality and/or Industry Application
  • Critical Analysis of the Topic and Results

These marks plus panel discussion, produced a short list of three.  Further examination and discussion of these then yielded a winner, plus a joint second place.

‘The panel felt that the quality of the best of the submissions was excellent and shows that the education and ability of our future Animal Scientists is in reassuringly good shape despite the stresses and limitations the pandemic has created. We thank all the students and HEIs for entering the competition, and we commend them all for their really interesting projects and well-presented dissertations.’  Dr. Anne Stevenson (BSAS Undergraduate Thesis of the Year - Judging Panel)

BSAS will shortly be announcing the details of the ‘Undergraduate Thesis of The Year Award 2022’.