From the College of Agriculture’s sheep and swine centers to the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University is dedicated to the study and care of animals of all shapes and sizes. This is what attracted second-year Honors College student Shahinaz El Sayed to Oregon State. Born and raised in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Shahinaz is majoring in animal science with options in pre-veterinary and behavioral sciences.
Turning Over a New Leaf
Shahinaz originally didn’t intend to move to Oregon for school, saying, “I put Oregon State on my list of colleges almost on a whim. But as I started to look at it more, I found the more I heard, the more I wanted to apply and get in.” She chose Oregon State for its animal science program, the veterinary school, the connections the university has to national veterinary associations and the Honors College’s Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program. With the support of resources such as the Ettihad Cultural Center, Shahinaz continues to discover things she enjoys at Oregon State. She appreciates little things that Oregonians often overlook, such as the vibrant colors of the changing leaves in the fall, joking, “We don’t get many naturally grown trees back in Dubai.”
So far, Shahinaz’s favorite Honors College course has been Introduction to Animal Sciences. “It was such a small class. There were only about 20 of us, and it wasn’t a big room. I walked in there and immediately knew this was going to be a great class.
“Everybody knew each other by name, and every week, we took field trips to see different animals and facilities.” Shahinaz has taken several colloquia and has found them to all be fun in their own ways, allowing her to “explore without consequences” in low-pressure environments with unique assignments.
Shahinaz participates in the Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program, a collaboration between the Honors College and the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. This program is designed for incoming honors students who demonstrate strong academic abilities and an interest in pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. The program offers exclusive experiences and hands-on mentorship for students.
As a member of Dr. Taal Levi’s fisheries and wildlife research lab, Shahinaz has gained valuable experience researching the decline of mule deer in Eastern Oregon by examining DNA extracted from scat. She finds the process intriguing, saying, “People think of DNA extraction as one big process, but it is a lot of these little processes. It’s really interesting.” She is also beginning to think about a topic for her thesis. She is interested in human-animal interface, possibly looking at interactions between children with developmental disabilities and domestic animals.
Friends, Felines and the Future
Outside of the Pre-Veterinary Scholars Program, Shahinaz is involved in the pre-vet medical association and Sigma Delta Omega, a science-focused sorority. She has also found comfort in digital art. During the pandemic, she downloaded an app on her phone that allowed her to draw small sketches. Today, this has evolved into a fully equipped tablet with a stylus pen. Discovering this new hobby has allowed Shahinaz to explore her creativity, while balancing research and classes. Her advice to future students is to “not overload your plate and take things one step at a time.”
Shahinaz credits her love of animals for inspiring her to pursue veterinary medicine. “I had a few cats growing up, and I really connected with them at a young age.” She fostered stray cats and eventually decided that she wanted to help animals, especially cats. Shahinaz attributes her curiosity about animals to her observations of her own cats: Midnight Lady, Dobby and Stanley.
Shahinaz hopes to stay at Oregon State after graduation and attend the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine. She appreciates the welcoming community there and loves that she already knows so many people in the school. If she does not go to veterinary school, she is considering pursuing a master’s degree related to behavioral animal science. Regardless, she knows helping animals is in her future.
By Jax Richards, Student Writer