Julia Plasynski ’20 researches snow leopards and other big cats in conservation lab

Created: August 1, 2019
Last Updated: December 2, 2019

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WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 1, 2019)—A lab internship gave Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) biology major Julia Plasynski a vision for her future.

“I knew [a career as a wildlife veterinarian] would combine my love for wildlife, the environment, science and traveling, but I was always debating if instead I wanted to attend graduate school and work in wildlife conservation, so I knew a research experience exactly like this was essential for me to figure out what I wanted to do,” Julia said.

With encouragement from her adviser Associate Professor of Biology Jason Kilgore, Ph.D., and training from Professor of Biology Candy DeBerry’s “Prep for Research Internship” Jay-Term course, Julia found an opportunity to intern at Duquesne University in Jan Janecka’s, Ph.D., lab studying how different subspecies of snow leopards are adapted to live at diverse elevations with different levels of oxygen. The lab is analyzing the big cat’s genes to help aid in conservation of the threatened species.

Julia’s gotten up close to the big cats at the Pittsburgh Zoo, observing a veterinarian giving a lion a check-up.

“I love the research I am doing and the people I have been meeting,” she said. “It amazes me how many aspects of conservation there are and how I am directly helping those efforts.”

Julia’s W&J experience, including a Magellan Project to New Zealand and lab experiences, combined with the support of the College’s Maxwell Internship Endowment Fund have made this internship possible.

“Without the extra push from W&J, I would not have prioritized an internship as highly as I did,” Julia said. “This allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and have great experience. I know I’m working toward what I want to do.”

Julia plans to attend graduate school for biology and work in conservation research.

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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