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Jason Hatfield working in a lab
January 15, 2020

Research in the lab led to a career-changing internship

Jason Hatfield ’17 entered Berry with the goal of becoming a veterinarian, but his work in research with animal science faculty soon had him setting his sights on the lab. Jason now works as a researcher in the serology department at the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, studying the porcine reproductive and respiratory virus in swine.

As an animal science and biochemistry double major, Jason had an early opportunity to get into the laboratory with faculty. During his freshman year, he started as a research assistant with Associate Professor of Animal Science Sunday Peters. “I did genetic research for Dr. Peters all four years at Berry,” Jason says. “I learned so much about sample collection, processing, setting up and conducting experiments while working with Dr. Peters. I also took multiple classes with him, including a directed study looking at the implications of disease resistance and tolerance and its research implications. He helped guide me into my career path, showing me how important, exciting and interesting disease research can be, and I am forever grateful for his guidance and help.”

This lab experience paved the way for Jason’s year-long internship with the USDA at the Southeast Poultry Research Lab after graduation. The lab work he had completed at Berry enabled him to hit the ground running—working with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus strains, developing and testing vaccines, and helping develop a unique system for sequencing DNA and RNA.

“Jason was well prepared and had the right background for the internship because of the coursework and research experience he had here at Berry College,” Dr. Peters says. “He learned molecular techniques like DNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction and gel electrophoresis, which are techniques used in molecular diagnosis of diseases. The need to identify and prevent diseases in the poultry industry, and food safety in general, cannot be overemphasized because the poultry industry provides close to 2 million jobs and about $400 billion in economic activity and about $30 billion in government revenue. A major disease outbreak in the poultry industry would be catastrophic to the industry and bring a serious loss in economic activity and government revenue.”

Building on his experiences at Berry and in the Southeast Poultry Research Lab, Jason accepted his current research position at Iowa State University. In the future, he hopes to continue his education and pursue his Ph.D. Jason encourages students to be open to different possibilities: “Don't be afraid to try new things! Honestly, I came to college with a plan to become a vet, but I came out with a different plan in life while taking part in activities I never thought I would do. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and got active in the community. It opened the door to new experiences, and I made so many good memories along the way.”

staff writer

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