Reilly McNamara

Reilly McNamara (’20) is currently pursuing a B.S in Pre-Veterinary Science. Reilly’s passion for animals was sparked at a young age. She was introduced to shelter medicine by her mom who was an adoption counselor at a local animal shelter. Throughout her high school years, Reilly volunteered as a Kennel Assistant at the Northeast Animal Shelter, and developed an affinity and love of working with animals. At the end of her senior year of high school, Reilly decided to pursue an animal science career at UMass due to her love of animals and the vast opportunities the VASCI program offered.

In her freshman year she was exposed to a wide variety of livestock through the introductory animal science courses as well as her enrollment in the Dorset Sheep Management class. As a freshman Reilly joined the Running Club, Pre-Veterinary and Animal Sciences Club and the NESA livestock judging and quiz bowl competition teams. As she began participating in NESA, she strengthened her animal science skills and met an amazing group of students within the VASCI department. In 2017, UMass placed 2nd overall out of 8 schools at the NESA competition. Reilly also participated in the 2017 and 2018 Annual Bay State Livestock Classic showing a sheep and a chicken respectively.

After freshman year she interned at the New England Veterinary Clinic, where she was able to learn skills such as blood draws, injections, and acquired interpersonal skills required to successfully communicate with the owners of the animals. At this internship Reilly developed a passion for veterinary medicine. Being able to work hand and hand with multiple veterinarians opened my eyes to all the career possibilities for a DVM.

During her sophomore year, Reilly joined Dr. Hélène Cousin’s lab in the VASCI department, studying neurocrest migration in Xenopus laevis embryos. Starting out, she learned basic lab techniques such as PCR, western blots, and embryo injections. Since then she has begun preparing materials for her senior honors thesis which will be completed in the Spring of 2020. As a freshman Reilly knew she wanted to join a lab but was hesitant since she had no lab experience. Her advisor, John Balise, helped her apply to a few labs, and Reilly quickly realized with the endless research opportunities on campus it is very accessible for undergraduates join research labs.

Between Reilly’s sophomore and junior year she interned at the New England Wildlife Center in Weymouth, MA. This was by far the most fun and amazing animal experience for her. She learned how to work with a diverse number of species such as hawks, raccoons, turtles, etc. She found monitoring surgery was an incredible and valuable experience. Being able to handle emergency wildlife cases was thrilling and fast paced, which she loved. Going to work every day and following the progress of an animal, and then accompanying the veterinarian on its release back to the wild was very rewarding. This experience furthered her love of animal medicine.

During junior year, Reilly became an officer of the Pre-Veterinary and Animal Sciences Club. The club officers are responsible for inviting guest speakers in the animal science field to speak to VASCI students about a wide array of veterinary medicine topics and career options. The club also engages in philanthropy projects in the area. This club is very important to Reilly because it helps expose undergraduates to the vast number of careers that an animal science degree can offer.

Reilly credits the VASCI department with opening her eyes to a huge variety of career options. All the professors in the department have been especially helpful and have encouraged her to take advantage of the wide variety of opportunities the university offers. Her experiences through the VASCI department have shaped her into who she is today, and she is so grateful she decided to spend her four years of undergrad at UMass. In her free time Reilly enjoys running, taking yoga classes at the recreation center on campus, and spending time with her pets.