Davis & Elkins College student Shelby Collins gained hands-on experience through an internship she hopes will lead her to her intended career. The senior biology major in the pre-veterinary program was among students from throughout the United States selected to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) at West Virginia University.

The daughter of Steve and June Collins of Belington, Collins hopes to attend veterinary school after graduating from D&E.

“Davis & Elkins provided me with the resources needed to participate in the research program,” Collins said. “Without it, I would not have known it was available or had the knowledge needed to have the ability to dive right in and take full advantage of the opportunity.”

Collins recently presented her research data to members of the D&E campus community. Titled “Effects of Dietary Yucca Schidigera Plant Extract on Whole Blood Chemistry of Dairy Heifers,” the study focused on eliminating antibiotics in animal production and instead using natural alternatives such as plant extracts and herbs. Specifically, researchers examined whether the use of Yucca Schidigera extract in place of antibiotics would improve certain organ functions while increasing the cattle’s mass.

To gather data, Collins, a research mentor and a graduate student collected liver, fecal and blood samples to assess the metabolic and health status of the animals. The results suggest that Yucca Schidigera extract possibly alters the metabolic status of the dairy heifers on certain days during the experiment.

“I expanded my experience by working with the heifers, which wasn’t something I could do at the animal clinic where I work,” Collins said. “It provided me with a broader knowledge and advanced skills that will be very helpful in veterinary school.”

At D&E, Collins is president of the Zeta Chapter of Chi Beta Phi National Science Honorary and vice president of Women in STEM.

Shelby Collins

Davis & Elkins College senior Shelby Collins of Belington administers a plant extract to a dairy heifer as part of her research internship with the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) at West Virginia University.