Ashley Nichter is no stranger to studying for exams in her off-campus apartment or in the Glenn G. Bartle Library, but she feels much more at home on an alpaca farm or at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park.
“It’s been a forever thing for me,” she said about her love of animals.
Nichter − a junior studying cellular and molecular biology − has always been around vet technicians and dog trainers, which fueled her desire to become a veterinarian.
With her career goals in mind, she applied early action to Binghamton University after researching the program in biological sciences.
“I knew it was a good school, and it would be the next big step to get into vet school,” she said.
Campus involvement is crucial to Nichter’s future career.
“One of the biggest things vet schools look for is animal experience,” she said. “If you don’t have that experience, they’re not even going to consider you.”
But Nichter doesn’t need to worry about that.
In her freshman year, Nichter joined the Pre-Vet Club. She attends weekly meetings to connect with her fellow club members, discuss upcoming events and learn about new opportunities to help out with animals in the area.
“You need to be comfortable and friendly with the people in the club because you all get down and dirty with the animals together,” Nichter said.
In fact, Nichter gets down and dirty with local animals on a regular basis.
During her semester-long internship at the local zoo, Nichter had the chance to ride the ZooMobile and handle animals such as snakes, foxes and skunks.
“It’s an educational outreach program,” she said. “Not only was I handling the animals themselves, but I was teaching people about the animal I was handling. I also ended up teaching myself.”
She also helps out at Herd Health Day, when she goes to psychology lecturer Ann Merriwether’s alpaca farm to check on the health of the animals. It is Nichter’s job to give the alpacas injections to prevent parasites, vitamins for strength and to check their fat levels.
“I’ve gotten a ton of hours with large animals because I go to Binghamton University,” she said.
On a smaller scale, Nichter is a dog sitter, finding opportunities through the Pre-Vet Club.
Beyond her work with alpacas and small animals, Nichter works with Stable Movements, a company that allows children with physical and mental disabilities to do physical therapy on horseback.
“It was so cool because I could be with a rambunctious horse, but once the horse sensed that a child was there, it would become so docile,” she said. “The connection the horses have with children is amazing.”
Making connections is a big deal when it comes to vet school, which is why Nichter takes the time to form relationships with faculty.
She helps Ralph Garruto, research professor of biomedical anthropology, with his “Lyme and Other Tick Borne Diseases” project, identifying and processing deer ticks in search of the pathogen for Lyme disease that affects both humans and domestic animals.
“Her research has been admirable and important,” Garruto said. “Now she is ready to go solo on all of the major techniques we use.”
Beyond the Pre-Vet Club and her work with Garruto, the Binghamton University community as a whole has had a huge impact on Nichter.
“I have a group of friends here that are the most supportive people I know. Even the people I have in classes that are pre-med or pre-vet are extremely supportive,” she said. “Binghamton has made me more confident about getting into vet school. I am learning new things that I am actually going to use in my future.”
— By Amanda Gurock