Eliza Doncaster ’15, Biology

This NVU Grad is a Happy Hiker Doing Important Work for the State

Eliza Doncaster

In an internship her senior year with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, biology major Eliza Doncaster ’15 hiked through woods in remote parts of the Northeast Kingdom every day. Her mission was to collect mosquitoes and ticks to be tested for diseases harmful to humans.

“I was the one out in the swamps,” she says.

What did she think of the job? “I loved it. It gave me an opportunity to get boots on the ground actually collecting specimens,” Eliza says.

That boots-on-the-ground experience led to her current full-time job as coordinator of statewide mosquito and tick surveillance programs for the agriculture agency. Eliza got the internship through a connection she made at NVU’s Current Topics in Science speaker series, which brings experts to campus to talk each fall.

Hands-On and Classroom Opportunities Prepared Her for Her Career

While Eliza was at NVU, other hands-on and classroom opportunities also helped prepare her for her career, including networking at professional conferences.

As a research assistant in the molecular laboratory on campus, she helped a professor with a project that involved DNA analysis. And in a GIS course, she learned about computer-modeled mapping and built skills she uses every day in her job now.

NVU’s biology program also offers opportunities for students to learn how to make effective presentations, which Eliza does frequently in her current position. Many of her biology classes had end-of-semester presentations that helped her develop her communication and public-speaking abilities.

She Made Connections with Faculty and the Larger Campus Community

Eliza, with two siblings who also are NVU-Johnson graduates, valued the small classes that allow students and faculty to connect. “The one-on-one was important to me,” she says. “That sets NVU apart, that interaction with professors. They’re not just talking at you. You can really engage.”

A highlight of her time at NVU was Eliza’s involvement with campus music and choral groups as a way to branch out beyond science. She played the clarinet in the concert band and toured with the chorale and chamber singers. “It was a nice time to connect with people I probably wouldn’t otherwise have connected with,” she says. “Getting involved in extracurricular things gives you a greater connection to the campus. It’s more of a community when you get involved with other things.”

She Works to Help Keep the Public Aware and Safe

In Eliza’s position with the state agriculture agency, she involves the broader community in her work tracking disease-bearing insects by educating the public about how to avoid tick and mosquito bites. “The science is so fascinating, and it’s applicable to everyone in Vermont and their daily lives,” she says. “You can’t be too safe. People need to hear it.”

In choosing NVU, Eliza chose the best college for her to get the broad biology background she wanted to learn about different career options.

“I’m really happy with where I am,” she says. “If I hadn’t gone to that Current Topics in Science lecture my junior year at NVU, I would never have made the connection I made and be where I am now.”

A student wearing a hat and glasses works in a lab.

“Everyone in the science department gets great internships. Even if it’s not a job you think you could see yourself doing, it gives you experience, builds your resume and lets you know if you like that type of work.”

– Alec Jones ’20


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