Breaking News: Building a Strong Foundation for Vet School, Classroom and Lab

Build a strong foundation for the vet school, in the classroom and the lab

Undergraduate research experiences, rigorous coursework, and close faculty mentorship helped ’21 Jess Sommer make it to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

From: Meghan Kita
Monday, November 21, 2022 10:54 a.m.



Jess Sommer ’21. Portrait of Justus Henry

Like nearly half of all Muhlenberg students, Jess Sommer ’21, who is currently enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, studied abroad: She went to Israel to fall of his freshman year. When COVID moved her classes remote as a senior to fall 2020, she saw an opportunity to return.

“I made the best of the situation and found this [bumblebee] laboratory in Israel. I had seen it in some of the literature we had read [in Professor of Neuroscience and Biology and Chair of Neuroscience Jordanna Sprayberry’s lab]says Sommer, who started working on Sprayberry’s bumblebee research in second grade. “In the fall of my senior year, I decided to do an internship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I worked in this lab during the day and, because of jet lag, I took my Muhlenberg classes in the evening.


Sommer conducting summer research as an undergraduate in 2019. Photos by Kate Ekanem ’21

Sommer, who was a prevet biology major and Jewish studies minor at Muhlenberg, also kept in touch with the Sprayberry lab during this time: She and another student reviewed hundreds of existing papers on bumblebee foraging and have compiled the conclusions of the articles into a single article with a clear. , a universal set of definitions. Their work has been published earlier this year.

“Even though we no longer work directly in research, the research never leaves us,” Sommer says of herself and her lab mates who have gone on to graduate programs. “Whether it is dental or veterinary medicine or human medicine, there is always research going on. Being able to have that undergraduate experience, not only to understand how the scientific process works, but also to understand what goes into writing a paper, has been invaluable.


Sommer (center) and fellow Penn Vets celebrate the end of their anatomy class.

The work she did in her Muhlenberg classes—and the close relationships she formed with her teachers—also helped prepare her for the rigors of vet school.

“All of the foundation courses I took at Muhlenberg definitely prepared me the way they were supposed to. I had the study tools that teachers had taught me that I probably wouldn’t have learned if I had gone to a bigger school,” says Sommer, who stays in touch with Sprayberry and other Muhlenberg teachers. “It was definitely a change to have all my classes so big [in veterinary school]. I had to get used to the idea that I wouldn’t have this close relationship with every teacher. I’m really grateful to have been able to have this experience in college. It prepared me to thrive in that kind of environment.


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