Laura Riordan, B.S. 1998

Summit Veterinary Referral Center: Internal Medicine Specialist – Tacoma, WA

1998 Major: Biology

How has being a Biology graduate from Duke helped shape you personally and/or professionally?

"I realized in my 3rd year at Duke that I would rather pursue a career involving animals than one in human medicine as I had planned. We had to perform a research project with live subjects and I had ordered a dozen sea stars that died within hours of me receiving them. I spent days researching the husbandry of sea stars and was able to get a new batch. I spent more time taking care of them than performing the actual research study. In the end, I realized that I had enjoyed taking care of these unique sea creatures and that it was rewarding to have succeeded in doing so. I talked to my adviser and was set up with an internship at a local veterinary hospital and a museum with a small farm. I also volunteered at the Duke Primate Center. All of these experiences gave me a love for caring for animals and with my biology degree, I was able to go to veterinary school and later pursued a residency in small animal internal medicine. I love that my job involves complex medical problem solving, continual learning as medical technology advances and, of course, animals!"

What advice would you give students in Duke's Biology programs? 

"I would recommend trying to take classes that are most applicable to your ultimate career goal if you have one. Internships, mentored research, and volunteering can be very helpful in making decisions about your career but also gives you a chance to work in the field rather than just studying flashcards. I Finally, if you need to take organic chemistry, do it over the summer! It was much easier to take this class by itself!"

Laura Riordan with dog