India Napier

College of Veterinary Medicine graduate student

Boston native India Napier is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Biomedical Sciences program at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to enrolling at Auburn, she earned her bachelor's degree in Biology from Boston University in 2009. She also completed her master's degree in Biomedical Sciences (with a specialization in male reproductive toxicology) at Auburn in 2011. Currently, Napier's research focuses on developing a contraceptive vaccine as a low-cost alternative to reducing the overpopulation of cats. In addition to her graduate studies and research, she is highly involved in student governance at Auburn. She is the president of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA), the vice president of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and a Student Government Association senator representing the College of Veterinary Medicine.

1. Why did you choose to come to Auburn for graduate school?

I chose Auburn because I wanted to earn a graduate degree from a university with a strong biomedical research program offered by a veterinary school. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I wanted to embark on a path of graduate research that would expand my knowledge of biological sciences in the context of veterinary medicine. After learning about the different areas of cutting-edge research conducted at Auburn's College of Veterinary Medicine, I knew that enrolling in its graduate program would teach me how to be a researcher who will help solve some of the world's most challenging problems that plague both humans and animals.

2. Discuss the importance of your research on a contraceptive vaccine for cats.

Stray cats number in the tens of millions nationally and overpopulate most countries worldwide. This is a big problem because cats can spread diseases to humans and are predators of endangered species. Also, those that are homeless endure short and brutal lives. Spaying and neutering programs do help reduce their numbers but can be time-consuming, labor-intensive, and costly, making it difficult to keep up with the continuously growing stray cat population. Developing an inexpensive and long-lasting vaccine that sterilizes cats is a solution that would help control the stray cat population.

3. What are your ultimate career goals after you earn your doctorate? And how do you expect your graduate degrees to help you achieve those goals?

My career goal is to continue conducting contraceptive vaccine research but at a biotechnology company. Creating a vaccine that causes permanent infertility in cats is a lofty goal and will take years to put on the market. Knowing this, I really want to keep the momentum of this project going and see this concept come to fruition. My graduate degrees will help me achieve my career goals because my research training encourages me to think outside the box and use novel approaches in vaccine research, tools necessary to solve such a large-scale problem. As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve a problem with the same thinking that created it."

4. Why did you choose to become so involved in student organizations?

Moving over a thousand miles away from Boston to a town where I knew very few people lead to my decision to join student organizations at Auburn. I enjoyed meeting new people and creating fun events, and I soon realized that I wanted to be a part of important change happening on campus. Being a leader in these organizations allowed me to implement new policy to improve graduate student life and grow my connection with Auburn University.

5. What are some of your favorite things to do in Auburn when you are not studying or working?

I spend the very little "free time" that I have hanging out with my friends, most of whom are members of the BGPSA and GSC. We like to have barbecues and play board and card games. I consider them family and would be more homesick if it was not for their company. Did I mention I love football? Because I love football (two fantasy football leagues; I am very competitive)!

Last Updated: Nov. 24, 2014

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