Thompson Rivers University

Student Research – Q & A with Paige Hegadoren

August 7, 2012

Cow eye

The surface temperature of a cow as recorded by TRU physics student Paige Hegadoren for research into whether the temperature of a cow’s eye can indicate a fever.

Paige Hegadoren is a fourth-year Bachelor of Science student, majoring in Physics. The Newsroom asked Paige about doing undergraduate research at TRU.

TRU: Your project is titled, “Physical factors affecting infrared thermography as an indicator of body temperature in cattle”. Boil it down for us.

PH: Infrared thermography involves the use of infrared cameras to determine surface temperatures of objects. In the cattle industry, infrared images of cattle eyes have been explored as alternative methods to determine cattle body temperature, and consequently, detect fevers. This project involved studying common physical and environmental factors that affect temperatures read by infrared cameras that often were not considered in previous studies. We were able to show that various factors (distance, wind speed, sunlight) need to be controlled/eliminated to ensure accurate and repeatable infrared measurements.

TRU: What attracted you to the research?

PH: My main interest in physics has always been biological and medical applications of physics theories and methods. This project was interesting to me as it involved looking at and potentially improving on an agricultural system from a physics perspective.

TRU: You received an Undergraduate Research Experience Award Program (UREAP) grant. How did you use it?

PH: The grant money I received was used to travel to Saskatoon and present this research at the 3rd International Beef and Cattle Welfare Symposium from June 5 – 7, 2012.

TRU: Are you are doing research this summer? Where?

PH: This research is expected to be completed by the end of the summer. Our field work is being done using dairy cows at Blackwell Dairy Farm in Kamloops.

TRU: Will your project lead to a presentation or publishing opportunity?

PH: This research was selected as an oral presentation for the 3rd International Beef and Cattle Welfare Symposium in Saskatoon. It was one of three student research presentations selected, and the other two students were MSc and PhD students from Colorado State University. The Symposium had over 130 participants from all across Canada and the USA, as well as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Brazil, Finland, and Mexico. The symposium was web broadcast live, with an additional 300 participants online. When the research is complete, we will be submitting a manuscript for publication in an animal welfare journal. This research was also presented in early August at the Second Annual Women in Physics Conference held at the University of British Columbia.

Read more Q & A’s:

Rolena DeBruyn, Ecology and Environmental Biology
Tingting Li, Tourism Management
Ashley Morrison, Animal Biology
Steven Holm, Finance and Economics
Tamara Bandet, Microbiology
Timothy Crowe, Microbiology
James Pomfret, Animal Biology
Sara Burchnall, Economics and Accounting
Katie DeGroot, Ecology and Environmental Biology

TRU: What do you love about research? What don’t you like about it?

PH: This project has given me an opportunity to do field work that would not be otherwise available to me as a physics major. Going out in the field and working with animals is something I’ve enjoyed doing. As it turns out, I enjoy presenting research as well. Even though public speaking makes me extremely nervous, it’s excellent experience. One aspect of research that I’m still getting used to is sometimes you’re forced to find things to do while you wait for funding or equipment to come in, as these processes can take some time. It can be a bit frustrating, but I’m told by my supervisors that sometimes that’s just how research goes.

TRU: Who in your field do you admire and why?

PH: I admire anyone who has been a leader or head of a research project. People are constantly coming to you with questions (I know this because I’ve been pestering my supervisors – Dr. John Church and Dr. Mark Paetkau – all summer) and invoices get sent to you and you have to deal with them and delegate tasks to people; it sounds like a handful.

TRU: What impact do you hope your research will have?

PH: I hope it will make a strong enough argument that some basic physical and environmental factors need to be taken into account when using infrared thermography as an indicator of body temperature. We have been able to show that infrared imaging is susceptible to these factors, so hopefully future researchers using infrared thermography will read our paper and control their study accordingly.

Read more from our Q & A series on undergraduate student researchers.

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