Postdoc Spotlight: Essam M. Abdelfattah

Dr. Essam Abdelfattah is a postdoctoral scholar at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center (VMTRC), School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California. He holds master's and Ph.D. degrees in Animal Behavior and Management, as well as a Bachelor of Veterinary Medical Sciences. His research focuses on improving the health and welfare of animals.

Since when have you been with UC Davis and what are the progress so far?

I have been conducting research as a scholar with the University of California, Davis since 2015. My original research identified the optimum group housing conditions for veal calves to improve their welfare and health. In 2017, my leading research recommendations were adopted by the American Veal Association. Our society’s expectations for sustainable and humane food animal production can only be answered by innovative and outstanding evidence-based research such as that conducted by our research group. For that reason, my research proposal was identified and successfully funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to conduct a study on group housing in dairy calves. Also, since 2018 I have been leading a key role in the VMTRC’s research effort to combat antimicrobial resistance funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to meet society’s interest in reduced antimicrobial drug use while maintaining the health and welfare of our dairy cattle. I’m set to complete one of the most comprehensive and largest antimicrobial resistance studies in the dairy industry.

Your research sounds interesting. Why did you decide to join UC Davis as a postdoc?

UC Davis is a globally renowned university with very sound agricultural programs. After I completed my PhD at Purdue University in collaboration with my university in Egypt (Benha University), I looked forward to having new experiences in my major by being around new people, so I joined the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis as a postdoc to gain experience in Animal Behavior and Welfare. After I completed my first postdoc, then I joined the VMTRC to gain more experience in epidemiology. As an ethologist, I value the role of epidemiology and biostatistics in advancing animal welfare through sound study design and statistics. My current position as a postdoc at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s VMTRC continues to enrich my animal welfare career through quantitative epidemiology. My long-term goal is to become a faculty member in one of the higher research institutions in the US. I want to become an independent, extramurally funded scientist with expertise in animal behavior and welfare. I am working hard to achieve my dream of having my lab and working with students to share my passion for science.

You have been actively involved in the activities of the Postdoctoral Scholars Association. What are those specific roles you have been involved in?

My rare achievement as a postdoc at UC Davis is being a part of the Postdoctoral Scholars Association (PSA). In addition to my primary role as a postdoctoral scholar, I have served in a number of leadership roles for the PSA and have continued to support my colleagues by training them as they transition into officer roles and recruiting new members to help support the approximately 1,000 UC Davis postdocs on our campus. I have served two years as the Chair of the PSA (2017-19) and currently serve as the Relations Officer. While already serving as chair in 2018, I also took an additional responsibility when the PSA Treasurer resigned. I stepped in to ensure that the treasurer’s essential work continued. As chair and treasurer, I was responsible for maintaining the PSA budget, assisting with the selection of awardees for the annual Excellence in Postdoctoral Research Award, and the presentation and distribution of best oral and poster awards at the annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium. I have served on several other committees in support of postdoctoral scholars and the university. I have been enjoying working with Graduate Studies to serve postdoctoral scholars on our campus. I would like to see the PSA on track and provide such generous service in support of postdoctoral scholars. Therefore, I would like to encourage postdocs to attend and participate in all events of PSA. Your research alone is not enough to take you to the next step in your career.  I strongly encourage you to join us for workshops, panel discussions, contribute your creative ideas, and help us while improving your experience serving PSA. Volunteering for PSA is very rewarding, as it provides you with professional development, social networking, a set of transferable skills, and most of all… a chance to have fun with our wonderful staff!

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy going for a walk, or a hike in nature. As a postdoctoral scholar, I spend most of my time in front of a computer. That is why I try to minimize the screen time when outside of work. Basically, you can say that I enjoy being outside and moving when I am not working. I like to go hiking and biking in the mountains such as Sequoia National Park.

Based on your experience, any piece of advice for students?

My personal advice to all of you is do not ever lose sight of the importance of your work. Not everyone will support you, but I strongly encourage you all to remain steadfast and accomplish your goals.  Do not let anybody stop you or prevent you from your success. Also, Graduate Studies provides services and resources to support the training and professional development of students and postdocs. So, do not miss these opportunities while you are a part of UC Davis.

Last but not the least, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who assists in my success at UC Davis.