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Courtney Sexton

Department of Population Health Sciences, Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
Courtney Sexton portrait.

Faculty Mentor
Audrey Ruple
Associate Professor

Research Areas/Interests
Animal behavior and evolution, advocacy, science outreach and communication

Briefly describe the research project you are working on as a postdoctoral associate at Virginia Tech. What is the problem you are addressing? What is the expected impact of your work?
In our lab we investigate environmental impacts on companion dogs' quality of life, and determine when and where dogs function as effective sentinels of human health and wellbeing. Using archived data from the Dog Aging Project (DAP), as well as new data that we collect from DAP participants, we investigate factors such as genetics, diet, physical environment -- e.g. air and water contamination levels -- and access to resources, which are likely to impact health and aging of dogs and people.

Why did you choose to pursue postdoctoral training at Virginia Tech?
The opportunity to work with my mentor, Audrey Ruple, on research that has immediate, real-world implications for people and animals. Dr. Ruple is an incredible mentor and I was convinced the first time we met that I would work with her if given the opportunity. 

What are your career goals?
My long-term career goals include working at the nexus of scientific research and catalyzing societal applications of findings from that research. That is, I want to connect communities, organizations, individuals, and institutions with emerging research and data that have actionable outcomes for people, animals, and the environment.

How do you see the resources available to postdoctoral associates at Virginia Tech generally and via this program specifically being helpful to your career and professional development?
I have been very impressed with the resources for postdocs offered at Virginia Tech. I am based in Washington, DC, so am not always able to take advantage of the in-person networking and socializing events, but knowing that this effort is made is very reassuring. I've also been blown away by the number of training/development opportunities (like this one!) that are offered on a regular basis, as well as how well these opportunities are advertised within the postdoc community. My graduate institution definitely DID NOT have a structure like this in place and so I am excited to take advantage of what is offered here.

How long have you been in your postdoctoral position at Virginia Tech?
Began in May 2023