New faculty profile: Jennifer Van Os specializes in animal welfare

Jennifer Van Os joined UW in March 2018 as a UW–Madison assistant professor of dairy science and a UW-Extension animal welfare specialist.

What does your UW role entail?
My research focuses on understanding, evaluating, and improving the welfare of dairy animals from a biological perspective. The goal of my extension program is to promote best practices in management and housing to help the Wisconsin dairy industry adapt as our scientific knowledge about animal welfare continues to grow.

What is your educational background?
I received my Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary Animal Behavior graduate program at the University of California-Davis (UC Davis) and then conducted postdoctoral research in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis and with the Animal Welfare Program at the University of British Columbia. Previously, I earned a B.A. in Psychology from Harvard University, where I studied human behavior.

Before joining UW, what’s the most unusual or interesting job you’ve had?
I’ve had several jobs that might seem unusual. Earlier in my career, I conducted basic research on cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, worked as a customer service supervisor for an industrial supply company, and as an analyst for the footwear division of a sporting goods retailer. I picked up many valuable skills along the way, and exploring different paths ultimately made me confident in my choice to study animal welfare. The time I’ve spent in this field has been extremely fulfilling, and I’ve found my passion.

Who inspires you?
I’m awestruck by the many strong, female role models I’ve had the privilege of working with in the past few years, including Drs. Cassandra Tucker, Nina von Keyserlingk, Jennifer Walker, Joy Mench, Anne Marie de Passillé, and others. Their commitment to improving animal welfare through rigorous science — and their dedication to mentorship — is truly inspiring.

How do you usually spend your vacation time?
My family is scattered from coast to coast, as well as around the globe, so my husband and I usually prioritize spending time with family. We recently took a trip to Taiwan to see my grandfather and extended family. We really enjoy exploring new places on foot, especially areas rich with natural beauty — and delicious foods! — so we are looking forward to getting to know Wisconsin.