My big “AHA” moment!

I ended my first blog post asking if my title had you singing a certain Jackson 5 tune:  “ABC, as easy as 123, as simple as Do-Re-Mi…”  If I possibly evoked that ‘70’s earworm, then perhaps you are a baby boomer, like me. As a product of their varied experience, people from different generations often have differing perspectives on a number of issues. For example, different generations’ perceptions of animal research (which was the topic of Ken Gordon’s portion of the IACUC18 panel “The Research Community’s Roles and Responsibilities in Outreach and Advocacy”) actually led to a personal revelation Wednesday evening while I was out to dinner with my niece.

I had pondered my role on the 2018 IACUC Conference Blog Squad multiple times in the days leading up to the event and throughout the three days of the meeting, and my musings on Wednesday led me to one of those extraordinary “Aha!” moments.

My niece and I are just now getting to know each other. Long story short: I am an adoptee who discovered my biological roots using genetic genealogy, a bit of sleuthing, and a few lucky breaks. My genetic background discovery is actually tied to a previous PRIM&R conference, as it was the opportunity to attend the 2013 IACUC Conference in Baltimore (my birthplace) that spurred me to jump back into my search. My niece and I met for dinner just after the close of sessions Wednesday night. She is intelligent, educated, thoughtful, up-to-date on current events, and a millennial. The first thing she asked me was, “So, tell me why you are here and what you do.” As I started my standard spiel about animal research and research compliance administration I saw her face start to drop: “You mean like puppies and kitties in cages?” she asked.

Aha there is was! Exactly the issue that Ken Gordon described to us during his presentation that afternoon. I went into overdrive explaining what we do and why we are so passionate about the ethical use of animals in research. I told her about the presentation by Ms. Frase and Dr. Childers and promised to send her a link for their amazing video. I was able to explain to her how I have personally watched several cancer researchers on our campus go from studies in mice to studies in cats to clinical trials in client-owned animals, and soon clinical trials in humans. I talked about how there are regulations meant to protect animals used in research from undue stress and pain, and how findings from studies often help not just humans, but animals too.

My view on the research world is admittedly skewed and I’m certain I am not alone. I am a baby boomer who grew up in a college town with science-y parents and like-minded friends and neighbors, so I am admittedly predisposed to accept the importance of animal research. We need to remember that most individuals that are not connected with animal research know only what they see on mainstream and social media. And when faced only with full-page ads and slick television commercials from animal activist groups, and rarely given a look at the true conditions in animal research and protections we uphold, how can the public really get to know our side? We need to counter anti-research messaging in that media whenever and however we can. We all need to realize that there are a lot of people like my niece in this world who are smart and culturally aware, but who simply don’t know anyone who’s explained why we do animal research and how it works. If there’s one thing I took away from IACUC18, beyond the day-to-day work tips, it’s that we can be some of the best advocates for the field simply by sharing what we know and pointing people to resources (like

Katherine Branson, CPIA, has been involved in research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) for over 30 years. After graduation, she started coordinating the 100-level Physiology labs to give herself some time to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up. That job led to lab manager positions in a variety of research labs across campus where she worked with a multitude of species. A chance meeting with a secretary in the clearance aisle at Walmart (true story) led to Ms. Branson applying for a position in the newly-created University of Illinois IACUC office. PRIM&R meetings helped her develop and define the procedures and policies for the UIUC IACUC and separate them from those of the Division of Animal Resources. After thirteen plus years as an IACUC Administrator, she still finds PRIM&R webinars and meetings invaluable for networking and learning about her ever-changing role in the world of research compliance. Ms. Branson’s years as a lab manager/lab technician also provide her insight for her current role of IACUC Specialist. She now spends less time pondering what she wants to be when she grows up… somehow she lucked into doing exactly what she loves. 

Members of PRIM&R’s Blog Squad and other guest contributors are valued members of our community willing to share their insights. The views expressed in their posts do not necessarily reflect those of PRIM&R or its employees.

IACUC18 Conference Proceedings are now available for purchase (attendees received the link to the proceedings for free). PRIM&R’s 2019 IACUC Conference (IACUC19), will take place April 1-3 in Bellevue, WA, in conjunction with the NWABR Regional IACUC Conference on April 4. We are currently accepting session proposals (until August 24, 2018) and poster abstracts (until October 5, 2018) for IACUC19.