Meet graduate student Mia Kawaida

Mia Kawaida
Mia Kawaida

After graduating from high school in Japan, Mia Kawaida moved to California to pursue studies in equine science. She says that even though her native country has a large horse racing industry, the lack of open land limits the availability of horse programs. She enjoys teaching and plans for a career in academia, where she hopes to invite students from Japan to take courses in equine science. Here’s what she had to say about her experiences studying for a master’s degree at UConn.

Where did you study as an undergraduate? What was your major?

I first finished my associate degree in animal science at Merced College in California. Then in order to focus more on equine species, I transferred to Murray State University in Kentucky for my bachelor’s degree. I was an animal science major with an equine management concentration.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I wanted to attend graduate school to gain more skills and knowledge in a specialized discipline and give myself more time to plan for my future career. Although I received my bachelor’s degree in animal science and finished my apprenticeship program at the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm, I was still uncertain about what I was going to do with it. I thought going to graduate school would help me find a new area of interest, grow personally and professionally in the field and eventually open a career door.

Who is your advisor? What is your field of research?

My advisor is Dr. Sarah Reed.  My research focuses on the combination of exercise physiology and muscle biology. Currently, I am researching the effects of astaxanthin antioxidant supplements on oxidative stress in polo ponies during retraining. Also, I am a part of the fetal programming research group. We are determining how poor maternal diet alters fetal and postnatal offspring growth and development in sheep.

Name one aspect of your work that you like.

One thing I like about my work is that it exposes me to new opportunities. As previously mentioned, I am involved with the sheep project in addition to my polo pony research. It was challenging for me to work with sheep initially because I did not have any sheep or lambing experience. However, as I worked with the sheep and lambs, I noticed myself enjoying my time at the sheep barn and learning more about them. This was surprising because my main interest has always been horses. This experience allowed me to take the first step in a new field and discover a new interest, which potentially can be a focus for my future research. 

In your opinion, what is your greatest accomplishment so far?

My greatest accomplishment is that I got into my top-choice graduate program here at UConn, and I received a full-time graduate assistantship. It has been a very busy school year, but nothing makes this experience greater. Working as a graduate assistant, taking classes and carrying out my own research has taught me to prioritize my time, build great habits and stay focused on my goals. That said, I am really proud of this accomplishment, and I believe what I have learned and will continue to learn is going to give me a big advantage in the long run.

When do you expect to get your degree? What then?

Due to this pandemic we are experiencing, things can be uncertain sometimes. However, if everything goes as planned, I will be graduating in May 2021. I already have made my decision to continue my education and pursue a Ph.D. here at UConn. I am very excited about the long journey ahead of me.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I love traveling both domestically and internationally. I have been to fifteen states in the United States as well as Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines and Canada. I always enjoy meeting new people from different backgrounds and learning the culture and tradition of the country. One day, I would love to visit the Caribbean because I am a huge fan of their food and music. And of course, as a horse person, I can never leave the place without going for a beach ride!

This interview originally appeared on Naturally@UConn.