One-on-One: Zoë Campbell

Zoë Campbell

Zoë is a graduate student in the lab of Drs Tom Marsh and Guy Palmer in the Allen School.

Zoe Campbell in Mbuyuni with members of research team
Zoe Campbell in Mbuyuni with members of her research team

What area of research is covered by your PhD thesis?

My colleagues and I are focused on enhancing the health and productivity of livestock, especially for smallholder farmers in developing countries. My piece of the puzzle is learning about why poultry-keeping households in Tanzania do or don’t vaccinate their chickens with the goal of increasing access to vaccines.

Why did you choose to join the IID graduate program at WSU?

I came to WSU because of the Program for Enhancing Health and Productivity of Livestock, which is a collaboration between universities in the US, UK, and Tanzania. Upon arriving, I was informed that I had the freedom to use any discipline I needed in order to address my research question! IIDP is a good fit because applied research isn’t neatly confined to one discipline. My academic background is in biology so learning the basics of economics and social sciences is an ongoing challenge, but ultimately an interdisciplinary approach makes the research stronger.

Where were you working/studying before your started your PhD?

I was living in a rural community in Tanzania as an Environmental Extension Officer with the Peace Corps. Mainly this involved learning Swahili, teaching fifth graders about composting and photosynthesis, and doing small sanitation and agriculture projects with community groups. When I returned to the US, I went back to working as a seasonal wildlife technician and thought about getting a master’s degree, but it didn’t seem quite right. Being accepted into this PhD program was a great turning point.

What do you find most interesting about your work abroad?

Living and working away from your home culture is a humbling experience, and I suppose I enjoy the puzzle of adapting myself to new ideas, languages, and people. One of the most interesting things is observing how people deal with problems. I remember making a cultural mistake during my field work in Tanzania. That evening, my research assistants called a meeting, and we had to sit down and discuss it for over an hour. At the time, I felt really defensive and embarrassed, but sure enough, after the meeting everyone was feeling good and we had worked the problem out. 

How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

Playing outside and cooking delicious food are high on the list. I am a Challenge Facilitator at the WSU ropes course and sometimes lead outdoor trips as well. 

What advice would you give students about to embark on a graduate degree?

Being compatible with your advisor is really important. By that, I mean make sure not only your research interests align, but also that your personalities and communication styles align. A graduate program is not for everyone. Think about what you want to do. To me, a graduate degree only makes sense if it opens a door for you that is otherwise closed.

How do you expect to use your graduate degree?

I plan to work in development and research in East Africa.

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