SUNY Cobleskill students to study animals at Bronx Zoo

Julie Larsen Maher Alfred Ngbokoli, supervisor at the Bronx Zoo Histology Laboratory, is seen working in the lab in this undated photo. 

SUNY Cobleskill and the Bronx Zoo are partnering up to provide real world experiences for the college's histotechnician students. 

Histotechnology involves the detection of tissue abnormalities and the treatment for those diseases causing the abnormalities, according to the National Society for Histotechnology's website. Among other duties, histotechnicians evaluate specimens, process and cut very thin sections of tissue and stain them for examination by a pathologist or other investigator, according to the website. 

A new internship at the Bronx Zoo for one SUNY Cobleskill student will be offered each summer, according to a media release from SUNY Cobleskill. The selected student will complete a 10-week training program in the zoo’s histology laboratory. 

The Bronx Zoo is managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society. The Bronx Zoo's lab processes diagnostic samples from animals at the Wildlife Conservation Society's four zoos and aquarium in New York City and from Wildlife Conservation Society field sites around the world, according to the release. 

Histotechnicians in the lab examine tissues from sick animals, said Adam Tegnander, the college's histotechnician program director. They also look at tissues from dead animals to determine how the animal died. This is especially important with herd animals, where pathogens from one diseased animal can wipe out the entire herd.

The college's histotechnician program is a two-year associate degree in applied science. It is the only accredited degree-granting histotechnician program in the state, Tegnander said. 

Tegnander said most histotechnician students at the college want to work in human hospitals. The new internship provides an avenue for students who are interested in going into animal pathology, he said. 

During the 10-week internship, students will help the lab function and perform all the duties a paid histotechnician would do. Alfred Ngbokoli, supervisor of the Bronx Zoo Histology Laboratory, will be the point person for the interns, Tegnander said. 

"Their internship experience is their career," Tegnander said. "What they go there to do is learn how to enter the workforce."

The internship is unpaid, Tegnander said. Housing and living expenses are on the student though the zoo will help them find housing, he said, and students can apply for financial aid through the school. In addition, students can apply for annual scholarships through the New York State Histotechnological Society at www.nyhisto.com/awards/scholarship/

Though for the most part the students will be training as histotechnicians, the internship gives them flexibility in exploring their interests, Tegnander said. They can branch out and follow other interests, such as shadowing a veterinary technician and observing the disease processes, he said. 

"Because it's so new, there's a lot of open adventure for the students," Tegnander said.  

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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