Campus Stars: Neil Saunders and Jennifer Hankin

July 2nd, 2020

The Campus Stars campaign has been launched to showcase the colleagues still working on campus during the lockdown and highlight the crucial work they do.

Neil Saunders is a Technical Specialist and Jennifer Hankin is a Research Technician within the Dairy Nutrition Research Team based on Sutton Bonington campus. Neil has been working at the University for 17 years and Jennifer for 8 years.


Neil and Jennifer run nutrition, environmental and fertility studies in farm animal species such as cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. They look at everything from environmental emissions to emerging feed products from commercial companies. Neil and Jennifer ​program the mixing of diets for the cows using the GEA automated feeding system, collect samples and complete a significant quantity of proximate analysis in house through the wet chemistry and analytical labs.

During the pandemic, they are assisting the commercial farm staff with essential routine cleaning and maintenance of the Hoko Roughage Intake Control system that is used to monitor the feed intake for the dairy cows. Although there are currently no studies running, there is still a requirement to keep the area free from old feed so as not to attract vermin. This also ensures that the area can still be used to offer cows fresh feed as per the farm accreditation scheme.

During lockdown, Neil has enjoyed spending quality time with his family, including a Star Wars marathon! He has also spent time working on projects around the house in addition to making modifications to his VW campervan in the hope that he will be able to take it on a family holiday soon! Neil has found home schooling a challenge and has a huge respect for teachers!

Jennifer has spent a lot of time reading books during lockdown and has particularly enjoyed re-reading the Harry Potter series. She has also enjoyed film marathons, binging TV series and listening to Doctor Who audios with her husband. Jennifer has made use of new delivery services offered by businesses, and her favourite was The Cheesecake Factory’s chocolate mud cake ordered for her husband’s birthday!

Neil’s favourite thing about working at the University is how varied his role is. One day he will be feeding cows and the next he will be working in a lab. Jennifer’s favourite thing about her job is working with animals, especially the cows at the dairy. She enjoys working at Sutton Bonington as it has a great community feel!

Neil’s message to the University community is that although these are difficult times for everyone, try looking at it as an opportunity to spend time with family and loved ones. Jennifer’s message is to try and do something that you enjoy every day, such as spending time virtually with your friends and family. It may be difficult to stay positive every day, but just remember that everyone is going through the same thing and we will get through this eventually!

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