St Edmunds College Ware (school), University of Bristol (vet degree) then De Montfort University (PhD)
BVSc PhD CBiol FRSB FHEA CCAB Dip ECAWBM(BM) FRCVS, European & RCVS Recognised Specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine – my colleagues tease me I have more letters after my name than in it!
worked for the PDSA a charity giving free veterinary care to those who can’t afford it, then moved into private practice, which included the vet work for Guide Dogs. Moved to De Montfort from veterinary practice to begin in academia, then became part of the University of Lincoln when it was founded and been here ever since. Wonderful place!
Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine
University of Lincoln
Favourite thing to do in my job: Analyse data and see what we have found
I am a vet as well as researcher. I worked in practice for a few years before moving into academia so I could pursue my interests in animal behaviour and the human animal bond.
I have a had a longstanding interest in animal behaviour and welfare, and initially worked as a vet for an animal charity before moving into private practice. I then had the opportunity to Move to Lincolnshire where I started my research career. My PhD was in horse behaviour and welfare, with a focus on developing humane methods to improve management. My work at the University consists for teaching, research and clinical work, helping people with their problem pets. I became Europe’s first professor on veterinary behavioural medicine and recently was honoured to received the highest recognition from the veterinary profession (Fellowship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons). You can find out more about me from my Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Mills_(biologist)
I work mainly with cats, dogs and horses and their owners, not only do I do research and lecture about these but we also run a behaviour clinic to help clients with problem pets
My work is split across three areas:
- Research- my research focuses largely on studying what makes us all unique individuals when it comes to our behaviour. This means I do a lot of work on studying our emotional interpretation of the world, but my focus is on non-human animals rather than humans. I am particularly interested in how animals communicate their emotions and this includes both the visual and auditory signals as well as chemical signals that they use. It is well known there is a smell of fear, but did you know there is also a unique “smell” of comfort for many animals? My other main area of research interest is the value that companion animals bring to society and to human well-being, I am particularly interested in how dogs can help families with an autistic child.
- Teaching – I enjoy teaching students at all levels and here at Lincoln we not only have degrees in animal behaviour and welfare, but also a specialist Masters level programme to develop professionals who want to work as an animal behaviourist helping owners with their pets. I also lecture extensively to both professional groups like vets and also owners and dog trainers.
- Consultancy. I also work with a range of companies to help them develop products that improve animal welfare and the human animal bond. For example I developed the idea of a mirror in the stable of horses to help prevent certain forms of stress as well as new ways to reassure animals with certain chemicals in the environment
My Typical Day
One of the joys of my job is that there is no such thing as a typical day. Every day is different and so interesting.
One of the few constants to a typical day, is that I get up early and make my wife a coffee and myself a cup of tea. After I get into work any might be happening- tutorials with research students, clients in the clinic, teaching students or going to meetings.
My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURE memory is:
the whole series by Susan Greenfield
How does technology threaten your privacy?
Not really my area, but there is a danger that as you get better known, people can start to create a fictitious profile by accessing various sites and so fraud becomes an issue. In academia, I think with it being very easy to contact academics I do get a bit swamped with email traffic and so have less private time as I try to respond to these requests. That why events like this are great as they are at a scheduled time that I can manage better
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Busy, Optimistic, Passionate
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I’ve been involved in developing a few treatment for animals with behaviour problems that has greatly improved their welfare. Its very satisfying to see you’ve made a real difference.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Sir Robert Hinde, I wrote to him after seeing him lecture and he was so inspirational (and modest) about why it was important for vets to be interested in behaviour
What did you want to be after you left school?
I went to Vet School so it looked like I was going to be a vet in practice
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes… will say no more other than we learn from our mistakes and should learn to forgive others for theirs. No one’s perfect
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The Cure, Nick Cave and Pink Floyd have to be up there
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Oh, that’s really hard. I have a lot of fun most days, but most fairground rides terrify me!
Tell us a joke.
Man goes into a bar with an amphibian on his shoulder and orders a drink for himself and tiny, his friend on his shoulder. The barman asks why he’s called tiny and the man says, because he’s my newt (minute – might need to read it out loud to get it)