Lions, tigers, and bears: Phillips takes pre-veterinary route

Nate Phillips has wanted to be a veterinarian since he was 11, and now he’s making that dream a reality through his studies at Cornell College.

Nate Phillips feeding a mountain lion during his internship
Nate Phillips feeding a mountain lion during his internship

Phillips, a sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colorado, is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology as he prepares for his future studies in a veterinary program.

“My favorite part so far about the biochemistry and molecular biology program has been making connections between my classes,” Phillips said. “One of the things that I enjoy doing is also making connections to things that I see when I am shadowing or reading about the veterinary profession.”

Phillips got a taste of the veterinary profession during the summer of 2020 when he completed an animal care internship at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in his hometown. 

“I worked specifically in the Rocky Mountain Wild and Asian Highlands areas of the zoo and had the chance to work with a wide range of species and individuals,” Phillips said. “These included Amur tigers, Amur leopards, snow leopards, grizzly bears, Mexican wolves, mountain lions, Alaska moose, river otters, and many others.”

Phillips isn’t stopping there. He’s excited to work with the Cornell College Dimensions Program for Health Professions to continue to look for future internships, fellowships, and field research programs to expand his experience and knowledge base. He says it’s indescribable to work with the animals. 

“There’s an awe of being near some of the most charismatic species on the planet,” Phillips said. “No two days are the same and there was always something surprising. I had a ton of amazing experiences during my internship, but if I had to pick a favorite it would probably be helping to trim one of the grizzly bear’s claws.” 

When he’s not studying about animals, nature, or conservation, Phillips enjoys being a campus tour guide, being a part of the Dimensions program, and playing football.A person feeding an animal

“I chose to play football at Cornell because of the competitiveness of the football program and the flexibility the block plan offers,” Phillips said. “I can customize my schedule and have opportunities to study abroad without interfering with football season. My favorite part about Cornell is the chance to get to know my professors and classmates over the course of a block.”

The block plan allows students to immerse themselves in One Course At A Time for 3 ½ weeks before changing to another class. Class times each day end by around 3 p.m., so there’s plenty of time for extracurricular activities and athletics

The offensive lineman says there’s nothing like ringing the bell after a victory at the end of Van Metre Field at Ash Park, and there’s no doubt he’ll see many more football and career victories as he continues to explore his passions.