August 16, 2013
By Kerri McDermid
As 11 students climbed a stone stairway, chipmunks scattered and hummingbirds zipped overhead. The students soon arrived at an outdoor classroom damp from overnight rain and settled in for an afternoon of learning with Dr. Jenny Powers, wildlife veterinarian at Rocky Mountain National Park.
The students were part of the Colorado State University Veterinary Summer Scholars Program, and they traveled to Rocky Mountain National Park in July to discuss chronic wasting disease and other topics of veterinary research in wildlife management. Powers, who hosted the group, is a CSU veterinary alumna who chose a career in research after realizing that she wasn’t interested in work as a clinician.
“I always let people know of my interest in wildlife research, which is how I eventually made the right contacts and started working on these types of issues,” Powers explained to the visiting students.
Exposing veterinary students to career options in biomedical research is the focus of the CSU Veterinary Summer Scholars Program, one of the oldest and largest programs of its kind in the country. Each summer, programs at U.S. and Canadian veterinary schools give first- and second-year vet students the chance to take thought-provoking field trips and to dive into their own research with faculty mentorship.
The three-month programs culminate in the Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Symposium, which brings together top students from multiple programs for poster presentations. This year’s symposium was in early August at Michigan State University.
“Many DVM students do not realize their capacity to make significant contributions to research, yet their broad-based, comparative education equips them to be excellent additions to many research teams,” saidDr. Sue VandeWoude, a veterinarian and associate dean for research in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
“The Summer Scholars Program gives students an opportunity to work in a mentored environment to learn more about the research process, an experience that inspires many students to go on to careers with a research component,” said VandeWoude, who oversees the CSU program.
At Rocky Mountain National Park, Powers discussed with students chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease in the family of prion diseases that is estimated to affect about 5 percent of wild deer, elk and moose in much of northern Colorado.
She also shared with scholars her path into veterinary wildlife research, by way of animal reproduction. The discussion illustrated the summer program’s goal of giving students the chance to learn from faculty and research professionals in a variety of biomedical fields, including equine reproduction, epidemiology, cardiology, and pathology.
“We have a fantastic array of research mentors who allow students to participate in a tremendous spectrum of projects – from very molecular, cell-based research to clinically applied research,” VandeWoude said.
Summer scholars tour a variety of off-campus sites run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, among other agencies. They also have fun: rafting on the Cache la Poudre River, among other excursions.
“The people I’ve met over the summer have helped to clarify my interest in research,” said Amy Robinson, a student at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, Scotland, who traveled to Fort Collins for the CSU summer program. “I’ve really enjoyed the program, from the work with our faculty mentors to the social events, such as rafting with my fellow students. The program has been a great experience.”
Derek Matthews, a CSU veterinary student in the Summer Scholars Program, said the experience has him thinking about how to combine his interest in cardiology with research and clinical practice.
“Before this program, I wasn't as focused as I am now,” said Matthews, whose summer project focused on heart-valve disease. “I now think research is a career path that I am very interested in.”
34 scholars in the 2013 program, visiting CSU from veterinary programs across the country and around the world. The scholars are selected through a competitive application process and receive financial support from program sponsors.
188 summer scholars since 2001
500+ total students mentored by CVMBS faculty in past 10 years
20 percent of student participants in past five years have been under-represented minorities
59 faculty mentors
$40,000 contributed to the CSU program by the National Institutes of Health; other supporters include U.S. Department of Agriculture, American Humane Association, Merial, Zoetis and Morris Animal Foundation
For information about the program, visit the website.
First: Kaitie Dozier, “Could the inhibition of the cellular decay machinery contribute to the pathogenicity of bovine viral diarrhea virus infections?” Jeff Wilusz, faculty mentor
Second: Katelyn Schermerhorn, “Cytokine production in whole blood of T-zone lymphoma affected dogs.” Anne Avery, faculty mentor
Third: Melissa White, “Antibacterial properties of activated mesenchymal stem cells.” Steve Dow, faculty mentor
Honorable mention: Genevieve Forster, “Modulation of canine gut hormones with bean consumption and weight loss.” Elizabeth Ryan, faculty mentor
Honorable mention: Nina Garbino, “Rapid in vitro assay to detect CWD prions in deer saliva.” Ed Hoover, faculty mentor
Honorable mention: Derek Matthews, “Evidence for endothelial to mesenchymal transition in canine degenerative mitral valve disease.” Chris Orton, faculty mentor