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Mentoring Program Supports Diversity among Scientists

How many students spend precious summer days in a science laboratory? At the School of Veterinary Medicine, six visiting college students signed on to spend June 19 to August 11, 2006 at a decidedly different summer "camp."

The National Science Foundation's California Alliance for Minority Participation in Science, Engineering and Mathematics--CAMP--supports undergraduate research experiences, academic opportunities and professional development. Program leaders aim to increase the number of bachelor's degrees earned by under-represented minority students in science, engineering and mathematics. The program also fosters an ongoing interest in graduate study and science careers.

At UC Davis, the School of Veterinary Medicine initiated a pilot program in June 2006 called CAMP USTAR. Dr. Ben Norman, veterinarian emeritus and an advocate of hands-on veterinary training (he has run the California State Fair Livestock Nursery exhibit for 30 years), was instrumental in introducing the CAMP concept on the UC Davis campus. The School of Veterinary Medicine program focuses on veterinary research and education, specifically the school's DVM/PhD career path.

"The School of Veterinary Medicine is committed to diversity in veterinary education and recruitment of potential veterinary researchers, who are in demand at universities and government agencies," states Yasmin Williams, admissions director. Williams serves as the program adviser. "I am excited to see how engaged and committed the students are to their projects and related activities that touch on the many aspects of veterinary medicine," she says.

Richard Jimenez, a student at UC Irvine, was assigned with Dr. Lisa Miller at the California National Primate Research Center. She is an immunologist pursuing the role of the house mite dust allergen on the development of asthma. Richard, a CAMP student last summer who decided to participate in the pilot program in Davis, performed assays to measure antibodies of the allergen and monitor one aspect of allergic reactions. "I'm learning new techniques used in immunology and found a one-in-a-lifetime experience by being able to work at a primate center," he says of his experience. 

RyanA hallmark of the hands-on teaching program is students' active participation in the research. "Richard has generated some data for me this summer," Dr. Miller states. "I've asked him to refine some assays to increase the sensitivity to detect a specific allergen."

Veterinary school faculty members also hosted students in the Center for Comparative Medicine and the Large Animal Clinic of the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Among other benefits, participants may count their research hours toward pre-veterinary experience that is required for application to veterinary school. 

Also at the primate center, Ryan Robinson of UC Berkeley explains, "This is my first good exposure to a laboratory with actual research--different from a classroom. Everyone is excited about what they're doing. I am learning techniques: Elispot, ELISA testing, flow cytometry and blood processing." 

The laboratory of Dr. Michael McChesney where Ryan works is exploring the potential of a DNA-based measles vaccine. The new approach may work around maternal antibodies and provide infants with earlier protection against the disease. Lab manager and graduate student Greg Hodge familiarized Ryan and CAMP-mate Nicholas Moseby with laboratory protocols and expects them to become proficient lab assistants before their summer session ends.

Fellow program participants also contributed to laboratory studies of food animal health and Lyme disease. The student researchers will showcase their research projects in a poster session scheduled for the end of the summer.

The eight-week residential program offered intensive research training, graduate school preparation, workshops, guest lectures and networking opportunities with other pre-veterinary students. Williams states, "This is a wonderful opportunity for minority students to spark their interest in science careers where they too may serve as role models."

CAMP has been an established program statewide since 1991. CAMP USTAR provided housing and stipends for the students thanks to funding from statewide CAMP; UC Berkeley's Coalition for Excellence and Diversity in Math, Engineering and Science; UC Berkeley Biology Scholars Program; and the School of Veterinary Medicine.  

The following pre-veterinary students participated:

  • Nicholas Moseby, CSU Sacramento
  • Jacqueline Dessoliers, UC Berkeley
  • Richard Jimenez, UC Irvine
  • Nancy Peterson, Briar Cliff University, Iowa
  • Ryan Robinson, UC Berkeley
  • Keishia Sheffield, UC Berkeley

Lisa Miller, who also mentors a DVM/PhD student in the Veterinary Scientist Training Program, sees the value of mentoring for students, the scientific community and society at large. "I'm happy to promote research programs," she states. "NIH has a decade-long  road map to integrate multiple approaches to human disease investigation. It is absolutely important to encourage students at this level to begin to integrate basic science research with clinical training."

The school's Summer Enrichment Program also promotes diversity in the profession and provides prospective veterinary students with specialized preparation for the rigorous process of applying to veterinary school.

For more information about how you can influence the future of animal health, public health and environmental health through veterinary education, please visit our Gifts page.