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STAR Students Impress with Scientific Progress, Awards

October 1, 2010

What's New ImageOctober 1, 2010

Friday, September 24 was no ordinary TGIF. For 38 students in the Students Training in Advanced Research program, "STARs in Science Day" marked the culmination of 10 weeks of summer study, data gathering and laboratory analysis. Five NIH-funded STAR students made their presentations on avian influenza, Rift Valley fever, Lyme disease bacteria, Andes virus and cytomegalovirus using different animal species as models the students were exploring genetics, antibiotic resistance and the behavior of disease viruses. Several more students had already made oral presentations to their classmates and faculty mentors during a previous scientific session.

Later that afternoon, all STAR participants took turns at the "main event," a poster session to display their hypotheses, methods and conclusions on a broad array of clinical and basic research studies in pets, lab animals, livestock and zoo/wild animals. The lobby of Gladys Valley Hall buzzed with talk of feline calicivirus, behavior and welfare in zoo rhinos, influenza vaccines, fish health, immunity in newborn calves and many other topics. Faculty mentors joined their students to congratulate them and, in some cases, plan future studies with students interested in taking a project to the next step. 


Funding for the program comes from several sources, including the the school, National Institutes of Health, Merial, and Morris Animal Foundation. This year, Morris Animal Foundation provided major support for Josephine Bryk, Hanie Elfenbein, Denise Gonzalez, Nili Karmi, Jennifer Kwan, Ryan Sadler and  Alison Tarbell.


In addition to Merial's annual scholarship support, the company sponsors travel to a national meeting of student scholars. The school is happy to report that two veterinary students from UC Davis (among a total of 18 students from the 28 US veterinary schools) won prizes in the areas of physiology and pharmacology at the10th annual Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars National Symposium, hosted by the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in August. Lu Dao's project, "Penzip and TAT-zip Transduction into Glioblastoma Cells" deals with a brain tumor that occurs in humans. Dao hopes to publish his research with mentor James Angelastro of  the Department of Molecular Biosciences. Becky Lee worked with Michael Kent, veterinary oncologist, on the project, "Effect of Temozolomide and Radiation on Canine Malignant Melanoma Cell Lines" Kent's laboratory is seeking more effective ways to treat melanoma, which is particularly resistant to radiation treatment.   

See related story: Profile of Jessica Johnston


2010 marked the first time that a student from another veterinary school, Carine Laporte of the University of Pennsylvania, joined the program with a project led by emergency and critical care veterinarian Karl Jandrey on "Platelet Function in Cats with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: An assessment of clopidogrel therapy." The school also hosted Saskia Geelen of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands; she was sponsored by Merial, and her project was called, "The antinociceptive effect of intravenous tramadol in Hispaniolan Amazon parrots (Amazona ventralis) using withdrawal from a noxious thermal stimulus." Geelen's faculty mentors were Michelle Hawkins and Joanne Paul-Murphy, both specialists from the Companion Avian and Exotic Pet Service.


The STAR program exists for students to test practical applications of the scientific method and learn more about research careers. Faculty members invite veterinary students to compete for summer projects that will immerse them in the world of veterinary research--sometimes for the first time. At the other end of the spectrum of experience, several students qualify each year for projects that they incorporate into their studies for the DVM/PhD degree in the Veterinary Scientist Training Program. The goal is to identify and encourage students with an aptitude for academic veterinary medicine to fill a need for faculty and other researchers in that sector of the profession. Program leaders say that the program also benefits future clinicians, who, with the knowledge gained from bench research, will become sharper clinicians--able to understand and evaluate the journal articles that they will rely on to improve the care of their patients.

Learn more by reading a related story