June 22, 2011
Thirty-five veterinary students of the Students Training in Advanced Research program, STAR, began their 10-week session June 20-21 with a two-day, intensive orientation that included tours of local medical facilities and presentations from veterinary mentors and biomedical experts.
In the STAR program, the Office of Research and Graduate Education coordinates and offers funding opportunities on a competitive basis to veterinary students to design and conduct veterinary projects or biomedical studies during the summer months.
The objective of the STAR Program is to identify, nurture, and support veterinary students who will be guided through their work with faculty mentors to all aspects of biomedical research. By providing a supportive environment to experience seminars, discuss careers in science, and perform research in established laboratories, STAR leaders provide students with informed insights about veterinary research careers. Veterinary students who plan a traditional practice also benefit by learning to evaluate new knowledge and how it may apply to their future patients.
The all-day orientations introduced STAR students to laboratory practices and safety issues, ethics, tours of university and business facilities -- and a dose of inspiration. One panel discussion with faculty members covered issues of work-life balance. In another group, peers who have already combined a year of research with their veterinary education shared their experiences with schoolmates and explained how research has influenced their career plans. Students also learned more about the role of veterinary research as it pertains to conservation and wildlife health.
Keynote speaker Gerhard Bauer of the UC Davis School of Medicine, who directs the Good Manufacturing Practices Laboratory of the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures, spoke about the potential of stem cells to treat a variety of disorders; he took participants on a tour of the laboratory. Students also met with scientist Jan Nolta, the institute's director.
STAR students also toured the California National Primate Research Center, the Center For Comparative Medicine and Genentech.
STAR students design scientific projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Each project is meant to stand alone, but many connect to ongoing research efforts. STAR projects may be clinical in nature or emphasize "bench" science. The projects take place in laboratoriess of the School of Veterinary Medicine and related facilities.
In addition to students from the veterinary school, three international students are participating this year from sister schools in France and The Netherlands. Also in 2011, one participant from UC Davis has developed a wildlife project that will take place in Costa Rica.
STAR Program funding comes from both intramural and extramural sources. The National Institutes of Health and the Merial Veterinary Scholars Program provide significant support. Merial-funded students may attend a national meeting at which they present their findings to Merial scholars from other veterinary colleges. Morris Animal Foundation, through its Veterinary Scholars program, helped to fund five of this year's STAR participants.
This year's STAR students, mentors, project descriptions and other details are available online: