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Science in the COSMOS: Intensive Summer Program for High School Students

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August 13, 2012

Rance LeFebvre, professor of microbiology in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and Associate Dean for Student Programs at the School of Veterinary Medicine, led 40 high school students from the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) in the 2012 program's "Biomedical Cluster 7"

Located on the Davis campus, COSMOS is a four-week residential program for high school students who excel in mathematics and science. The school ended its 2012 session August 4.

Biomedical sciences students work with faculty and students from the School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Medicine. Five veterinary students served as teaching assistants for the program, which took place in the School of Veterinary Medicine Multipurpose Teaching Facility where veterinary student take laboratory sessions in anatomy, microbiology and other subjects during the school year. 

In the Biomedical Cluster, COSMOS students spend two weeks studying and learning about the field of veterinary medicine. The remaining two weeks concentrate on the field of human medicine. The overriding theme is One Health, which LeFebvre explains as, "We are all on this health journey together. The human, animal and environmental aspects of health are interlinked and inseparable. When one suffers or is neglected, all are impacted." He adds, "The students gain an appreciation of these disciplines, how they overlap and how they make mutual contributions to the field of medicine for the benefit of people and animals."

The curriculum is as follows. Much of the laboratory time takes place in the School of Veterinary Medicine's Multipurpose Teaching Facility, where veterinary students study anatomy, microbiology and other laboratory-based professional courses during the school year.

Medical & Veterinary Responses to Infectious Diseases: Bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites far outnumber the human and animal inhabitants of planet earth. Most of these microbes are innocent grazers and bystanders and generally do us no harm. Some are even beneficial like those used in making bread, yogurt, cheese, etc. Those that cause disease, although in the minority, occupy a large part of a physician’s or a veterinarian’s professional career. This course provides hands-on experience in identifying and characterizing disease-causing agents of humans and animals. Students will play the role of doctor, veterinarian, or research scientist in learning the diagnosis and treatment of selected infectious agents. Students read X-rays, study anatomy and pathology specimens, observe surgical procedures, and learn how antibiotics work and observe their effect on pathogens. Typical field trips include visits and tours of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, the UC Davis Medical Center, the Primate Center, California Raptor Center, Center for Equine Health, Center for Companion Animal Health, and the Center for Comparative Medicine. Guest speakers representing the broad diversity of specialty careers within these professions present talks and answer questions.

Supplementary Courses (2 Weeks Each)

Veterinary Medicine: Infectious diseases of importance in veterinary medicine are investigated. Students participate in diagnosing, identifying, and determining the proper management and treatment of these pathogens. In addition, students demonstrate microbiology techniques used in clinical laboratory diagnostics with hands on participation. Students tackle actual clinical case projects combining anatomy, pathology, radiology, and infectious diseases.

Human Medicine: This course focuses on infectious disease agents of the human host. Students utilize and refine the techniques described in supplementary course B1 with exposure to differences and similarities used in human medicine diagnostics and treatment regimes for pathogens. Students create a life-sized human subject determined by measuring a single bone from the human body. The students also draw to scale the circulatory system, digestive tract and vital organs.

Other mentoring programs

The School of Veterinary Medicine faculty members also foster veterinary careers through International Programs student exchange, Summer Enrichment Program, Students Training in Advanced Research "STAR", and the Early Bovine Veterinary Experience Program.