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Students Choose Research Labs
as Summer Vacation Destinations

Participants in the MU CVM Veterinary Research Scholars Program pose for a group shot taken during a break from the symposium held at the University of Florida.
John Knouse, a member of the CVM Class of 2013, explains the research he conducted as part of the VRSP.
Sarah Pierson, a member of the CVM Class of 2014, reviews her poster highlighting research she conducted on laminitis during the VRSP symposium.

The University of Missouri Veterinary Research Scholars Program (VRSP) engages first- and second-year veterinary students in summer research projects. It’s a far cry from a trip to the beach, but the fact that so many students at MU line up to be selected to participate speaks volumes about the program’s value.

Dr. Craig Franklin, professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology and co-director of the VRSP, explained that although other veterinary medicine schools have similar summer research programs, Mizzou’s program has some unique features.

One attribute that sets the MU program apart from others is its collaboration with Kansas State’s and Oklahoma State’s Veterinary Research Scholars Programs. This partnership offers students the opportunity to visit with outside researchers and explore various interests. Scholars from all three institutions meet and travel to regional research institutions and take some time to enjoy social events.

Each year, MU also takes all of its VRSP participants to a national symposium, which not all schools offer. During the symposium, the scholars present posters on their individual research and network with research scholars from other universities.

“I attained technical skills from working in the lab, communication skills from presenting my research poster, and networking opportunities – all things that will benefit my future career,” said Lynn Brockway, a second-year veterinary medical student.

The highly desirable curricular structure that attracts so many ambitious students to the MU College of Veterinary Medicine presents a challenge to the summer research: the MU CVM provides students nearly two full years of clinical experience – resulting in a summer break five-to-six weeks shorter than most other veterinary colleges.

To make the most of their limited time, students eagerly begin developing their projects, meeting with their mentors, and attending a weekly “Foundations in Veterinary Research and Discovery” course in March. Come summer break in July, they dive into their research projects full time.

VRSP alumni speak glowingly of the program. Bailey Carr, a second-year veterinary medicine student, encourages fellow students to take advantage of the opportunity to explore the research world. “I learned basic concepts that I will use in my veterinary career, even if I don't pursue research,” said Carr.

Research is one of the disciplines in which the demand for more veterinarians is increasing. The VRSP helps students appreciate the challenges, stimulation and career growth potential of the field.

“Although I’m currently undecided, I do foresee research playing a significant role in my career,” said second-year veterinary medical student Jake Moskowitz. “I am interested in pursuing comparative medicine, but will continue to develop my interests as I gain more research experience.”

This year, a record number of 30 MU students participated. Unfortunately, the number of applicants exceeded available resources. As interest in the program has grown, so has the need for faculty mentors and funding.

“The program is a highly meaningful learning experience for the students,” said VRSP mentor Dr. Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction (ReCHAI). “These bright, motivated students are delightful to work with and are important additions to our research team.”

ReCHAI provides funding for VRSP scholars. Support also comes from grants or gifts from Merial, Bayer, Pfizer Animal Health, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, the American Society of Laboratory Animal Practitioners, the American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, and the Morris Animal Foundation, an endowment established by the Research Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, and funds from the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Dean’s Office and all three College of Veterinary Medicine Departments: Biomedical Sciences, Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, and Veterinary Pathobiology.

Franklin is impressed by the research scholars. “They put forth tremendous effort. They approach projects in a different way,” Franklin said. “I believe the future is in good hands.”
For more information about the MU Veterinary Research Scholars Program, visit the VRSP web page at

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Last Update: February 29, 2012