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MU's Veterinary Research Scholars Program Attends Symposium at the National Institutes of Health

3rd Annual VRSPThe MU College of Veterinary Medicine is currently hosting its third annual Veterinary Research Scholars Program (VRSP). The VRSP, co-sponsored by funds from Merck, Merial, Pfizer, and the MU CVM, gives pre-veterinary scholars and first- and second-year veterinary students the opportunity to spend their summer break exploring research.

As outlined in several publications including “National Need and Priorities for Veterinarians in Biomedical Research” and “National Needs for Research in Veterinary Science,” veterinarians, with their broad knowledge of animal biology, have a tremendous and unique potential to contribute to numerous scientific disciplines. Unfortunately, these publications have also identified a critical shortage of veterinarians that pursue research-oriented careers.

MU's vibrant research community is an ideal setting for the development of veterinarians as biomedical researchers. The VRSP provides a foundation in research methodology through an intensive research experience that includes state-of-the-art experimental methodology, seminars/discussions that give a broad exposure to biomedical sciences, and social events that foster interaction a sense of community .

The 2007 VRSP scholars began designing and implementing research projects with their faculty mentor in March. When the summer break began, scholars hit the lab full-time. Almost immediately, they began preparing for the focal point of the program, the National Merck-Merial Symposium at that National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

The National symposium provides a forum where scholars from summer research programs across the country gather to network and share their science. Attending scholars prepare research posters and present their data to peers and faculty from other programs. They also attend seminars and mini-symposia lead by prominent scientists and learn about post-DVM training programs in biomedical research. In 2007 more than 260 scholars from 22 programs from the US and Canada participated. VRSP posters were very well received and can be viewed here.

This year's symposium was unique in that it overlapped with the AAVMC conference entitled “Veterinarians in Biomedical Research – Building National Capacity.” This conference provided a venue to explore strategies to recruit more veterinarians into research careers. Student representatives of each program, including Kira Moore and Julie Freebersyser from MU, attended this AAVMC meeting to participate in the discussion.

Social and networking activities are also a critical component of summer research programs, as they facilitate development of a research community among veterinary students. MU scholars participated in several activities including tours of the Merial farm in Fulton, Missouri and the Stowers Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. One highlight of the program was meeting scholars from Kansas State University's program at Kansas City's World's of Fun amusement park. They really got to know each other during the ‘Lab Olympics,' where four mixed teams of MU and KSU scholars competed in events such as the pipette race, the gel toss, and the biohazard sack race. The National symposium also featured social activities including a barbeque on the national mall.

The 2007 VRSP attracted 14 students from MU, as well as students from the University of Georgia and Tuskegee University. Moreover, one student, Heather Burckhardt, performed a dual program where she spent 9 weeks at Kansas State University and 3 weeks at MU. The program has been well received by scholars and mentors alike. According to Rachael Cohen, “I couldn't think of a better way to spend my summer."

For more information about the MU Veterinary Research Scholar's Program, visit .

For general information about research opportunities for veterinary students and veterinarians, see

2007 University of Missouri Veterinary Research Scholars



Project Title

Jesse Blades

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Kevin Keegan

Determining the Relevance of Tight Radius Versus Loose Radius Lunging when Objectively Evaluating a Horse for Lameness

Heather Burckhardt

VM2, Kansas State University

Drs. Philine Wangemann (KSU) and Craig Franklin (MU)

Evaluation of a Hypothyroid State and Novel Phenotypes in Pendrin Heterozygotes and Knockout Mice

Rachael Cohen

Pre-Vet Scholar, University of Missouri

Drs. Leah Cohn and Carol Reinero

Determining the Optimal Dosage of Fluticasone in an Experimental Model of Feline Asthma

Kerrie Farrar

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Kevin Keegan

Analyzing the Differences in Asymmetry of Vertical Movement of the Pelvis in an Objective Lameness Evaluation Based on Sensor Placement

Kevin Finn

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Elizabeth Giuliano

Characterization of Membranous (M) Cells in Normal Feline Conjunctiva-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (CALT)

Julie Freebe rsyser

VM3, University of Missouri

Dr. Lela Riley

Comparison of Helco-Stix and PCR for the Detection of Helicobacter hepaticus Infected Mice

Wes Kimberlin

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Jimi Cook

Development of a Feline in vitro Osteoarthritis (OA) Model: Evaluation of Feline and Human Recombinant Cytokines for in vitro Induction of OA

Miranda Meppan

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Robert Backus

Estradiol Decreases Food Intake in Cats but does not Effect Immunohistochemical Staining of Adipose 11 b -HSD1 and Macrophages

Kira Moore

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. George Stewart

Analysis of the Virulence Gene Content of Clinical Isolates of Staphylococcus intermedius by Multiplex PCR

Jennifer Savini

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Dan Hassett

Effect of IDO Inhibition on the Efficacy of a Model DNA Vaccine

Sarah Schlinck

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Susan Schommer

Genetic Characterization of PCV2 from Infected Missouri Pigs

Alton Swennes ,

VM2, University of Georgia

Dr. Matt Myles

Analysis of Serum Inflammatory Molecules in A/JCr Mice Before and After the Development of Helicobacter hepaticus-induced Typhlitis

Tiffany Taylor

VM2, Tuskegee University

Dr. Beth Bauer

Cyst Formation During Fetal Development in the Polycystic Kidney Disease jcpk Mouse Model

Kelvin Urday

Pre-Vet Scholar, University of Missouri

Dr. Jeff Tyler

Voluntary Colostrum Intake by Holstein Calves

Ashley Vincent

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Tom Reilly

The Assesment of Enzymatic Activity and Immunologic Properties of Francisella tularensis and Bacillus anthracis Chimeric Class C Acid Phosphatase Enzymes

Kim Walker

VM2, University of Missouri

Dr. Randy Prather

Development of Defined Conditions in Pig Embryo Culture – The LDL Receptor

MU VRSP activities



Jan 24

Evening meeting at MU to announce program call for applications

Feb 9

Deadline for applications


Scholar selection and orientation meetings

March 23

2007 Phi Zeta Research Day


Mentor/scholar meetings to outline project/goals and begin research

May 21 / 24

Experimental design workshop – Dr. Kevin Keegan and VRSP faculty; welcome Tiffany Taylor, Tuskegee

May 29 / June 4

Elevator statement (describing your research in 5 minutes) workshop – Dr. Tim Evans; welcome Alton Swennes, Univ of Georgia

July 4

Full-time effort in laboratory begins for MU VM2/3 scholars

July 5

Translational Research – Dr. Jimi Cook

July 11-12

MU / Kansas State Veterinary Research Scholars Program joint meeting – trip to World's of Fun amusement park

July 12

Welcome Heather Burckhardt, Kansas State Univ at MU

July 18

Tour of Merial Research Farm in Fulton, MO – Drs. Greg Royer, Marlene Dragg and Jeff Blair

July 19

How to design a poster– Mr. Howard Wilson and Dr. Craig Franklin

July 26

Meeting with CVM post-DVM grad students

August 2-4

Attend Merck-Merial Symposium in Bethesda, MD

August 9

MU / Kansas State Veterinary Research Scholars Program joint meeting – tour of Stowers Institute and biomedical ethics discussions with Drs. Craig Franklin, Lisa Freeman and Cathy Vogelweid

August 16

Grantsmanship – Dr. Lela Riley

March 21, 2008

2007 scholars to present at 2008 Phi zeta Research Day


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Last Update: February 29, 2012