Four Colorado State University graduate students studying to become veterinary scientists will benefit from a new National Institutes of Health award designed to foster the next generation of biomedical research leaders.
The NIH Medical Scientist Education Program award has typically funded medical students who are also pursuing doctoral studies. But in 2019, the NIH opened up the application process for other dual degree programs, including those granting DVM-Ph.D. degrees. The ultimate goal of the program is to train veterinarians for research-related careers in academia, industry, and government.
CSU Professor Emeritus Sue VandeWoude said receiving the award is an incredible milestone for the university.
“It’s a very prestigious recognition,” she said. “The NIH has recognized the importance of our training for clinician scientists, and veterinarians are uniquely qualified to contribute to the research enterprise in so many ways. It is a testament to the investment made by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences over many years. And it also recognizes the mentors and professors who have invested in our students’ careers. »
CSU is one of three programs across the country to receive this type of funding from the federal government to support graduate students pursuing a DVM-Ph.D. double degree.
With this award, the NIH will cover more than half of the tuition fees for students’ DVM degrees. They will also receive a $25,000 stipend.
VandeWoude, also director of CSU’s One Health Institute, said the award will help recruit new veterinary scientists and also provide some leeway to expand the program.
“This award puts DVM-Ph.D. programs on the map,” she said. “This will help increase recognition that these programs are rigorous and important to the biomedical research community.
Sam Brill, second year DVM student
Doctoral research with Doug Thamm
Sam Brill wanted to pursue a research project in translational medicine, and when he came to CSU to start the DVM-Ph.D. program, that’s exactly what he found.
He focuses on canine osteosarcoma and melanoma research with Doug Thamm, veterinary oncologist at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center and Terry Fry, pediatric oncologist at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus.
“This project will allow me to work on bridging human and animal research, and it will give me a taste of therapeutic development,” Brill said.
His research will contribute to the genetic modification of T cells using chimeric antigen receptors (CARs). T-lymphocytes generally play a vital role in the human and animal immune response, but when the body is compromised by cancer, they don’t function as well as they should. Through a process called CAR-T cell therapy, the cells are modified, giving them the ability to target a specific antigen.
“With cancer, there are many ways for tumors to evade T cells, and then they’re not able to recognize tumor cells as tumors,” Brill said. “With CAR-T cells, we can actually help them recognize and kill tumor cells.”
Brill comes to CSU from Johns Hopkins University, where he spent two years as a research technician studying the simian immunodeficiency virus, similar to HIV, which affects monkeys and great apes. Along with his research skills, his passion for the proper care of laboratory animals, and his interest in translational medicine, he also brought along his 4-year-old cat, Niña.
“This job will give me the opportunity to practice communicating with doctors and veterinarians, to help human medicine inform veterinary medicine and vice versa,” Brill said. “I want to work on developing the strengths of both types of medicine.”
Carley Dearing, second-year DVM student
Doctoral research with Brent Myers
While completing a master’s degree at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Carley Dearing fell in love with research and neuroscience. His life course then changed to become a clinician-scientist, someone who contributes to research and society at large.
“I hope earning a dual degree will mean that I impact people’s lives as a clinician and our society by contributing to the advancement of clinical neuroscience,” she said. .
Dearing hopes to become a board-certified neurologist with a research program in neuroendocrinology.
His research focuses on neuroendocrinology – studying how the brain regulates hormonal activity in the body – with a focus on stress and behavior. She said she wanted to help better understand how men and women differ in their physiological responses to stress.
Working with Brent Myers, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Dearing said she wanted to learn the skills necessary to become a translational scientist and a veterinarian, and that she wanted her research to have an impact. “Brent is an amazing mentor and I’m grateful to be able to work with him and learn from him,” she said.
Dearing said the NIH funding is beneficial both personally and for the DVM-Ph.D. program at CSU.
“For me, this funding is an incredible opportunity to be able to put more energy into research and become a veterinarian,” she said. “It gives me the financial stability to be able to accomplish more and at a higher level. Also, having the full support of the college is a much needed blessing throughout this very difficult and challenging program.
Dearing is one half of a power-seeking couple; her husband, Thomas, is pursuing a doctorate in control systems engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder. They also have two cats.
Laurel Haines, second-year DVM student
Doctoral research with Dan Regan
Pursuing two degrees at once was not initially part of Laurel Haines’ plan. But when she discovered she had a passion for veterinary pathology as well as immunology research, she was determined to find a way to study both.
Fortunately, CSU offers a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine – Ph.D. dual degree program.
A graduate in biology from the University of Vermont, Haines spent two years working as a research associate for Matrivax, a biotechnology company, building on her expertise and interest in infectious disease and immunology research. Her work experience will be an asset as she spends time working in Dan Regan’s lab studying canine osteosarcoma metastases.
“I research the immunology of metastasis and what happens at metastatic sites that make them suitable for tumor growth before tumor cells even get there,” Haines said. “One of the reasons I was interested in joining this lab was that it has a great translation model. I care a lot about human and animal medicine.
Haines began working on the Ph.D. half of her degree program, but she will be able to dive into veterinary education this fall. Throughout her six years at CSU, she will experience elements of both programs simultaneously, a balance that delights Haines.
“I really like how we can engage with both the graduates’ lives and the vets’ lives throughout the program. It’s nice to have a foot in every door,” Haines said. “It’s a unique combination of degrees and I will be well equipped to consider many different careers.”
Freshman DVM student Kate Williams
Doctoral research with Nicole Ehrhart
Kate Williams said she loved being in the lab as an undergraduate student at Tufts University, where she was involved in several research projects.
“I couldn’t imagine a career that didn’t involve research,” she said. She also wanted to have an immediate impact in animal health by practicing veterinary medicine. When she learned of the existence of the DVM-Ph.D. programs, she knew that a dual degree program would be the best route for her to pursue a career as a veterinary scientist.
Williams hopes to develop a new therapeutic for the treatment of age-related skeletal muscle dysfunction, sarcopenia, which currently has very few treatment options. Her research will explore how cellular communication is disrupted in muscles as we age and whether certain cellular signals released during exercise can be collected and used as a treatment to prevent sarcopenia in dogs and dogs. humans.
The funding she will receive will allow her to pursue her doctoral studies. research while she’s in vet school, without the added burden of taking out school loans or finding a part-time job to pay the rent. “It will ultimately free up more time for me to progress in my PhD. during my veterinary studies and will significantly reduce my financial stress,” she said.