Veterinary students explore research careers in summer program | VTx

Emma Loessberg of Richmond, Virginia, is a second-year veterinary student at the college. She is pursuing a career in pathology research, and the program was a great fit for her goals.

“I hoped this program would help fill in the gaps when it came to my laboratory experience. I was also very excited about the networking opportunities that the program offered, as it was an opportunity to be exposed to less traditional careers within veterinary medicine.” 

The highlight of the program for many students is its nine weeks under the guidance of faculty mentors as the students conduct research on animal models of diseases. Through this, the SVSRP supports the college’s focus on One Health, the approach to public health that recognizes the interconnected nature of animal, human, and environmental well-being.

Elaina Davis, a third-year veterinary student at Lincoln Memorial University, was mentored by Joanne Tuohy, assistant professor of surgical oncology. Davis spent her summer working on high-frequency irreversible electroporation (H-FIRE) on canine primary lung cancer. In this role, she collaborated with biomedical engineering students as well as students at the veterinary college.

“For me, the most memorable part of my summer was any time I had the opportunity to see clinical cases, especially clinical trial candidates. I love research and being in a lab, but seeing the clinical patients was my favorite part of any day,” said Davis.

Working alongside Nisha Duggal, Loessberg examined the susceptibility of mosquito and bird cells to Usutu virus, an emerging arbovirus.

“I learned how to thaw and culture cells, inoculate cells with different virus strains, complete plaque assays to quantify the virus, and complete growth curves for each cell line to examine growth kinetics,” Loessberg explained. She also helped with mosquito husbandry, examined house sparrows, and took blood samples from mice. 

“Out of all these amazing opportunities, I would have to say my favorite was the work I got to do with the house sparrows because it mixed research with clinical skills and was very similar to what I hope to be doing in my future career,” said Loessberg.

For Davis, participating in SVSRP was an eye-opener.

“My biggest takeaway from the program is realizing that I want to work in academia. I really loved seeing Dr. Tuohy go from the research side to clinical side on any given day, and it’s really opened my eyes to the possibilities within my career.”

Now in its 15th year, the SVSRP equips veterinary students with the tools they need to become researchers. The SVSRP is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program, and the college.

Written by Sarah Boudreau M.F.A. ’21, a writer with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

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