Summer Research Fellowships

Summer Research Program for Veterinary Student 

Program Description:

The School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) offers Summer Research Fellowships for 1st or 2nd year veterinary students from Utah State University and other veterinary schools around the world. Applicants cannot be concurrently enrolled in a graduate degree program. At least two positions each year are reserved for students from veterinary schools other than USU. This program is designed to offer veterinary students an opportunity to engage in cutting-edge biomedical research over a 12-week period during the summer. The summer research program offers veterinary students an opportunity to discover the benefit of a veterinary career that includes research and to evaluate research as a career option.

Successful applicants will receive a $5,000 summer stipend. The Merial Veterinary Scholars Program provides partial support for this program. Participants are expected to make a full-time commitment to their research project for a 12-week period between the beginning of May and the end of August.

Faculty Mentor Selection:

Before applying for a summer research fellowship students need to identify a faculty mentor who will help them develop a research proposal. All faculty members of the Department of Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences (ADVS) are eligible to serve as faculty mentors. The table below lists the research interests of some of the SVM/ADVS faculty:

Reproduction and Development


Immunogenetics and Reproductive Immunology, Chris Davies, PhD, DVM. Program goals: To understand the immunological basis of immune-mediated abortion and placental insufficiency, and to develop and test strategies to down-regulate the immune response to the conceptus; To understand the role of the bovine major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes is disease resistance and susceptibility.

Reproductive aging and orthopedic disease, Jeffery Mason, PhD.  Program goals: To understand the impact of the ovarian microenvironment of health disparities in post-reproductive female mammals. An additional focus is the manifestation of these health disparities in orthopedic disease.

Large animal transgenic models, animal cloning, Irina Polejaeva, PhD.  Program goals:  Production of transgenic animals using somatic cell nuclear transfer technology (SCNT or cloning) for biomedical and agricultural applications.

Equine reproduction, Dirk Vanderwall, PhD, DVM.  Program goal: To develop practical and effective strategies for utilizing oxytocin for suppression of estrus in performance mares

Genome engineering, epigenetics and stem cells, Zhongde Wang, PhD.  Program goals:  Developing novel genome engineering tools for improving livestock (e.g. Mastitis resistance) and for creating transgenic animal models for human diseases; Establish embryonic stem cells from livestock species and from hamsters.

Reproduction & Assisted Reproductive Technologies, Ken White, PhD.  Program goals: to understand genetic reprogramming in SCNT embryos; To improve the survival of SCNT fetuses; To explain the process of oocyte activation in cattle; To develop large animal models for biomedical research.

Animal Nutrition

Ruminant nutrition, Jong-Su Eun, PhD.  Program goals:  To investigate manipulation of ruminal fermentation and its contribution to enhancing animal production; To develop feeding strategies to improve environmental performance of ruminants; To enhance bioactive components on bovine milk and meat.

Animal Molecular Genetics

Toxicology, cancer and gene regulation, Abby Benninghoff, PhD.  Program goals: To understand the influence of environmental factors on mechanisms of gene regulation in determining health and disease in animals and humans; Determine how some environmental chemicals interact with the genome through nuclear receptor activation or epigenome modification to alter cancer risk.

Genomics and epigenomics of early embryo development, S. Clay Isom, PhD  Program goals: To understand the molecular determinants of gamete and embryo quality; To understand the relationship between environmental factors (e.g., age, nutrition) and reproduction.

Environmental toxicology, offspring health & reproductive potential, Mirella Meyer, PhD.  Program goals: to understand how environmental variations (toxic exposures, nutritional deficiencies) during in utero development impacts offspring health and reproductive potential after in utero exposure. Identify environmentally response molecular mechanisms involved in translating environmental effects into epigenome changes.

Environmental reproductive toxicology, Ralph Meyer, PhD.  Program goals: to define genetic and epigenetic factors of male reproduction with the goal to better understand the impact of gene-environment interactions in germ cell development and consequences to early embryo development at the molecular level.

Animal Health and Disease

Virology and vaccine development, Yong-Min Lee, PhD.  Program goals:  Molecular mechanisms of viral replication and pathogenesis; Development of effective vaccines/therapeutics against Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV)

Vaccine development and testing, Institute for Antiviral Research, John Morrey, PhD, Bart Tarbet, DVM, Justin Julander, PhD, and Brian Gowen, PhD.  Program goal/activities:  To better understand virus + host interaction to identify new targets for intervention;  Cell culture and animal infection models for pre-clinical drug development, vaccine efficacy, and viral pathogenesis.

Disease prevention in dairy cattle, David Wilson, DVM and Kerry Rood, DVM  Program activities:  Dairy cattle disease surveillance in Utah, Idaho, Colorado; Applied practical research regarding dairy cattle disease control.

USDA Poisonous Plant Laboratory

Plant toxicology, Kip Panter, PhD.  Program goals: Determine the mechanism(s) by which toxic plants cause injury to grazing animals and develop diagnostic procedures for better diagnosis of naturally occurring plant intoxications.

Application for a Summer Research Fellowship:

Applications are due February 13, 2015 and are comprised of: (1) a cover page; (2) a research proposal prepared in consultation with a faculty mentor; (3) a letter from the applicant describing the anticipated benefits of the experience; and (4) a statement from the faculty mentor. For detailed instructions, download the call for applications.

Application Review Process:

Applications will be reviewed by the three-member SVM Student Research Committee. Criteria include: 1) scientific merit, 2) clarity of presentation, 3) perceived level of student participation in preparation of the application and execution of the project, 4) faculty mentor commitment to the project (i.e., does the mentor have a strong record of research in the area of the application as evidenced by publications and/or extramural funding). Applicants will receive written notification of whether or not they will receive a fellowship by March 13, 2015.

For More Information:

Questions regarding the Summer Research Fellowship program can be directed to the chair of the SVM Student Research Committee, Dr. Abby Benninghoff (E-mail or telephone 435-797-8649).