Merial Summer Scholars Program Students Announced

Seventeen students from Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have been selected to participate in the 2015 Merial Veterinary Summer Scholars Program.

The program is designed to give an introduction in biomedical research to young veterinary students while expanding their knowledge of research and preparing them for a potential career in biomedical research. The 10-week program is from May 18 to July 24.

“I am so excited about this year’s program,” said Dr. Juming Zhong, an associate professor in the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology, and the chair of the college’s Merial Summer Research Fellowship Committee.

“Successful completion of this program will certainly help the scholars to gain bench research experience and a better understanding of One Medicine.”

Each student scholar will shadow a faculty member at the college while pursuing hypothesis-driven research in their mentor’s laboratory. Students will also attend weekly seminars and journal clubs on various scientific topics, as well as student presentations throughout their 10-week program.

The participants will also have the opportunity to attend the Merial-NIH Veterinary Scholars Symposium at the University of California- Davis this summer and present their project results. In addition, students receive a $5,000 stipend as part of the program.

Participants are given a list of faculty mentors during the application process and, based on conversations with those mentors, submit their preferences based on research interests.

Dr. Bruce Smith, director of the Auburn University Research Initiative in Cancer (AURIC), which contributed a portion of the funding for this year’s program and who is a committee member, will mentor two students this year.

“These students get to be in the lab and contribute to ongoing research, and at the same time it’s a challenge because 10 weeks is relatively short in working laboratory time,” Dr. Smith said. “Since some students come in never having worked in a lab before, finding a project that they can work on and complete at least a piece of is the hard part.”

The research projects the students focus on can be either designed for them or as part of ongoing research  in the mentor’s lab.

Elizabeth Yanchak is continuing her research from the previous year on identifying ways to re-engineer adenovirus to target specific cells, while Samantha Morici is testing ways to identify gene promotors to “turn on gene sequences in various cancer tumors and off everywhere else,” said Dr. Smith, who is mentoring these two young investigators.

To be eligible for the summer scholar’s program, students must be in their first or second year of veterinary school, and have yet to earn a graduate degree or be enrolled in a corresponding program for these degrees. Selection of the candidates is based on their academic proficiency, application letter, and the interview conducted with their prospective research mentor.

The Merial Veterinary Summers Scholars Program is sponsored in part by Merial Ltd., which began the original program in 1989 as a way to introduce first and second year veterinary students to biomedical research while also helping prepare them for careers in biomedical research. Currently, all veterinary schools in the U.S., Canada, France and the Netherlands participate in the program. The Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine has been participating in the program for more than 13 years.

Below is the complete list of this year’s Summer Scholars and their mentors:

Student name:                         Mentor(s):                  

Elizabeth Yanchak                                Dr. Bruce Smith

Jackie Fancher                                      Dr. Mahmoud Mansour

Kate Stewart                                         Dr. Michael Irwin

Ashley Sharpe                                       Dr. Anne Wooldridge

Bryan Murdock                                    Dr. Douglas Martin

Charles Rehm                                       Dr. Robyn Wilborn

Kelsi Anderson                                     Dr. Seungwoo Jung

Samantha Morici                                  Dr. Bruce Smith

Megan Schnuelle                                  Dr. Julie Gard

Lyndsey Hayden                                   Dr. Reid Hanson

Patrick Jones                                        Drs. Amelia Munsterman & Reid Hanson

Annie Maguire                                      Dr. Douglas Martin

Jaida Reeves                                         Dr. Dawn Boothe

Rebecca Kennerly                                Drs. Mary Boudreaux & Pete Christopherson

Emily Tripp                                           Dr. Jey Koehler

Megan Hataway                                   Dr. Dean Schwartz

Amanda Crouthamel                           Dr. Dawn Boothe