A summer of research: The SVSRF program
August 21, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, TX -This summer, 16 veterinary
students at the Texas A&M University (TAMU) College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) got a chance to
explore an alternative career to clinical practice-veterinary
As participants of the Summer Veterinary Student Research
Fellows (SVSRF) Program, the students each worked with a CVM
faculty member for 12 weeks on a research project. The projects
covered a wide range of research fields and included studies on
companion animal health (e.g., equine breeding), infectious animal
diseases (e.g., bovine babesiosis) and the development of
transgenic animals and biomedical devices.
From preparing a research proposal to collecting and analyzing
data to presenting study results in front of peers and mentors, the
students got to experience the world of research and academia
during the program. By giving students a feel for research work,
the program, which has been held at Texas A&M since the 1980s,
aims to encourage veterinary students to pursue careers in
"A very small percentage of veterinary
students go into research," said Dr. Roger Smith, professor of
pathobiology and program coordinator, explaining the basis for the
SVSRF program. "The National Academy of Sciences published a report
some years ago on the need for more veterinarians in biomedical
research. It is important to get these students interested in
research, especially since they bring a unique perspective to the
This unique perspective stems from the comparative nature of
veterinary science (which involves studying and comparing the
biology and pathology of various animal species).
"The veterinary curriculum gives students a broad understanding
of health and disease that a strictly graduate curriculum lacks and
that medical students, who are trained to consider only a single
species, miss out on," explained Smith.
This broad understanding of disease processes and disease spread
both within and across species means that veterinary students are
uniquely positioned to carry out not only research pertaining to
animal health but also biomedical research in fields such as the
treatment and control of emerging infectious diseases (e.g., novel
H1N1 flu) and animal modeling of human diseases. The program hopes
to encourage veterinary students to look beyond clinical practice
and make them aware of these research opportunities.
For some students like John Brinkerhoff, the SVSRF program has
been successful in achieving its goal: "I enjoyed the research
program this summer. Working with, and learning from, my mentor and
lab group was a privilege. Also, the field trips to research
institutes helped me see how veterinarians successfully apply their
knowledge in research areas, and the program provided an
opportunity to practice reading and discussing scientific papers.
Research is an option that remains open to me after veterinary
school or after practicing for a few years."
However, for others, long lab hours and the absence of patient
interaction have convinced them to rule out a career in bench
research. Although not the goal of the program, this may not
necessarily be a negative response.
"I think it's good that students are given the opportunity early
in their career to decide if research is something in which they
would be interested," said program mentor and assistant professor
Dr. Charles Long. "Even if the students decide not to be research
scientists by training, I hope that the program will open the door
for them to work with researchers and help them realize that a
strong collaborative relationship between clinical and research
science is beneficial for the development of the next generation of
new drugs or therapies."
The SVSRF Program is funded by the College of Veterinary
Medicine and by awards from the Texas Veterinary Medical
Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Merck-Merial
Veterinary Scholars Program and the William & Dorothy Klemm
For information on the 2010 SVSRF program, please see vetmed.tamu.edu/srfp.
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718
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