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CZR Summer Program Offers Students New Experiences, Perspectives
by Lianne Carr

The College’s Center for Zoonoses Research (CZR) addresses worldwide issues of zoonotic infectious disease, as well as food safety, antibiotic resistance, and bioterrorism. Training new generations of top researchers is an important strategy the center has chosen in pursuit of its mission.

[Rebecca Dieter, Manuel Roberto Cortinas and Evelin Paola Grijalva]
Rebecca Dieter, class of 2005, worked with veterinary pathobiology graduate students Manuel Roberto Cortinas and Evelin Paola Grijalva to survey wild mammals in northern Argentina for the agent that causes Chagas' disease.

This year, with support from the state Venture Technology funds, CZR inaugurated the Veterinary Student Summer Training Program in Infectious Disease Research.

“This program was designed to make the students aware of what it takes to develop a research project and conduct research, as well as to attract potential researchers,” says Dr. Uriel Kitron, professor of veterinary pathobiology and co-director of the CZR.

The program gave eight students a chance to experience other aspects of veterinary medicine last summer. “This program is a wonderful opportunity, both for people who are unsure about the practice route and those who are interested in learning more about the other options available in veterinary medicine.”

The students involved viewed the program in the same way: as a chance to gain new experience and to learn more about their profession.

“The CZR position offered the opportunity to experience a side of veterinary medicine unrelated to a small animal hospital. We investigated veterinary pathogens, but we did so outside of a clinic’s exam room,” says Jason Smith, class of 2005.

His classmate Rebecca Dieter adds, “Nearly all of my veterinary experience was gained in a practice setting. While I consider that work noble and rewarding, I was eager to explore other opportunities.”

First- and second-year veterinary students were selected on the basis of grades, a short application, and a letter of interest stating their objectives for the summer experience and how it relates to their long-term goals. Each student was matched with a CZR faculty member with compatible research interests.

During the program period—from May 21 to August 20—students participated in laboratory- and field-based research experiences. At an August 18 symposium (see story next page), each student submitted a written report and gave a poster presentation.

“The summer research proved highly productive. Both the poster presentation and research paper provided the chance for us to demonstrate our achievements and showcase our work to the faculty, staff, and others,” says Smith, who won the poster contest.

In addition to gaining skills in research development and presentation, in-depth learning about zoonotic disease, and experiencing new aspects of veterinary medicine, some students had the opportunity to travel. Dieter, paired with Dr. Kitron, spent four weeks in northern Argentina, where she surveyed wild mammals for Trypanosoma cruzi infection, collected and processed kissing bugs, and was introduced to the use of global positioning and spatial analysis of data.

Of her fieldwork, Dieter says, “My trip to Argentina was a fantastic opportunity and an incredible experience. I worked with animal species with which I had no prior experience and I acquired tremendous knowledge and skills that are useful not only for working with those particular species, but any type of veterinary work. I also developed a genuine appreciation for the organization, technical skills, and dedication that is required to orchestrate a field research project of this size. If ever I have the time and opportunity to participate again, I would gladly take advantage.”

The first summer of the CZR training program seems to have met or exceeded expectations. “The program was very successful. Both the students and faculty are feeling very excited about the future,” says Dr. Kitron.

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CZR Summer Program: Students, Mentors, and Research Topics

Luke Borst, Class of 2005; Mentor: Dr. Carol Maddox; A Quantitative Real-Time PCR Assay for the Detection of Pathogenic Leptospira spp.

Tony Cappa, Class of 2006; Mentor: Dr. Uriel Kitron; Diurnal Patterns of Activity of Ixodes scapularis, the Tick Vector of Lyme Disease.

Rebecca Dieter, Class of 2005; Mentor: Dr. Roberto Docampo; Functional complementation in yeast by a vacuolar H+-pyrophosphatase from Trypanosoma cruzi. Mentor: Dr. Uriel Kitron; Surveillance of Trypanosoma cruzi and Other Parasites in Sylvatic Mammals in Northern Argentina.

Stacy Furgang, Class of 2005; Mentors: Drs. Carol Maddox and Peter Constable; Effect of Abomasal pH on the Potential Susceptibility of Dairy Calves to Infection by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis.

William Love, Class of 2005; Mentor: Dr. Tony Goldberg; Transmission of an Emerging Iridovirus in Juvenile Largemouth Bass.

Marie Sienkewicz, Class of 2005; Mentor: Dr. Randy Singer; Dynamics of Antibiotic Resistance in Enteric Escherichia coli of Dairy Cattle Treated with Ceftiofur.

Jason Smith, Class of 2005; Mentor: Dr. Lois Hoyer; Candida albicans ALS Gene Family Dynamics.

Amy Jo Wolf, Class of 2006; Mentor: Dr. Marilyn Ruiz; Spatial Analysis of Equine West Nile Virus Case Rates by County in Illinois in 2002 and Comparison with Land Cover Data.

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Dr. David Huxsoll Speaks at CZR Program

[Dr. Huxsoll with students]
From left, standing, Dr. David Huxsoll, William Love, Jason Smith, Luke Borst, and Tony Cappa; seated, Rebecca Dieter, Amy Jo Wolf, Marie Sienkewicz, and Stacy Furgang.

On August 18, the eight students participating in the CZR summer training program presented their findings at a poster session. Preceding the posters was a lecture by Dr. David L. Huxsoll (IL ’61) entitled “Bioweapons: An Old Problem with New Concerns.”

From June 2000 to June 2003 Dr. Huxsoll served as director of the USDA's Plum Island Animal Disease Center. He is currently a professor of veterinary microbiology at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine and a senior science advisor in the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training/Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education at LSU.

His long and varied military career includes many assignments at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; chief, Department of Veterinary Medicine, 9th U.S. Army Medical Laboratory, Vietnam; commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; research director in the Headquarters, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command; and commander of the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

In 1990 he retired from the Army to join the faculty in the School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University, as associate dean for Research and Advanced Studies. He became interim dean in 1993 and in 1995 was appointed dean, a position he held until April 1999, when he resigned to pursue other interests including teaching and research within the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Huxsoll’s talk explained that biosecurity must be a concern from farm to table. Agriculture is the largest industry in the United States, and the intentional introduction of foot and mouth disease or other highly contagious foreign animal diseases would have a devastating impact on the economy far beyond the agricultural industry.

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