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Illinois Students Repeat Strong Showing at AASV

[headshots of 10 student winners from swine meeting]

Students Selected to Present Original Research

For the second year in a row, students from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine snagged the lion’s share of the spots for student research presentations at the annual meeting of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV).

This year, Illinois students also took home top honors in both the student presenter and the student poster categories. The winners were fourth-year student Erin Kettelkamp and second-year student Luke Daniels, respectively.

Nurturing Future Swine Veterinarians

Strong mentoring and summer research opportunities at the college gave Illinois students the edge.

“We are incredibly proud of our students,” says Dr. Jim Lowe, a professor who heads the Integrated Food Animal Management Systems section in the college’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine.

“The fact that Illinois students contributed six of the top 15 research abstracts for the second year in a row is phenomenal. I would love to have the funding to support even more student research projects in areas that have a direct relevance for improving the delivery of swine medicine and the effectiveness of swine operations.”

Dr. Lowe notes that it takes $7,500 per student to provide a summer research opportunity. “It would be great to have $40,000 each year to support these students interested in becoming swine veterinarians,” he says.

How Students Were Selected for AASV

Forty-two veterinary students from 10 universities submitted abstracts last fall to be considered for the 2021 AASV meeting. The meeting was held online February 27 through March 2. The abstracts were evaluated and ranked by a panel of six judges chosen by AASV. Nine of the top 30 submissions were from the University of Illinois.

“The top 15 abstracts are selected to give oral presentations and compete for up to $5,000 in scholarship awards during the student seminar. The following 15 ranked abstracts are selected for the poster presentation,” explains Kettelkamp, who had presented at previous AASV meetings. This year she won the top spot for student presentations, garnering a $5,000 scholarship funded by Zoetis.

Students Honored at 2021 AASV Meeting

In addition to the awards received by Kettelkamp and Daniels, University of Illinois students took home numerous scholarships.

In the Student Presenter category, Zachary Talbert was awarded a scholarship for $2,500. Selena Clark and Paige Haenig both received $1,500 scholarships. Sarah Botkin and Brian Johnson each received $500 scholarships. Elanco Animal Health funded these scholarships, and all competitors received a $750 stipend from the competition’s sponsor, Zoetis.

In the poster category, Isaac Goldner and Dayna Kinkade were both awarded $200 scholarships provided by sponsor United Animal Health, and a $250 stipend from Zoetis.

During the meeting, the AASV Foundation awarded $5,000 Merck Veterinary Student Scholarships to two Illinois students, Isaac Goldner and Madison Kapraun. These awards are given “to develop veterinary students into swine veterinarians,” according to Dr. Harry Snelson, AASV executive director.

Two of the Illinois students who presented at AASV had been supported in conducting their research last summer through the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Both Sarah Botkin and Dayna Kinkade were 2020 National Veterinary Student Research Fellows, who received stipend support of $10,000 to perform research, under the guidance of a qualified mentor, that addresses sustainable livestock production globally.

Kinkade used genetic analysis to examine the transmission of influenza A subtype H3N2 virus, a strain of the flu, between humans and pigs from 2014 to 2019. Botkin compared the effectiveness of conventional and alternative cleaning methods to reduce the incidence of rotavirus-related diarrhea in piglets at commercial swine breeding operations.

Read about three veterinarians with an Illinois connection—Drs. Jamie Lehman, Melissa Billing, and Henry Johnson—who also received honors at the 2021 AASV meeting.

Kettelkamp’s winning project evaluated the effect of particle size and concentration on aerosol decontamination for supplies entering swine barns. Kettelkamp was mentored by Dr. Lowe and Dr. Benjamin Blair.

[Clark in research lab]
Selena Clark spent last summer conducting research that she would present at the AASV 2021 meeting.
Working in a similar vein, fourth-year student Zachary Talbert evaluated fogging methods used to disinfect supplies entering farms. With funding from JBI Distributors, Talbert was able to invent the Biosecurity Box. (In 2019, he won the Morrison Swine Innovator Prize for this prong-and-pulley device that delivers more accurate fumigation to enhance biosecurity. He won again in 2020 for “Investing in the future of your farm through the use of biosecurity, innovation, and ingenuity.”) His presentation at the 2021 AASV meeting compared his disinfecting fogging apparatus against two conventional methods.

“Instead of replicating studies that have already been done, I wanted to conduct a study that was new and unique,” says Talbert. “I also wanted this study to provide useable knowledge to the industry to potentially improve the health and production of pigs.”

‘The Gold Standard’

When approaching research, new and unique was the dominant theme among Illinois students. Daniels, winner of the student poster competition and a $500 scholarship, researched the effects of air movement in swine confinements. He credited much of the students’ success to the vision of the instructors at the college.

“I think that Dr. Lowe has a lot to do with our success. He is well known in the swine veterinary community and is always on the edge of new and upcoming things,” says Daniels. “Both Dr. Lowe and Dr. Blair want to look at things from a different angle. It is one of the big things that keeps us competitive.”

How did he feel after learning he had been selected to present his research at the AASV competition? Daniels says the experience was similar to what he felt when accepted to the veterinary college.

“In my mind, the University of Illinois has always been the gold standard,” he says. “I’m still a bit shocked that I get the opportunity to go to school here.”

Former Students Now Mentors

Dr. Blair, a 2016 DVM graduate, and Dr. Suzanna Storms, a 2019 DVM graduate, are both now pursuing PhD degrees at the college. They also served as mentors on several veterinary student research projects this year. Dr. Storms mentored Kinkade and Haenig on their projects, which related to her doctoral project researching influenza at the human-swine interface.

[Haenig works on research]
Paige Haenig was one of two students mentored by Dr. Suzanna Storms.
“We focus on research that is applicable and timely,” says Dr. Storms. “We are not human doctors, but our influenza and coronavirus research helps cross the bridge to benefit both human and animal health.”

She also notes that opportunities at Illinois for veterinary students to conduct summer research projects and participate in the AASV competition is huge.

“I think the fact that nine of our students were selected for AASV is an accomplishment. Not a lot of veterinary students are able to present at conferences, and especially not able to give oral presentations,” she says.

“This experience is an important step in learning how to communicate science. Your science isn’t important unless you can communicate it effectively. Learning these skills now is awesome.”

Growing Reputation for Illinois Swine Education

“Illinois is building a reputation at AASV for doing applied swine research, and we are very proud of that. Our goal is to build a program so that we can create more veterinarians who are interested in and excel in this field,” concludes Dr. Storms.

To learn how to help us continue growing outstanding veterinary students interested in pursuing careers in swine medicine, please contact Dr. Jim Lowe at

By Haley Bickelhaupt