Tag Archives: research

Mongolia Adventures in Research

Contributed by Devin von Stade, Class of 2017

group_Serguleng photo

Members of the research team from left to right: Gar Waterman, Devin von Stade, Samantha Lawton, Emily Iacobucci, Douglas Lally and Devin Byrne. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

This summer I realized a dream I had left on the back burner for over a decade: exploring Mongolia with one of my best friends. Inspired by old National Geographic articles and pieces of historical fiction and non-fiction alike, we had declared it the ultimate personal adventure. Having grown up (a little) since then, I briefly considered that my excitement at the prospect was perhaps misplaced, that now as a scientist my idea of adventure no longer applied, but I was so very wrong.

An adventure for me is an unusual experience where I face natural and cultural challenges, where I encounter new animals while camping under a foreign sky—an experience where preconceptions are broken down and questions have to be answered from scratch. This idea is as much entwined with the fantasy of youth as it is with a scientific approach. I went to Mongolia to test a field microscope as part of my summer STAR research project where I was assessing the capabilities of a low-cost digital microscope for veterinary tele-medical applications and preconceptions would only hold me back. Continue reading

Making a Difference in Chile

Contributed by Marlene Belmar, Class of 2018

Photos courtesy of Dr. Gerardo Acosta

Marlene Belmar in Chile

Marlene Belmar in Chile

My life long career goal within veterinary medicine is to specialize in epidemiology and apply my knowledge and skills towards a better understanding of zoonotic diseases. This past summer, I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Chile to participate in a research project entitled “Control and Prevention of Hydatidosis/Echinococcosis in the communes of Punitaqui, Monte Patria and Combarbalá within the province of Limarí in the region of Coquimbo,” under the mentorship of Dr. Gerardo Acosta-Jamett.

Hydatidosis is a zoonotic disease of high public health concern within Chile, where dogs are the intermediate host and herbivores and humans are the definitive host. Studies evaluating risk factors associated with the presence of E. granulosus in dog feces have only been initiated recently. Having the opportunity to participate in a project that is striving to improve the lives of people and animals in underserved areas of Chile sparked all of my interests. Continue reading

One Health Research in Mongolia

Contributed by Samantha Lawton, Class of 2017

Sam Lawton, Class of 2017 with a lamb in Mongolia. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

Sam Lawton, Class of 2017 with a lamb in Mongolia. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

Sain baina uu (that is Hello in Mongolian)! During June and July of 2015 I had the fantastic opportunity to travel to Mongolia for five weeks in order to complete a STAR project (Students Training in Advanced Research). My project was assessing the prevalence and distribution of intestinal parasites in small ruminants and dogs. Mongolia was an excellent place to conduct this research because people, their livestock and their dogs interact closely and many people are reliant on animals for food and fiber. Therefore, intestinal parasites, and targeted strategies to reduce parasites, could have impacts on animal health, economic health and even human health in the case of some intestinal parasites, like Echinococcus, where humans can be infected if they consume parasite eggs shed in dog feces.

In the field, collecting samples. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

In the field, collecting samples. (Photo: Soyolbolod Serguleng)

A friend/previous mentor connected me with this project when I approached her about opportunities to experience fieldwork. I wanted to gain fieldwork experience because I have always thought that field research was something I might like to do in my future but only had short experiences. This summer did confirm that I really do love international fieldwork and I want to incorporate it into my career. Continue reading

Learning Compassion and Research in Uganda

Contributed by Cody Blumenshine, Class of 2018

Cody Blumenshine surrounded by village kids in Uganda.

Cody Blumenshine surrounded by village kids in Uganda.

My interest coming into veterinary school has been to pursue a career in zoonotic disease research. With my interest in zoonotic diseases, the idea of One Health resonates with my perspective on life. I was fortunate to find a research project with Dr. Beatriz Martinez Lopez that allowed me to incorporate a One Health approach. With aid from the Office for Global Programs and Students Training in Advanced Research, I was able to spend six weeks in Nwoya District, Northern Uganda, performing research on African Swine Fever (ASF). ASF is not a zoonotic disease, but because of the disease dynamics in how the hosts, people, and the environment interact, it embodies One Health.

At the beginning of my stay I was very fortunate to have a friend and colleague, Dr. Esther Kukielka, aid me. She helped me prepare for my research, but she also helped me transition into the lifestyle and expectations that were associated with staying in Uganda. The latter was more important to me, because this was my first international travel experience. Esther introduced me to locals, team members, and she made sure I was well situated with the accommodations of our mud-hut in the village of Lutuk. Prior to leaving, Esther allowed me to help facilitate a participatory epidemiology exercise for her study. The exercise consisted of using group activities with local pig farmers to gain a deeper understanding of their collective knowledge of ASF. Continue reading

The Value of Interning at the National Institutes of Health

Steven Hsu, Class of 2018, spent eight weeks this past summer as an intern with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. I spent a little time chatting with him about his experiences and his path to veterinary medicine.

Steven Hsu, Class of 2018, admits to "geeking out" over nifty slides.

Steven Hsu, Class of 2018, admits to “geeking out” over nifty slides.

How did you decide on a career in veterinary medicine? Did you have a bunch of animals growing up?

I love animals, but I didn’t have any while I was a kid. I was born in Taipei, Taiwan and when we moved to the U.S., we lived in a city in Southern California. But in high school, I was really interested in medicine and figured veterinary medicine would be an easy way to merge my love for animals with an interest in medicine. I also volunteered at a local shelter during high school in Rancho Cucamonga—that helped solidify my career choice.

How did you hear about the internship opportunity at NIH?

One of my instructors, Professor Kevin Woolard recommended it. He taught numerous class pertaining to pathology, which I really enjoyed. If memory serves me right, he did his DVM and Ph.D. at North Carolina State, and did his post-doc at NIH.

What were some of the highlights of your visit/internship?

The directors, Drs. Mark Simpson and Charles Halsey, took our group of six veterinary students across Maryland on field trips—to the FDA, and different laboratory animal facilities around the Bethesda campus. We visited laboratories that studied frogs, zebra fish, primates, and of course, rodent facilities. It was my first time out east—my first time traveling past Texas actually. I met five other veterinary students from across the nation and Canada and it was interesting to see how different and yet similar we are—there was a lot of diversity among our backgrounds and interests. I learned I didn’t want to just focus on diagnostic applications of vet med. Those field trips were really helpful in seeing various careers and choosing what I’d like to do and what not to do. Even though I was sure about a career in veterinary pathology, I didn’t realize the variety of career choices within the field and the value of mentors to help guide me through the process.

Steven Hsu, on far upper right, spent eight weeks over the summer with this group of fellow veterinary students from across the US and Canada.

Steven Hsu, on far upper right, spent eight weeks over the summer with this group of fellow veterinary students from across the US and Canada.

Continue reading