About the Program

The Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences conducts research that leads to improved animal and human health. These endeavors utilize world-class facilities and attract outstanding faculty, staff, and students. Our faculty are awarded grants by government and private agencies to conduct research in the many academic disciplines including animal diagnostics, immunology and infectious disease, and molecular toxicology and carcinogenesis.

Undergraduates are invited to participate in the on-going research programs of VBSC faculty through our independent study program (VBSC 496). These projects usually involve third- or fourth-year students and are a great way to learn about topics covered in the classroom in a hands-on and team-orientated fashion. Participation in undergraduate research requires the student to submit an application, which is reviewed by faculty members selected by the student.

Application Deadline

Applications must be submitted prior to the beginning of each semester.

Note: It is advisable to start this process early (i.e. toward the end of the preceding semester) to assure space within the laboratory of interest.

Steps to Apply

  1. Review guidelines for arranging an independent research position.
  2. Review the faculty research interests and student selection criteria list below.
  3. Select the faculty laboratory with whom you would be most interested to work with and indicate them on the application.
  4. Submit your application.

Opportunities: Faculty Research Interests

Adrian Barragan's Lab

Adrian Barragan's Lab Website

Areas

  • Dairy cow management
  • Reproductive performance
  • Animal disease prevention
  • Animal welfare
  • Farm personnel management

Cows: Disease Prevention, Maximized Performance

Management practices in dairy farms have a great impact in cow welfare and performance. Understanding cow physiology during specific challenging times such as the time around calving is key to develop applied and effective disease prevention management practices in order to improve animal welfare and maximize animal performance. In this independent study project, students will be involved in a variety of Extension veterinary medicine studies focused on preventing disease and maximizing cow performance.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in biology, physiology, veterinary medicine and research preferred.

Margherita Cantorna

Margherita Cantorna Lab Website

Areas

  • CMIID
  • Vitamin D
  • Infection
  • Immunology

Vitamin D

The work in the Cantorna lab is to understand the mechanisms by which vitamin D regulates immune function.  Our recent work looks at the mechanisms by which vitamin D regulates anti-viral immunity in the lung.  The research includes animal models of influenza and COVID19.

Selection Criteria

Preference given to Immunology and Infectious Disease majors and students that have completed VBSC 410.  Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 6 hours per week plus lab meeting participation required.  Willing to work for more than one semester a plus.  We work with human pathogens and flu/COVID vaccines are required to work in the lab.

Parisa Kalantari

Parisa Kalantari Lab Website

Areas

  • Host-Pathogen interactions
  • Pathobiology
  • Immunology
  • Parasite
  • Dendritic cells

Schistosomiasis:

Schistosomiasis is the second most devastating human parasitic disease in the world.  The development of new therapeutic approaches is increasingly important in the face of the drug resistance and vaccine failure.  Our laboratory is focused on host receptors and signaling pathways that promote or suppress inflammation in murine model of schistosomiasis.  The current focus of the lab is to understand the mechanisms by which schistosome eggs induce proinflammatory cytokines and severe immunopathology.  In this independent project, you will perform Dendritic cell/T cell co-culture, egg isolation from schistosome infected liver and a broad panel of pro-and anti-inflammatory cytokines and activation markers will be assessed.  Cell culture techniques, immunological and biochemical assays will be performed.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in immunology and biomedical science.  Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8 hours per week.  Willing to work for more than one semester a plus.  No previous 496 experience required.

Joshua Kellogg's Lab

Joshua Kellogg's Lab Website

Areas

  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Center for Molecular Toxicology and Carcinogenesis
  • Pathobiology
  • Plant Biology
  • Natural Product Chemistry
  • Drug Discovery
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Ethnobotany

Bioactivity in Natural Resources

Natural resources (plants, fungi, bacteria) represent a vast reservoir for potential health-promoting chemicals; more than 50% of all drugs on the market have natural origins, and estimates suggest that less than 10% of all plants that have been used traditionally as medicine (by indigenous cultures here in the US and across the globe) have been rigorously tested for biological activity. In vitro bioassays investigate the response of microorganisms (Gram-positive, Gram-negative, yeasts and fungi) to extracts from natural products and allow for detection of bioactivity to guide investigations into the chemistry of natural products. In this independent study project, you will learn how to extract active chemistry from natural resources and examine a variety of cellular and biochemical responses to determine bioactivity.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in natural product chemistry, infectious diseases, and biomedical science, with a preference for Pharmacology and Toxicology students. Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8-10 hours per week. Willing to work for more than one semester a plus. No previous 496 experience required.

Erin Luley's Lab

Erin Luley's Lab Website

Areas

  • Veterinary anatomic pathology
  • infectious disease in livestock
  • One Health

Disease Diagnosis in Livestock

My work focuses on diagnosis of disease in livestock, with the goal of improving animal health and therefore food safety and security and human health. Previous projects have included case studies based on animals submitted for necropsy, reviewing case data from our laboratory information management system for assessing trends, and surveillance of infectious disease in animals.

Selection Criteria

Not currently accepting students

Veterinary and biomedical science majors preferred with an interest in large animal medicine and/or public health. Minimum commitment = 3 hours per week, must be have transportation to the Animal Diagnostic Lab.

Gary H Perdew's Lab

Gary H Perdew's Lab Website

Areas

  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Center for Molecular Toxicology and Carcinogenesis
  • Environmental Toxicology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Functional foods

Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR)

The Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a xenobiotic receptor that responses to a wide variety of activators such as dioxin, PCB, tryptophan metabolites made by the gut microbiota, and numerous plant secondary metabolites in our diet. Our overarching goal is to understand the physiological role of the AHR and how it is perturbated by excessive activation by xenobiotics leading to toxicity and enhanced cancer development.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in biomedical and environmental science with a preference for Pharmacology and Toxicology students. Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8 hours per week. Willing to work for more than one semester a plus. No previous 496 experience required.

K Sandeep Prabhu

K. Sandeep Prabhu Lab Website

Areas

  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Immunology and Infectious Disease
  • Nutrition
  • Immunology
  • Metabolism
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer
  • Dietary Antioxidants
  • Redox Biology

Nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional deficiency of micronutrient and trace element selenium exacerbates many inflammatory diseases in animals and humans.  Supplementation with selenium, through increased levels of selenoproteins (proteins containing the 21st amino acid selenocysteine), impacts many pathways in immune cells to alleviate and resolve inflammation.  Our studies use mouse models of gastrointestinal inflammation, peritoneal inflammation, anemia, and cancer (leukemia) to study mechanisms of protection by selenium and selenoproteins.  We use biochemical, genetic, mass spectroscopic, pharmacological, histological, and immunological methods to interrogate these mechanisms in immune and non-immune cells isolated from mice and humans.  In this independent study project, you will learn many laboratory techniques to study the impact of nutritional therapies in disease management in addition to dissecting the physiological basis of inflammatory disease.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in biomedical sciences with a preference for Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Immunology and Infectious Disease students.  Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8 hours per week.  Willing to work for more than one semester a plus.  No previous 496 experience required.

Troy C Sutton's Lab

Troy C Sutton's Lab Website

Areas

  • Influenza
  • vaccines
  • transmission
  • Pathobiology
  • Center for Molecular Immunology and Infectious Disease
  • Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

Influenza Virus Biology

Research will focus on influenza virus biology. Studies will include generating recombinant viruses by reverse genetics and assessing the in vitro properties of these viruses. Examples of viral properties that will be evaluated include receptor-binding assays, neuraminidase assays, growth kinetics in different cells lines, cell fusion assays, and virus stability assays. Students that stay in the lab for several semesters may also assist with in vivo studies.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in respiratory viruses and vaccinology with a preference for IID, VBSC, or BMB students. Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8 hours per week. Due to extensive training requirements students must be willing to commit to a minimum of two semesters in the lab. No previous 496 experience required.

Robert Van Saun's Lab

Robert Van Saun's Lab Website

Areas

  • Ruminant nutrition
  • Nutritional diagnostics
  • Herd health medicine
  • Reproduction
  • Nutrition-Reproduction interactions
  • Camelid nutrition

Hand-held Meter Use to Measure Ketones and Glucose in Sheep and Goats

Early diagnosis of metabolic and nutritional disease leads to more timely interventions to minimize the negative impacts of disease. Use of hand-held meters to measure ketones and glucose could provide these opportunities in sheep and goats relative to pregnancy toxemia or cattle relative to ketosis. This independent study project will offer you the opportunity to continue in an applied research study validating the use of these meters in sheep and goats and determining if there may be other blood analytes of interest in determining disease prognosis. You will be exposed to sample collection and processing, use of diagnostic test strips and performing data collection and processing.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in animal or veterinary science with preference for VBSC students. Minimum commitment of 2 credits (8 hours/week). Preference for students willing to work for 2 semesters with more semesters a plus. No previous experience is required.

Jack Vanden Heuvel's Lab

Jack Vanden Heuvel's Lab Website

Areas

  • Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Center for Molecular Toxicology and Carcinogenesis
  • Pathobiology
  • Environmental Toxicology
  • Drug Discovery

Cell Health Project

Monitoring of cell viability and toxicity is critical to many areas of biological and biomedical research. This is true for understanding the molecular and biochemical pathways regulating cell viability, for developing therapeutic agents which modulate cell viability and for identifying potential cytotoxic side effects of potential therapeutic agents. For example, many agents used for cancer therapeutics modulate the intricate balance between cell proliferation and cell death. In this independent study project, you will learn how to grow mammalian cells in the laboratory and how to determine if and how various chemicals affect cell viability. Cell culture techniques, biochemical assays and gene expression analysis will be performed.

Water Cell-based Bioassays

Human-impacted surface, ground and drinking water can contain a complex mixture of micropollutants, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and industrial compounds. In vitro bioassays based on various cellular response pathways have been applied to detect and quantify the presence of micropollutants in water samples. These bioassays allow for sensitive, rapid and inexpensive detection of bioactivity while considering complex mixtures of compounds and potential toxicity. In this independent study project, you will learn obtain various water samples and extracts and examine a variety of cell-based bioassays. Cell culture techniques, biochemical assays and reporter assays will be performed.

Selection criteria

Strong interest in biomedical science with a preference for Pharmacology and Toxicology students. Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8 hours per week. Willing to work for more than one semester a plus. No previous 496 experience required.

Fang (Rose) Zhu's Lab

Fang (Rose) Zhu's Lab Website

Areas

  • Entomology
  • Toxicology
  • Center for Molecular Toxicology and Carcinogenesis
  • Center for Chemical Ecology
  • Center for Pollinator Research
  • Plant-insect Interaction
  • Molecular Toxicology
  • Toxicogenomic
  • Arthropod Structural Biology
  • Enzymology

Insects

Insects are the most evolutionarily successful metazoans on the Earth. The remarkable success of insects is largely due to their adaptive capabilities in coping with numerous stresses such as pesticides. The possible projects will include 1) molecular cloning and functional study of novel enzymes in insect detoxification pathways; 2) molecular docking of a target protein with its substrates; 3) structural characterization of a novel enzyme; or 4) environmental impacts of pest control with pesticides on pollinators (e.g. QuEChERS, HPLC MS/MS). During the class, students will be trained to design, collect, analyze, and interpret the data. You also have opportunities to enhance scientific writing and presentation skills.

Selection Criteria

Strong interest in Toxicology or Molecular Biology associated science with any major. Minimum commitment of 2 credits and 8 hours per week. Willing to work for more than one semester a plus. No previous 496 experience required.