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Summer Research Scholars Program

Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Research Scholars Program

Rising Senior is a Rising Star

Katelyn Whitaker of Oklahoma City is a rising senior in OSU’s pre-veterinary program. She hopes to one day earn her DVM degree and ultimately practice large animal veterinary medicine near her family’s farm located in a small town south of Oklahoma City. And, she is well on her way to making that dream come true. The young scholar was able to participate in the OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences’ (CVHS) Summer Research Scholars Program, a 12-week program usually open to first and second year veterinary students.

“Any time a pre-veterinary student expresses an interest in research, we want to do what we can to make that happen,” explained Jerry Malayer, PhD, associate dean for research and graduate education at the veterinary center. “If a student decides they like research, it may affect decisions they make down the road so we want to expose them to that area early on in their academic pursuit.”

Whitaker is also in the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program (OK-LSAMP), which encourages students to participate in research each semester. The program, in its 21st year at OSU, is funded by the National Science Foundation. OK-LSAMP is a consortium of 11 Oklahoma colleges and universities working together to develop programs aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented populations who receive degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Whitaker learned about OK-LSAMP through a news article published in her tribal newspaper.

“I submitted an essay and an application for the CVHS Summer Research Scholars Program because veterinary medicine is what I want to do,” said Whitaker. “You had to list three people we wanted to do research with and I chose Dr. Towner in the end.” (Pictured above are Katelyn Whitaker and Dr. Rheal Towner outside the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.)

Rheal Towner, PhD, is the director of the Advanced Magnetic Resonance Center at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. This is his second year participating in the summer research program and his first as a primary supervisor.

“I chose Dr. Towner’s lab because he does research with cancer and I’ve had a lot of people in my life affected by cancer,” added Whitaker.

Towner’s lab was recently awarded a National Institutes of Health grant, which involves looking at brain injury in a rat model.

“That particular research involves using magnetic resonance imaging techniques to assess neuro inflammatory processes in the rats’ brains,” said Towner. “Katelyn has learned how to treat the animals, to induce the neuro inflammation in the animals, and to use the MRI techniques to assess the neuro inflammation. We actually have some really good preliminary data that Katelyn has obtained. She can easily learn new techniques very quickly. We have a research team of seven individuals in our group and she works well both in the team environment and she can also work independently.”

“I’ve learned a lot—how to run the MRI, how to analyze the MRI’s images and that I’m not as afraid of rats and mice as I used to be,” said Whitaker. “It’s a great learning experience and you get to meet all sorts of new people and interact with people from all over the state and with vet students. I’ve also learned that maybe research isn’t exactly for me and that I do want to do mainly clinical work.

“What pumps me up for this is I like to know that I’m helping out in research—not just in veterinary medicine but also in the human health side,” she continued. “It also helps you realize that you are helping other people out and you never know what can come out of it. You may find the cure someday.”

“The Summer Research Scholars Program is an excellent program,” added Towner. “It gives veterinary students the opportunity to assess whether they would be interested in being involved in clinical research. It also gives them the opportunity to see other avenues that they might be able to pursue in their career later, as well as learn new skills and techniques that they may be able to incorporate into a practice.”

Also participating in this year’s Summer Research Scholars Program are: Kaitlyn Belanger (’18), Peter Czajkowski (’17), Emily Davis (’18), John Evans (DVM/PhD), Victoria Hanna (’18), Alia Houser (DVM/PhD), Livvy Jones (’17), Lauren Kuzimski (’18), Chris Maffry (’17), Jose Oyola Morales (’17), Melissa Nelson (’17), and Alexis Sirois (pre-veterinary).

The Summer Research Scholars Program was established in 1995 at OSU’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. It is designed to provide veterinary students a first exposure to research with the desired outcome of ultimately attracting more graduate veterinarians into a research career because there is an unmet need for scientists with the training to provide a comparative biomedical perspective. Veterinary medical training provides the necessary comparative viewpoint to enable translation from animal models to human disease.

For more information about the veterinary center’s Summer Research Scholars Program, click here.


Contact: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences | 405-744-6740 | derinda@okstate.edu

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