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Fall 2007 - Program offers

Destination Purdue > Fall 2007 - Program offers

Program offers undergraduate unique research opportunities

By Danielle Munroe

Maria Cooper, a junior animal science major from Muncie, Ind., is one of the first Purdue undergraduates with the opportunity to conduct animal science research in the School of Veterinary Medicine. The experience promises to be valuable to her studies and her career.

Cooper, Lawrence and Retseck

Photo by Danielle Munroe

(From left) Maria Cooper, Caitlin Lawrence and Libby Retseck all participated in a summer program that allowed them to work on research projects in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Cooper participated in research projects as part of the Merck-Merial Summer Research Fellows Program veterinary medicine undergraduate summer research program. Two other students also participated in the program: Caitlin Lawrence, a senior animal science preveterinary medicine major from Lawrenceburg, Ind., and Libby Retseck, a senior biological sciences preveterinary medicine major from Merom, Ind.

"The other two undergraduate fellows and I certainly felt fortunate," Cooper said. "As we're all looking forward to vet school, it was nice to be over there meeting several faculty, staff and students while exploring a new opportunity." Purdue is one of the first veterinary schools in the nation to provide preveterinary medicine students the opportunity to work with veterinarians in actual animal research like this. Research programs are in place for those pursuing advanced degrees, but typically are not available for those working on their bachelor's degrees.

The students in this program have very strong academics, are well-rounded and demonstrate leadership, said John F. VanVleet, associate dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine and professor of veterinary pathology.

Cooper said she was thrilled to make it into the program. The experience inspired Cooper so much, she now wants to pursue research opportunities in veterinary school and beyond. In addition to treating animals directly in an animal hospital or similar setting she said she eventually wants to work on research that will help treat not only animals, but also humans. That kind of research was part of her project, which involved working with sheep to understand and treat emphysema in humans.

Lawrence said she never imagined herself working on research, either. She said she decided to participate in the program because she did not have any previous research experience and wanted to get it. "This program allowed me to see how other people in my field use their knowledge toward an entirely different goal," Lawrence said.

While most preveterinary medicine students focus on treating animals, research offers an option most students do not get to explore, Lawrence said. "A research experience allows students to see what they like and what they don't. Some may realize they love the lifestyle of research, while others will realize that they want to focus on another aspect of veterinary medicine," Lawrence said.