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NIH/Merial Summer Research Program

The NIH/Merial Summer Research Program is designed to expose students in their first or second year of veterinary school to all phases of biomedical research. This includes the development of research ideas, the preparation of research proposals, the performance of biomedical research, and the presentation of research results in written and oral formats. Here's what you'll discover in these pages:


What the Program is About

The NIH/Merial Summer Research Program is designed to expose students in their first or second year of veterinary school to all phases of biomedical research. This includes the development of research ideas, the preparation of research proposals, the performance of biomedical research, and the presentation of research results in written and oral formats. Students in the program perform full time biomedical research during the months of June, July, and August, participate in weekly seminars, and present their work in oral, poster, and written presentations. Students also attend the National Merial Scholars Symposium. The program provides a rich experience in biomedical research for students and simultaneously exposes them to a wide variety of research topics through seminars. Students also benefit from close association with University faculty.

 

Who is Eligible?

Any veterinary student who has completed one semester of veterinary school is eligible to apply. Students can be from the University of Pennsylvania, or any other veterinary school.

 

History of the Program

The Summer Research Program has existed at Penn Vet since 1990. The program is currently funded by Merial and by an NIH training grant. Other sources of support include funds from the office of the dean, the four departmental chairs and the Marie Lowe Cancer Center. Since its inception, the program has funded 370 awards to 332 different students to perform biomedical research in the laboratories of 138 different faculty members at the University of Pennsylvania. The historical success rate of gaining acceptance into the program is about 75%. The chart below shows the number of applicants and matriculants in each year.

 

How Does the Program Work?

Students perform full time research during the months of June, July, and August under the supervision of their faculty mentor. Throughout the summer, students participate in weekly seminars given by faculty and guest speakers (see schedule for 2013, below). Students also orally present their own work to other students in the program at the end of the summer. Students attend the annual National Merial Scholars Symposium and present a poster of their work at the conference. In September, students prepare a written manuscript of their work in the form of a research paper. The following March, all participating students submit their work to the Penn Veterinary Student Research Day. In prior years, two thirds of the Penn Vet Student Research Day winners have been participants in the Summer Research Program. In addition to a stipend (currently $5500 for the summer) students receive course credit for independent study (8 credits for Penn students). Non-Penn Vet students can receive up to an additional $500 for relocation costs and will be offered reasonably priced housing options for the summer. It is anticipated that 18-24 students will be funded each year.

Schedule of Events, 2014
June
 2Introductory Pot-luck Lunch
 3RCR,Grants and Career Planning - Mike Atchison
 11-12
NIH Visit - Mark Simpson, Franziska Grieder, others
 17
Careers in Academics - Kurt D. Hankenson
 23
Work Life Balance
 26
Careers in Laboratory Animal Medicine - F. Claire Hakenson
July
 1
Poster, Oral, and Written Presentations - Frank Luca and Mike Atchison
 8
Careers in Pharmaceutical Industry  - Jessica Stehr, Merck & Co.
 9
Visit to Philadelphia Science Center - Chris Laing, MRCVS, Ph.D.
 15 Ted Mashima - AAVMC
 22 Student Presentations
 29
Student Presentations
August
Jul 31-Aug 3
Merck-NIH Meeting @ Cornell University
5
Wrap-up Session, 9AM, Room 132 Hill
September
6 BBQ party
12 Student Research Write-Ups Due
February 2015
Phi Zeta Abstracts are due.
March 2015
Phi Zeta Day

 

National Merial Veterinary Scholars Symposium

Each year, veterinary students in formal research programs in the US and Canada meet for a National Symposium. These meetings enable students to present their work to others, learn about careers for veterinarian-scientists, and network with their peers and scientists from academia, industry, and government. Past conferences are listed below. The 2014 conference is expected to be hosted by Cornell University.

Past National Conferences
Year Location
 2000  University of Georgia
 2001  University of Georgia
 2002  Purdue University
 2003  Kansas State University
 2004  Auburn University
 2005  University of Georgia
 2006  Louisiana State University
 2007  University of Pennsylvania and AAVMC at NIH
 2008  Michigan State University
 2009  North Carolina State University
 2010  University of Georgia
 2011  University of Florida
 2012  Colorado State University
 2013  Michigan State University
 2014 Cornell University

 

Application to the Program

To apply to the program, students interested in performing biomedical research discuss research ideas with faculty. All faculty members at the University of Pennsylvania are eligible to accept a student in the program, thus students are not restricted to those within the School of Veterinary Medicine. The Program Directors, Dr. Michael Atchison and Dr. Kurt Hankenson, can assist students in identifying faculty with interests compatible with theirs, or students can identify a faculty mentor through information available at the various Penn graduate group web pages, and departmental web pages. The student and faculty mentor fill out an application package and write a short research proposal (approximately 3 pages) which is due February 1 each year. Please make sure to contact possible faculty mentors at least two months prior to the deadline. The research proposal should define the questions being pursued and should explain the experimental approaches to be taken to answer those questions. The advisory committee reviews the applications with respect to academic standing of the student, quality of the research proposal, and training potential of the mentor's laboratory. Students whose applications are funded are notified by late February of their award.