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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:

The NIH/Merial Summer Research Program

  • Below you can learn about the NIH/Mariel Summer Research Program, its history, and how it works. Then visit the other pages in this section to learn the details.

NIH/Merial Research Training Contacts

Michael Atchison, PhD
Program Co-Director
Phone: 215.898.6428

Yong No
Phone 215-898-3800

University of Pennsylvania
School of Veterinary Medicine
Ryan Veterinary Hospital
NIH/Merial Summer Research Program
3800 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6046

Finding a research mentor

Faculty and Projects

Departments & Graduate Groups

  • In this section, you can learn about Penn Vet's academic departments as well as all of the graduate groups available at Penn.

Merial Veterinary Scholars and Other Research Programs for Veterinary Students

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
 2Introductory Pot-luck Lunch
 3RCR,Grants and Career Planning - Mike Atchison
NIH Visit - Mark Simpson, Franziska Grieder, others
Careers in Academics - Kurt D. Hankenson
Work Life Balance
Careers in Laboratory Animal Medicine - F. Claire Hakenson
Poster, Oral, and Written Presentations - Frank Luca and Mike Atchison
Careers in Pharmaceutical Industry  - Jessica Stehr, Merck & Co.
Visit to Philadelphia Science Center - Chris Laing, MRCVS, Ph.D.
 15 Ted Mashima - AAVMC
 22 Student Presentations
Student Presentations
Jul 31-Aug 3
Merck-NIH Meeting @ Cornell University
Wrap-up Session, 9AM, Room 132 Hill
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
2014Cornell 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.