Join Penn Vet students and faculty on Phi Zeta Student Research Day to learn about the many, exciting research projects designed and conducted by our students. VMD and VMD/PhD students will present their research projects in oral and poster presentations representing a range of studies carried out in basic and clinical laboratories both at Penn Vet and campus-wide.
Keynote: “Following your science—from sperm to stroke and from basic to bedside”
Speaker: Alexander J. Travis, VMD, PhD
Associate Professor of Reproductive Biology
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Dr. Alex Travis’s lab explores a diverse set of subjects, ranging from technologies based on the very smallest biological machines to inquiries in wildlife conservation and sustainability at the landscape scale. Much of Dr. Travis’s work stems from his studies of reproduction and the function and preservation of sperm.
In one recent success in assisted reproduction, the Travis lab was the first group in the Western Hemisphere to successfully perform embryo transfer using a frozen dog embryo. They also claim the title of first to successfully perform spermatogonial stem cell transplantation in a dog, a procedure in which the sperm-making stem cells from the testes of one dog are transferred into another dog. After the procedure, the recipient dog is capable of creating sperm that carry the donor dog’s genetic material. By trying new techniques for assisting reproduction in dogs, Dr. Travis and his colleagues expect to learn more about how these approaches might be used to aid reproduction in humans and in non-domesticated species that are closer to extinction, including rare wolf species.
In other work related to reproduction, the Travis lab is exploring the interactions between the various components of the outer membrane of sperm that enable them to carry out their one objective: fusing with an egg cell and creating an embryo. One component, the ganglioside GM1, is under particular scrutiny. They have demonstrated that GM1 regulates a channel that allows calcium into the sperm, a critical first step that enables a sperm to fertilize an egg. Dr. Travis is applying these findings in a new assay, now in human clinical trials, that analyzes the distribution of GM1 in the sperm membrane as a way of diagnosing male fertility.
Dr. Travis’s interest in biology extends beyond cell and molecular studies into wildlife and landscape-scale approaches to conservation, work that calls on his veterinary training. As the Faculty Director for the Environment at Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and the Director of the Cornell Center for Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Travis collaborates with researchers from around Cornell and the world to study large-scale interventions aimed at conserving wildlife and fighting human poverty and hunger by promoting sustainable agriculture and natural resource management.
History of Phi Zeta
Phi Zeta was originated in 1925 by a group of senior veterinary students in the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University. With the assistance of a group of faculty members, including the Dean of the College, Dr. Veranus A. Moore, the Society was formally organized, and Dean Moore was elected as the first president of the Alpha Chapter. The Society of Phi Zeta was organized in 1929 at a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, and Dean Moore became the first president of the Society. Also in 1929, a charter was granted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Beta Chapter was established. Since then twenty-four chapters have been chartered, bringing the total number of chapters to twenty-seven.
The organizers of the Society, when seeking a suitable name, sought the help of a learned Greek scholar, Professor George P. Bristol of Cornell University. Professor Bristol suggested a Greek word, which in the Latin form is spelled PHILOZOI and means "love for animals." The abbreviation of Phi Zeta was adopted as the name of the society.