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K-State Today

August 23, 2021

Summer veterinary research program includes new mentoring award

Submitted by Joe Montgomery

Ernst Heinen, right, of Elanco presents the new VRSP Mentor Award to Natalia Cernicchiaro

A select group of Kansas State University veterinary students spent this summer working with faculty mentors on high-level research projects. While hosting a record number of participants, the Veterinary Research Scholars Program presented a brand-new mentoring award to one of the faculty members on July 29.

"There are many excellent faculty researchers who mentor scholars in this program, both within the College of Veterinary Medicine and across the Kansas State University campus," said Kate KuKanich, professor of small animal internal medicine and director of the Veterinary Research Scholars Program. "Scholars work with their mentors day-to-day to learn laboratory techniques and various procedures for data collection, and participate in weekly journal clubs and interactive workshops to learn about research ethics, how to present research findings and veterinary career opportunities involving research."

This year, the competitive three-month summer program hosted 23 students who were then paired with faculty researchers.

"The goal of the Veterinary Research Scholars Program is to introduce veterinary students to biomedical research through an engaging summer experience and to encourage these talented veterinary professional students to enter veterinary careers involving research," KuKanich said. "At the end of the summer, scholars presented their research posters for K-State faculty and research colleagues, students, alumni, and corporate friends and donors. We were delighted to present an inaugural mentoring award to Dr. Natalia Cernicchiaro, who was nominated by Stephen Edache, a visiting scholar from Nigeria."

The mentoring award is sponsored by Elanco and includes a $1,000 stipend for the recipient.

"We had a number of excellent mentors nominated, confirming the strength of our mentor pool and the dedication of our mentors to their scholars and the VRSP, and we are so appreciative of Elanco for their support," KuKanich said.

Cernicchiaro, an associate professor of epidemiology, mentored Edache's project, which focused on how a preharvest fermentation product can reduce salmonella in cattle lymph nodes. Edache plans to return to K-State to work on a master's degree with Cernicchiaro after he completes his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine studies in Nigeria.

"I am truly honored and grateful to be the recipient of this inaugural award," Cernicchiaro said. "I have been extremely fortunate to work with brilliant and hard-working VRSP students over the years, and this year was no exception. The VRSP not only gives students an introduction to research but also faculty the possibility to attract and recruit very talented students for a graduate research program."

"We support the VRSP at K-State because we appreciate the role dedicated mentors make helping scholars be more successful and influence their potential career in research," said Ernst Heinen, vice president of clinical operations and technical development at Elanco, who was present to congratulate Cernicchiaro.

Other student projects this year included the use of various pharmaceutical substances to relieve pain in different species, analysis of SARS-CoV-2, vector-borne disease transmission and more.