The 21st century brings increased challenges and responsibilities in medicine, environmental quality, animal agriculture, and species preservation. Such challenges can only be met through a commitment to understanding and an investment in research. Veterinarians, with their broad training in animal biology and comparative medicine, have made and continue to make major contributions to research in these areas. However, the number of graduating veterinarians who pursue careers in research is small, even in the face of increasing demand and attractive salary
Goals of the Research Scholars Program
In view of the potential contribution that research veterinarians can make to the biomedical, agricultural and environmental sciences, we have instituted a Research Scholar Program within the veterinary curriculum. The goals of the Research Scholar Program are to:
- Attract to the veterinary student population, and hence to the veterinary profession, individuals of exceptional aptitude who are oriented toward a career of basic or applied research,
- Maintain a high level of motivation for these individuals to pursue advanced training and become productive research scientists,
- Provide training in the philosophy and methodology of science, as well as hands-on research experience from the level of problem identification through publication of results, and
- Encourage the participant’s scholarly development through concurrent DVM/PhD programs and/or postdoctoral training.
Research Training Environment at WSU
The WSU College of Veterinary Medicine provides an excellent environment in which to pursue research training. The college ranks within the top six veterinary colleges in the amount of extramural research support, currently attracting over eight million dollars in extramural research funding annually. The position of the college is even more impressive when one considers that it is one of the smaller veterinary colleges in terms of faculty numbers. At the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, there are exceptionally strong research programs in the areas of neurobiology, blood and cardiopulmonary studies, muscle function, pharmacology/toxicology, infectious disease and immunology, radiation biology and therapy, and population medicine. All of these areas use a variety of state-of-the-art methods, from the molecular to the organismal and computational. The laboratories in these areas are recognized internationally, both within and outside the veterinary profession, for their technical and conceptual leadership. Virtually all of our active researchers are willing to advise Research Scholars and to sponsor their training. In addition, researchers in departments outside the college have also served as mentors for Research Scholars, extending the possibilities of exposure to activities outside the College of Veterinary Medicine. The College of Veterinary Medicine has a good working relationship with other colleges on campus (e.g. Sciences [School of Biological Sciences, School of Molecular Biosciences, Genetics and Cell Biology], Animal Science, and Pharmacy) and our professional students are able to credit core and elective veterinary courses taken as part of their veterinary education toward the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Research Scholars also benefit from the flexibility of the fourth year in the veterinary curriculum, which permits scheduling of blocks of several months for research activities.
Research Scholars Curriculum
In keeping with the goals of the program, Research Scholars participate fully in the veterinary curriculum. Additional curricular requirements, unique to the Research Scholar Program, focus on encouraging intellectual involvement in research problem solving and on providing a hands-on research experience for each student under the supervision of a faculty mentor. These additional curricular requirements are:
A weekly seminar course in Research Orientation to survey ongoing research and research services (VM508-fall semester), the goal of which is to acquaint students with the nature of ongoing research programs in the College of Veterinary Medicine and associated institutions and departments. This seminar also provides an introduction to the library and data base services on campus. The last five seminar sessions are focused on the hypothetical-deductive approach to research problem solving and the mechanics of articulating a testable hypothesis as a research proposal. This part of the course is designed to assist students in making the transition from interested observers of research to active participants. It culminates with the writing of a summer research proposal that is submitted for review and critique during the spring semester. At this time, students also formally submit their applications to the Research Scholars Program for review by the Research Scholars Steering Committee.
A weekly seminar course in Scientific Literacy and Philosophy (VM509-spring semester), organized around selected monographs that emphasize concepts, issues, and points of historical interest essential to the intellectual enterprise of research. This seminar al so allows Research Scholar students to interact with speakers from outside the university who are invited to provide keynote seminars in selected topic areas.
Directed Readings on Research Topics, the goal of which is to allow the students to gain familiarity with a specific area of research by reading and discussion with an experienced investigator. This experience helps students to identify an area of interest and an advisor. Each student participates in at least one, but not more than three, directed readings during the fall semester. Students choose topics of interest from a list submitted by participating faculty members. Because the purpose of the Directed Readings is to stimulate interest rather than to provide in-depth familiarity or skills acquisition, this activity is not graded. However, advisors will request verbal evaluation of the readings from each student.
Laboratory Research and Publication
Students are free to choose an advisor as early as the time of admission. However, each student should have selected an advisor by the end of the first semester in the Program. The advisor and student will develop a research program for the student, which will be well circumscribed, and within the student’s capabilities. Arrangements will be made for the student to begin working on a project at a time that is acceptable to both student and mentor. It is expected, however, that Research Scholars will begin hands-on laboratory work at their earliest opportunity and no later than the first summer following entry into the veterinary curriculum. All Research Scholars are expected to be involved in research during the summer months (Summer Research Fellowship). This research will be based on the proposal submitted during the previous spring. A second summer research proposal must be submitted during the spring of the student’s second year. During the third year of the professional curriculum, Research Scholars are expected to attend weekly Departmental research seminars, and are encouraged to continue their research activities during the academic year to the extent that doing so does not interfere with professional coursework (a summer research proposal is not required). By graduation, each student should have submitted at least one article for publication in a refereed journal.
Financial Support for Research Scholars
Veterinary students participating in the Research Scholar Program are eligible for all forms of financial aid available to other veterinary students. In addition, the Research Scholars Steering Committee may award stipends to students when funds are available. Currently, participants receive $2500 during each of the first three years. A funded summer research fellowship will provide an additional stipend above and beyond that provided by the Research Scholars program. No stipends are awarded during the fourth year. Stipend recipients must sign a loan payback agreement committing them to completion of the Research Scholar Program through the fourth year of professional study. If a student voluntarily terminates participation in the Research Scholars Program during the second or third year of the program, any monies received beyond the first year will be considered a loan to be repaid to the College, rather than a grant. Individual research advisors and departments may supplement Research Scholar stipends at any time. Such supplements would not be covered by the payback agreement. Furthermore, students may elect to stay in the Program but to decline financial support subsequent to the first year.
Admission to the Research Scholar Program
Admission to the Research Scholar Program is competitive. Students interested in the Program should attend the seminar course VM508P in the fall semester of the first year. Students apply for admission to the Program by submitting application materials midway through their first year in the professional curriculum. Research Scholar candidate applications are reviewed by the Research Scholars Steering Committee. The Committee will also review each student’s original application to veterinary school as part of the total application package for the Research Scholars Program. Students who do not apply or who were not admitted to the Research Scholar Program in their first year may make application midway through their second year of veterinary school. Those students should attend the seminar course VM508P in fall semester of the second year. The applications of these students will be reviewed with those of the current first year students. In the spring semester, research scholars are required to take a second seminar course, VM509P which covers topics such as biomedical ethics, experimental design, etc.