College of Veterinary Medicine

WesternU – Veterinary Research Scholars Program

The Western University Veterinary Research Scholars Program (WU-VRSP) is a joint venture between the College of Veterinary Medicine Office for Research and the WesternU Office of Research and Biotechnology to engage veterinary students in research during the summer months. This 11 week-long program is designed to train students in responsible conduct of research, expose them to career opportunities in biomedical research and provide hands-on experience in research.  The program emphasizes one-on-one training in research under the direct mentorship of a faculty.

The 2018 program was scheduled from May 22 to August 6, 2018. Please check back regularly for updates on the next year’s program. Application process, support and expectations vary between sponsors:

Sponsors and Application pages for the WU-Veterinary Research Scholars Program

Boehringer Ingelheim Logo

Boehringer Ingelheim Sponsored Program

Morris Animal Foundation Sponsored Program


AVMA/AVMF Sponsored Program

PetSmart Charities logo

PetSmart Charities® Sponsored Program

WesternU logo

WesternU – Intramural Sponsored Programs


Program Overview

The short term goal of this program is to expand students’ interest and skills in research and scholarly writing. In the long-term, this program aims at increasing the number of graduates who seek advanced training, pursue a biomedical research career, and remain scholarly active in their field of interest.

During this program, students will work under the supervision of experienced faculty members and research associates to gain experience in:

  • Study design and grantsmanship
  • Responsible conduct in research
  • Data recording and analysis
  • Research methodology
  • Poster and podium presentation skills
  • Interpretation and dissemination of results
  • Research training and career pathways for veterinarians

Students will be expected to prepare for their summer research project by reviewing relevant literature and demonstrating their understanding of the methodologies used in their project. Students will be actively engaged in the collection of data. Through this experience, they will acquire technical skills under direct supervision of their mentor and research associates. Students will have an opportunity to develop problem-solving skills during one-on-one interactions with their mentor as well as during weekly research meetings. Students will investigate various research career pathways available to veterinarians both on and off campus. The summer research program will culminate in students presenting a poster and / or podium abstract of their results.

Hands-on Experience in Research

Students will work under direct supervision of their faculty mentor and research specialists in the laboratories to acquire the technical skills required for their project. Students will spend the majority of their time in the mentor’s laboratory conducting hands-on research. Students and mentors will have the opportunity to share progress and discuss ongoing issues during the FIT (Friday Investigations and Topics) lunches organized every Friday. The level of involvement of students varies with the funding mechanism, but students supported through extramural funding are expected to be engaged full time for 11 weeks in their project. A list of potential mentors is available at the bottom of the page.

Research Training

In addition to the hands-on training with their mentors, students enrolled in the WU-VRSP will attend seminars, small group discussions, and several field trips relevant to research.

Students supported through extramural funds are expected to attend all group training sessions.

Orientation: The WU-VRSP will start with a day of orientation focusing on planned activities, tour of the laboratories, laboratory safety, laboratory etiquette, maintaining a proper laboratory note book, and data recording. This day will also include time for individual meetings between students, mentors and research specialists. A social gathering allows trainees and mentors to meet and network.

Friday Investigations and Topics (FIT) lunches and Workshops: Seminars and workshop topics may include:

  • General principles of grant writing
  • Study design
  • Preclinical research
  • Resources and challenges in clinical trial
  • Patents and licenses / research management
  • Sample size calculation and power
  • Biostatistics
  • Ethical issues surrounding animal use in research
  • Ethical issues intellectual property and authorship
  • Anesthesia and pain management in experimental animals
  • Application of laboratory methods in biomedical research
  • Common techniques in cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology
  • Career and training opportunities in biomedical research
  • Computer-based reports and presentations
  • Tips for poster presentation
  • Tips to get published

Format will vary with topic and may consist of a PowerPoint presentation, journal club, or case discussion. These meetings will conclude with students sharing their progress and discussing any issue they may be facing in their project.

Field Trips and Workshop: Fields trips and workshops are organized every year to enhance exposure to biomedical research tools and careers. Past examples include:

Statistics Workshop (implemented in 2014): Students participate in a hands-on workshop scheduled at the beginning of the program. Students on will be guided through a step-by-step exploration of a statistical method, which they can apply to their project, such as power analysis.

Trip to Pacific Veterinary Conference: The California Veterinary Medical Association, has partnered with the CVM Office of Research to offer WesternU students an opportunity to give poster presentations of clinically relevant scientific abstracts at the Pacific Veterinary Conference. This trip is designed to help students become familiar with the format of scientific presentations, improve their knowledge with a day of continuing education, and network with other students engaged in research at WesternU and UC Davis. UPCOMING: June 21, 2019 – June 24, 2019 in Long Beach, CA.

Trip to City of Hope: Students travel to City of Hope National Medical Center, a not-for-profit clinical research center, hospital and graduate medical school located in Duarte, California. Dr. Richard Ermel, DVM, PhD, Director of Animal Resources Center at the City of Hope, hosts our students as they explore the facility. The day includes a tour of the Animal Research Center and Transgenic Mouse Core facilities. Lecture presentations and discussions highlight the state-of-the-art technologies used in the center and unique mouse models at COH/BRI. The one day-field trip event concludes with a summary and discussion of career opportunities for DVMs in research and comparative medicine programs.

Trip to UCLA Medical Center: Dr. Marcelo Couto, DVM, PhD, Executive Director of DLAM hosts this trip to the animal facilities at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In the clinical and molecular diagnostic laboratory, students are exposed to MFIA serology and MPV-PCR assay to detect the prevalence of MPV (Mouse ParaVirus) in mice population. The one day-visit also provides ample opportunity to converse with pathologists with hands-on exposure to small animal necropsy, and diagnostic interpretation of histopathology slides.

Trip to UC San Diego Health Sciences, Center for Veterinary Sciences and Comparative Medicine: Dr Peter Ernst, DVM, PhD, Head of Division of Comparative Pathology and Medicine hosts this one day-visit. Students meet with residents in laboratory animal medicine and post-DVM graduate students currently enrolled in the research training programs. Short presentations by mentors allow students to appreciate the breadth and relevance of the research undergoing in each laboratory.

Past VRSP Programs

Dissemination of Results

Student Technology and Research Symposium (STARS) : STARS is a one day program during which students from all colleges at WesternU present the results of their summer research project. Each student submits a written abstract and gives a 15 minute oral presentation to faculty members from all colleges, visitors, and fellow students. Breakfast, lunch, break refreshments, and a wine and cheese mixer are provided. This event occurs in the last week of their summer experience, and is designed to be supportive, friendly, and provide a constructive experience. The Office of the Vice President of Research provides awards to the best presentations.

Boehringer Ingelheim–NIH Veterinary Scholars Program Symposium : participants in the WU-VRSP sponsored by AVMF, MAF and Boehringer Ingelheim must commit to present a poster at the upcoming Boehringer Ingelheim-NIH symposium as part of their application to the program. Poster preparation and travel expenses will be supported. Other participants in the WU-VRSP may apply to receive the same support from the CVM Research Office to cover their expenses. The Boehringer Ingelheim-NIH symposium is scheduled each year at the end of the summer program and varies in location. This meeting provides an exceptional opportunity for scholars to meet peers from other institutions and network with renown scientists, in a collegial atmosphere. Further information about this national symposium is available at: https://www.merialscholars.com/national-symposium

College Research Day : Currently enrolled College of Veterinary Medicine Students will be given the opportunity to present their scientific research findings as a podium presentation each year in the early spring. Students will be able to exchange ideas, share their knowledge, present their research to faculty and students from all colleges on campus, improve their presentation skills, and earn awards. A keynote speaker is invited to present their expertise to faculty and students alike, previous keynote speakers have included: Dr. Bruno Chomel, DVM, PhD, Dr. Sc. Professor of Zoonoses, University of California, Davis; Dr. David Haworth DVM, PhD, President and CEO of the Morris Animal Foundation; and Dr Manuel Moro, PhD, Health Scientist Administrator, NIH.

Potential Research Mentors and Past Projects


For a list of participating mentors, click: Faculty List

Past CVM Student Research

2018 Summer Research Program Projects

2017 Summer Research Program Projects

2016 Summer Research Program Projects

2015 Summer Research Program Projects

2014 Summer Research Program Projects


2018 Sponsors and Application pages for the WU-Veterinary Research Scholars Program

Boehringer Ingelheim Logo

Boehringer Ingelheim Sponsored Program

Morris Animal Foundation Sponsored Program


AVMA/AVMF Sponsored Program

PetSmart Charities logo

PetSmart Charities Sponsored Program

WesternU logo

WesternU – Intramural Sponsored Program

Questions should be directed CVM Research Office cvmresearch@westernu.edu, Ph: 909-469-5557.