Grad Students Showcase their Research

A record 68 graduate students participated in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s 26th annual Research Symposium on Thursday, March 19, 2015.

Presentations on both clinical and basic science research were provided by eight master’s students and 11 Ph.D. students from the college’s Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences graduate program.

Research posters were presented by five Virginia Tech master’s students and 41 Ph.D. students. Three Ph.D. students from the University of Maryland’s Department of Veterinary Sciences also presented posters.

Dr. Larry Madoff, professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, presented the symposium keynote on “One Health and the Detection of Emerging Infectious Diseases.” An academic infectious disease physician, he specializes in the epidemiology of emerging pathogens, bacterial pathogenesis, and international health. He is also director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology and Immunizations.

Group photo of student participants at 2015 Research Symposium
Keynote speaker Dr. Larry Madoff and graduate students gathered for a group photo after the keynote talk titled “One Health and the Detection of Emerging Infectious Diseases.”

Dr. Madoff has been the editor of ProMED, the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, since 2002. A graduate of Yale College and Tufts Medical School, he completed his internal medicine residency at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and his Iifectious disease fellowship at the Harvard Medical School-Longwood program. He is the author of over 100 scientific and medical publications including original research papers, reviews, editorials and book chapters on topics involving infectious diseases and microbiology.

A panel of faculty judges selected the top Research Symposium student posters and presentations. At an evening awards banquet held at the Inn at Virginia Tech, eight graduate students, two professors, and two staff members were recognized.

Prizes were awarded for the best oral presentations and posters in both masters and Ph.D. student categories. Awards went to:

  • Outstanding Master’s Student Posters: Dr. Dominique Sawyere, a surgery resident from Sydney, Australia, and Dr. Jessica Stahle, a radiology resident from Wellsville, Pennsylvania
  • Outstanding Master’s Student Presentations: Dr. Samantha Emch, a neurology resident from Kent, Ohio, and Dr. Rachel Matusow, an opthamology resident from South Nyack, New York
  • Outstanding Ph.D. Student Posters: Thomas Brickler of Boston, Massachusetts, and Dr. Megan Lighty (DVM ’13) of West Chester, Pennsylvania
  • Outstanding Ph.D. Student Presentations: Dr. Thomas Cotrone (DVM ’14) of Drakes Branch, Virginia, and Dan Youngstrom of Ann Arbor, Michigan

Dr. Sarah McDonald, an assistant professor in both the college’s Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology and the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, was awarded the 2015 Zoetis Award for Veterinary Research Excellence for her work. She is working to better understand rotavirus, a childhood malady that annually kills as many as half a million children under the age of five in developing countries. In 2014, she and a colleague at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to develop new imaging technology to see rotavirus in action. In 2015, she was awarded a $2 million NIH grant to study how the virus builds itself anew.

“Dr. McDonald works on rotavirus, which causes acute severe gastroenteritis in young animals and humans. Even though she has been with us and Carilion for a relatively short time, she has already recorded impressive academic benchmarks, which include strong publications and securing significant extramural funds,” noted Dr. Ansar Ahmed, head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. “Sarah is off to a remarkable start to advance her field. I anticipate that she will continue on this trajectory and maintain this high level of achievement.”

The Zoetis award is a nationally recognized honor for a faculty member at each veterinary school in the United States. The award seeks to “foster innovative research, on which the scientific advancement of the profession depends, by recognizing outstanding research effort and productivity.”

Dr. Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professor of bacteriology, was recognized with an award marking his 20 years of service as director of the Infectious Disease Unit at the college’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Disease.

Two veterinary college staff members also received awards at the banquet. Karen Hall, animal resource manager for the Teaching and Animal Care Support Service, was honored with the Research & Graduate Studies Outstanding Co-Worker Recognition Award. Hall was acknowledged for her work in the lab’s effort to become a resource for drug safety studies. Recognized as conscientious, courteous and dedicated, she was called “an indispensable asset to the college’s research program.” Tracie Smith, post award grants specialist, received the Research & Graduate Studies Outstanding Contribution Award. Smith, who works in the Corporate Research Center - Integrated Life Sciences Building, is instrumental in the college’s virology research program. She manages Dr. X.J. Meng’s lab and provides valuable assistance to four other virology labs.

View a photo gallery of the symposium.