SVSRP Program Overview

Week 1: Orientation and Picnic

The Summer Veterinary Student Research Program (SVSRP) includes an initial one-week orientation with short courses in:

  • Biostatistics and Experimental Design – Students obtain a basic understanding of the requirements for the design of studies, the planning and implementation of data collection and organization, approaches for data analysis, how to evaluate the output of such analyses, and critical evaluation of published information. Topics covered include the characteristics of distributions, indicators of central tendency and variability, sampling distributions and probability, regression and techniques of hypothesis testing (parametric and non-parametric uni- and multivariable tests of continuous and categorical variables), and specific learning resources outside of the course.
  • Research Management - This course describes the requirements and procedures for successfully managing a research project and developing a research program. Methods of project planning, monitoring, and reporting are discussed. Also, various forms of research organization structure and research development opportunities are illuminated, within a context of career paths and opportunities, including a brief discussion of intellectual property issues.
  • Scientific Writing - This workshop focuses on helping students avoid the most egregious errors of scientific writing. These errors include improperly organizing the information, not emphasizing the key details, not writing clearly, not making smooth transitions between details, and not selecting persuasive illustrations.
  • Common Experimental Techniques & Methods - This time will be used to describe and, if possible, demonstrate experimental techniques and methods. Mentors with expertise in these techniques will be asked to prepare the demonstrations.
  • General Workshops – Workshops are tailored to the skills and knowledge of each individual cadre and include topics such as presentation skills, poster design/PowerPoint, and how to keep a laboratory notebook.
  • Humane Care & Use of Laboratory Animals - The first hour of this course covers laws, regulations, and guidelines affecting animal care and use, ethical issues, introduction to replacement, reduction and refinement (referred to as the 3R's), and methods used to assess availability of alternatives. The second hour will cover husbandry requirements for common laboratory animal species, recognizing and controlling variables, recognizing and minimizing pain and distress, and overview of common laboratory animal technical and surgical procedures. The third hour will cover animal model criteria, animal model selection, and an overview of common animal models.
  • Ethical Conduct of Research & Policy - Instruction in the responsible conduct of research includes three one-hour classes during orientation. Scientists are now increasingly required to go beyond experimental design and factor in ethical, social, and legal responsibilities as they plan and conduct their programs of animal research. We consider the nature of these responsibilities from two perspectives: scientific community and general public.  Overall the course examines the professional values, policies, and procedures emanating from within the scientific community itself, which undergird the responsible conduct of research. This includes the following areas:
    • Research conduct
    • Peer review
    • Authorship
    • Publication
    • Mentoring
    • Conflict of interest
    • Data ownership
    • Record keeping
    • Environmental health and safety
    • Policies and guidelines for responsible conduct of research
    The ethical issues involved in the use of research subjects is not covered in this course. Policies and ethical considerations regarding the use of animal subjects are handled during the orientation in a separate short course. Students are provided materials for self-learning about the use of human subjects, but due to time constraints, human studies are not covered in this short course. This short course and the associated research subject material covered is meant to be an overview. A career in research would require further in-depth treatment of these subjects. SVSRP trainees are expected to attend this short course, and readings and exercises are provided in class which require the students to interact with other students and their mentors who are asked to attend if possible as part of their mentoring responsibility.
Students dining at the college commons

Summer Picnic

A weekend picnic is provided at the end of orientation week to ensure that all participating mentors may meet with trainees and that trainees may make supportive ties among themselves early in the program. Activities in combination with other shared experiences including orientation, visits in Washington, D.C., and the symposium aim to create a bond for scholars that continues beyond the end of the summer program and provides further encouragement to pursue a research career upon completion of the DVM program.

Week 2: Trip to Washington, D.C. (3 days)

A visit to Washington, D.C., provided through cooperation with the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine at VA-MD Vet Med in College Park, Maryland, is designed to:

  1. Expose students to a spectrum of research employment opportunities within governmental facilities, industry, and nongovernmental organizations
  2. Develop an understanding of public policy as it relates to and is influenced by biomedical research and public and animal health

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has the highest concentration of veterinarians working in the public and corporate sectors in the world. Students participating in the program have facilitated visits with multiple veterinarians who are engaged in careers in research, from a spectrum of government agencies and corporations. The visits provide students with the opportunity to network with these veterinarians. Students may meet with potential future colleagues and employers at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration), U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Walter Reed. Coordinated travel is organized to and from Blacksburg, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Summer Research

Weeks 2 - 11: Summer Research

Trainees spend nine and a half weeks in the laboratory implementing a research plan finalized during orientation under close guidance by their assigned mentor.

Weekly Seminar

A Wednesday morning (8:30-9:30 a.m.) seminar is held each week during the summer research period.

Each year the theme of the seminar series is "DVMs in Biomedical Research." Past lectures have been given by faculty members and DVMs from Merck Pharmaceuticals, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in medical schools.