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Research Spotlight

by Rodney Tanaka

July 28, 2010

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WesternU students who spent their summer in research labs showcased their hard work at the third annual Student Technology and Research Symposium (STARS) on July 27, 2010.

More than 20 students presented their research to their peers and faculty at the symposium.

“”This helps students gain confidence in public speaking,”” said Kristopher Irizarry, PhD, College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics, Genetics and Genomics. “”We strive to develop an encouraging, supportive environment.””

The symposium bridges the transition from summer research to the beginning of the fall semester. By preparing their presentations, students revisit their research and put it in perspective, Irizarry said.

The research projects presented included those funded through WesternU’s intramural Summer Research Fellowship program, through outside funding sources such as the Morris Animal Foundation and Merial, and independent projects that were not funded.

Four years ago, WesternU awarded 10 summer student fellowships, said Steven Henriksen, PhD, Vice President for Research and Biotechnology and Dean of the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences. This year, his office received 54 applications and 13 were funded.

“”This shows the growth of interest in research here,”” he said.

Each student worked with one or more faculty members as mentors. Karanjodh Johal, DO ’13, worked with Michael Seffinger, DO, Chair and Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Department of NMM/OMM, on “”The Effects of Cranial Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment on Blood Flow Velocity, Heart Rate Variability, Blood Pressure and Mental State.””

Johal chose the project because he wanted a deeper understanding of osteopathic manipulative medicine. He is interested in both teaching and practicing family medicine and OMM.

“”I love teaching,”” Johal said. “”As a physician, I will not only be treating people, but I will be serving as a patient educator. It is to my benefit to have this research experience.””

Valerie Kendall, MSBS ’11, is a member of the inaugural class of the Graduate College of Biomedical Sciences, which started in January 2010. The program provides hands-on training with the goal of creating good researchers, she said.

“”The great thing here is the exposure to different areas of interest,”” Kendall said. “”My first four months here, we rotated through different labs – veterinary medicine, DO, and pharmacy.””

Bradley Ahrens, DVM ’12, researched anesthetics for pet arthropods and strains of bacteria living on the fangs and in the venom of black widow spiders. He wants to help raise awareness and understanding of companion arachnids such as spiders and scorpions.

“”Arachnids make good pets. Unfortunately, few veterinarians know how to treat them,”” he said. “”If they get sick, it’s not something you want to throw away. This is a pet. It’s our job to help them.””

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