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Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Summer Scholars Program

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Students and staff participating in the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Summer Scholars Program

General Information

2022 Program Dates: May 23, 2022- August 12, 2022

Download the application

Deadline for applications: February 21, 2022

The goals of this program are to provide an opportunity for veterinary students to explore careers in research through participation in a hypothesis driven project, group training activities, trips to research centers and attendance at research symposia. First and second year veterinary students in good standing from AVMA-accredited schools of veterinary medicine who do not hold graduate degrees are invited to apply. Positions are available for two students who will receive a stipend and work 40 hours per week for 10 weeks. BI funded students will interact with approximately 25 veterinary student researchers at The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville Tennessee and participate in training and social events. Students will present a poster of their research at the 2022 National Veterinary Scholars Symposium at the University of Minnesota.

Available Projects

Opportunity #1: Identifying novel biomarkers of canine lymphoma outcome

Mentor: Nora Springer DVM, PhD, DACVP

Project Description: Lymphomas are the most common hemic cancer in dogs. Most canine multicentric lymphomas have survival times of approximately one year with chemotherapy treatment. A low percentage of patients have sustained clinical remissions. Current prognostic methods, immunophenotype, or histological subtype are unable to predict which patients might respond more favorably to treatment. Accordingly, there is a need for biomarkers that predict which patients will benefit from chemotherapy to achieve sustained cancer remission. Lymphoma is a liquid tumor due to its ability to traffic to, invade, and colonize any body tissue. Death from lymphoma typically occurs secondary to cancer infiltration and subsequent organ dysfunction and failure. In people, distinctive expression patterns of chemokine and sphingolipid receptors are associated with tumor location and prognosis in several forms of lymphoma. Thus, investigating cell surface receptors that facilitate lymphoma trafficking and tissue invasion is a novel approach to identify prognostic biomarkers. We hypothesize that the chemokine and sphingolipid receptor expression profiles of canine lymphoma cells will be predictive of clinical outcome (partial remission, complete remission, progression free survival, overall survival) and organ dissemination. In order to test this hypothesis, we must first confirm that these chemokine and sphingolipid receptors are expressed in canine lymphomas.  We have archived lymph node sections from 88 cases of diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of lymphoma in both dogs and people.  We will identify expression patterns of chemokine CXCR4 and sphingolipid receptors S1PR1 and S1PR2 via immunohistochemistry (IHC).  IHC staining for CXCR4 is complete, the antibodies for S1PR1 and S1PR2 have been validated and the IHC protocol developed.

Student’s role in the project: The summer scholar will perform IHC for SIPR1 and SIPR2 on the archived sections of canine lymphoma.  Additionally, the summer scholar will learn bright field microscopy and interpretation of lymph node histology sections (Hematoxylin and eosin stained, IHC stained).  The summer scholar will develop a rubric to score IHC expression patterns and learn basic statistical analysis of categorical data.  The scholar will have the opportunity to shadow in the clinical pathology laboratory during select days of the summer program. Opportunities may exist for co-authorship on manuscripts derived from the project. 


Opportunity #2: Parasites of wild turkeys from Middle Tennessee

Mentors: Drs. Rick Gerhold and Laura Horton

Project Description: This opportunity will be in the Gerhold Parasitology Lab this summer studying Eastern Wild Turkey intestinal parasites. The student would be responsible for completing fecal flotation on samples collected from Wild Turkeys from the 2020-2021 field seasons. Additionally, this research will include microscopic examination and identification of the parasite eggs seen on fecal floatation slides to determine what intestinal parasites are circulating in the sampled Wild Turkey population.   There is potential to be involved in other aspects of the project depending on time and student’s interest.

Student’s role in the project: The student will perform fecal floats and ID parasites eggs, oocysts and larvae with assistance from the mentors and parasitology staff.  In addition, students will assist with turkey necropsies and if interested examining histopathology of wild turkeys.


Opportunity #3: Serological Diagnosis of Parelaphostrongylus tenuis in wild cervid populations

Mentors: Drs. Rick Gerhold and Jessie Richards

Project Description: Diagnosis of Parelaphostrongylus tenuis in affected animals has always been a challenge due to a multitude of factors.  Aberrant hosts who succumb to parelaphostrongylosis rarely (if ever) shed the parasite in their feces rendering fecal examination useless.  The only current means of definitive diagnosis is via necropsy where histological evidence can be appreciated in neurologic tissues and/or PCR of tissues can reveal molecular evidence of the parasite.  The creation of a serological diagnostic assay has long been underway, and we have presently identified an antigen that has shown significant promise in preliminary experiments.

Student’s role in the project: The student will be participating in the diagnosis of wild cervid (mostly elk and moose) sera samples our present ELISA.  Students will be responsible for the organization, aliquoting, and record keeping involved with the intake of sera, testing of sera, and analysis of data acquired.  The student will be trained in the various protocols involved and will be allowed to perform independent work once they no longer require supervision or additional help.  Data analysis will be achieved using an established excel template that establishes cutoffs and assigns positive or negative results based on raw data provided.


Contact Information

For further information, contact the program director: 

  • Dr. Stephen Kania (skania@utk.edu)