UC Davis Today: Preparing veterinary scientists

  • Flanked by mentor professor Frank Verstraete (left), and research assistant Shannon Liong, veterinary student Jenna Winer examines the teeth of a southern sea otter.

  • The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco has granted Winer permission to inspect its collection of sea otter skulls.

  • The skulls, collected since 1896, were acquired primarily from stranded animals that have died.

  • Winer’s quest is to determine the diversity and prevalence of dental disease in southern sea otters.

  • Liong, an undergraduate in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, assists Winer each day with data entry and skull analyses.

  • Winer has more than 1,200 specimens to examine for dental lesions.

  • The UC Davis research team is on public display at the San Francisco science museum where it conducts the sea otter skull research.

  • Winer, the daughter of a dentist, has a special interest in teeth as an indicator of health.

  • As a future zoo vet, Winer plans to conduct more studies to advance our knowledge of threatened and endangered species.

Preparing veterinary scientists

Veterinary students spent the summer on the frontiers of animal, human and environmental health.

They participated in the Students Training in Advanced Research Program, created by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine to inspire vet students to consider research and educational careers.  

During the 10-week STAR program, faculty mentors guide students through major aspects of veterinary and biomedical research, including library and literature research, laboratory conduct and professionalism, research ethics and bioethics, and critical review and assessment. 

Participants learn to form scientifically sound and testable hypotheses, identify specific objectives, design and conduct methodical experiments, and develop technical expertise. 

They may work on campus in a laboratory or the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, or in the field at places such as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Seminars and discussion groups take place to help STAR students gain informed insights into careers in research and veterinary education. 

The program encourages research careers, and each veterinary student benefits from exposure to the research environment, learning the value of research discoveries and how they influence veterinary practice. 

From left, Frank Verstraete, professor of dentistry and oral surgery in the School of Veterinary Medicine; Jenna Winer, a veterinary medical student; and Shannon Liong, an undergraduate in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, examine the dental structure of a skull during the documentation of southern otter skulls at the California Academy of Sciences. Gregory Urquiaga of UC Davis took this photo and all of the photos in the slideshow.

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