FFAR Awards Third Cohort of Vet Fellows



  • Advanced Animal Systems

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is excited to announce the fourteen recipients of the 2021 Veterinary Student Research Fellowships (Vet Fellows) in partnership with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). This fellowship creates opportunities for veterinary students to pursue research on global food security and sustainable animal production.

The FFAR Vet Fellows program invests in future veterinarians and provides the opportunity to pursue research expertise outside of the traditional biomedical course. Veterinarians trained in multi-species medicine, animal science and public health are key to addressing many real-world challenges. The three-month fellowship culminates with student presentations at the annual National Veterinary Scholars Symposium in August.

The FFAR Vet Fellows program supports student research on agricultural productivity, public health and environmental sustainability. FFAR and AAVMC adjusted the parameters of the fellowship in response to the COVID-19 crisis to also include zoonotic or pandemic research. Due to the urgent nature of this research, the Vet Fellows were not required to provide matching funds. The 2021 Vet Fellows are also not required to provide matching funds, allowing them to focus exclusively on their research.

“Investing in the development of our scientific workforce is a cornerstone of FFAR’s mission,” said FFAR’s Advanced Animal Systems Scientific Program Director Dr. Tim Kurt. “We are thrilled to support the research of the Vet Fellows this year who are developing tools, technologies and strategies to solve real-world issues affecting animal production, disease evolution and animal and human health.”

We’re honored to work with FFAR again on this important program. The experience students gain through these Veterinary Student Research Fellowships inspires them to consider careers in agricultural and veterinary medical research. Many make significant contributions in addressing major problems in food production, food security and public health. Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe
AAVMC CEO 

The 2021 FFAR Vet Fellows include:

Kim Nguyen

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine

The Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota developed an event-based biosurveillance system that helps prevent the introduction of foreign pathogens into the US by gathering and analyzing data on environmental health sources. Nguyen is evaluating the impact of this system and contrasting its sensitivity to other global surveillance systems used for monitoring emerging animal diseases.

Stefan Keller

University of Missouri

Anaplasma and Babesia are tick-borne bacteria in cattle that can cause severe anemia in livestock. These pathogen-caused diseases can impact ranchers’ livelihoods and nutritional security globally. Keller’s work aims to better understand cattle’s immune response to ticks, with the goal of identifying molecules that may be ideal vaccine candidates for blocking pathogen transmission.

Carmen-Maria Garcia

Michigan State University 

Livestock are exposed to a multitude of environmental and social stressors, which impact health, wellbeing and performance. Early weaning (EW) in swine production is linked with increased disease risk and reduced performance over the pig’s lifetime. How EW practices lead to long-term disease vulnerability is unknown and targeted interventions are lacking. Garcia’s research is examining whether EW pigs’ immune systems exhibit stress-induced glucose use, which could drive inflammation and increased disease risk.

Daniella Burleson

Texas A&M University

Nontyphoidal salmonella infections, caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica, are a significant public health problem in the US. Characterized by symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, nontyphoidal salmonella infections can spread to humans who eat contaminated animal products. Burleson is using droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) technology, a technique that partitions nucleic acid samples into thousands of droplets and amplifies DNA or RNA targets, to detect and quantify antimicrobial resistance genes in nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica from cattle fecal samples. This work helps researchers better understand antimicrobial resistance in animals and the environment.

Hannah Knight

Mississippi State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

Macrophages are specialized immune cells that detect and respond to harmful bacteria. Knight is analyzing whether exposure to beta-glucans boost macrophage function in fish to achieve immunity equivalent to vaccination. Knight is using next generation sequencing, a technique that reads DNA sequences in small fragments and reassembles them to create a complete sequence, to evaluate gene expressions that strengthen immunity. Methods to boost innate immunity can enhance disease resistance, improving animal health and production efficiency.

Courtney Wangler 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Influenza A virus (swine flu) is an endemic pathogen of pigs that can cause significant illness and is difficult to control. Wangler’s research seeks to develop a rapid, low-cost test to determine the presence of influenza A in swine herds, enabling appropriate disease control interventions.

Chalise Brown

North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Salmonellosis is an infection of the digestive tract caused by the bacterium Salmonella enterica that can cause illness in cattle and humans. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, causes inflammation that can enable salmonella to colonize the digestive tract. Brown is assessing how blocking a host protein that regulates neutrophil function will alter salmonella-induced neutrophil inflammatory functions. This research is determining if the host protein is a viable therapeutic target for combating tissue damage resulting from diseases like salmonellosis.

Jimmy Guan

Western University of Health Science

Administering enzyme supplements in poultry is a longstanding practice thought to increase meat and egg production. Guan is evaluating enzymes that break down non-starch polysaccharides (NSPases), complex carbohydrates that that can improve energy use and feed efficiency of broiler chickens. An Aspergillus spp. known to produce these NSPases were fed to a group of chickens in addition to the purified enzyme. Guan is evaluating how purified NSPases and Aspergillus-produced NSPases impact the gut microbiome, research that could improve animal performance without the use of antibiotics.

Bailey Carpenter

University of Pennsylvania

Food production in West Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture, which is a challenge considering climate change, informal and sometimes unreliable markets and competition with imported food products. Strategies to reduce production and economic risks can improve financial returns for smallholder farmers. Carpenter is creating a model for poultry production that captures poultry health, nutrition, biosecurity and commercial sales, as well as related financial projections for testing, at a teaching and research farm in The Gambia.

Derek Jantzen

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Imaging technology and artificial intelligence may predict mammary gland (responsible for milk production) growth and milk production of heifers, female calves, prior to their first lactation. Jantzen is further developing a radio frequency identification (RFID)-camera system to evaluate image-based body weight modeling for heifers and developing an automated system to analyze ultrasound images from the mammary grand. He is combining body measurements and the ultrasound image assessment of mammary glands with genomic information to predict reproduction and production performance.

Corrin Markey

Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

Brucellosis, Q fever and MERS-CoV are severe zoonotic diseases that affect camels and can spread to humans. Markey is compiling baseline information that local animal health authorities in Samburu, Kenya can use to formulate, implement and evaluate disease control and preventive measures for these infectious diseases in camels. Additionally, Markey is estimating the level of pathogens that can cause these diseases and identifying exposure factors associated with positive brucellosis, Q fever and/or MERS-CoV antibodies in camels.

Anna Schaubeck

Long Island University

The American lobster is an economically important commodity for the US shellfish industry. Epizootic shell disease (ESD) is an infection on the shell that can lead to secondary infections or death. This emerging disease is associated with warming seawater temperatures, caused by climate change. Schaubeck is using computational tools to identify ESD-associated microbiota changes in American lobsters and genes that are associated with protection against ESD. This work  protects a valuable industry from changing climate impacts.

Ashley Rasys

University of Georgia

Current gene editing methods are often expensive and time-consuming. Rasys developed a more efficient and affordable gene editing approach that she used to successfully create the world’s first genetically modified reptile. Rasys is adapting this technique to alter a gene that causes albinism in chickens, which involves microinjecting CRISPR, a technology to edit genes, directly into adult female unfertilized eggs. Editing genes in birds has been notoriously difficult using CRISPR or other genome editing tools, yet these technologies have huge potential for improving animal health and welfare in poultry, the food animal species with the fastest growing global demand.

Jayden McCall

Kansas State University

African swine fever virus (ASFV) causes a highly contagious and deadly disease of swine for which there is no vaccine. McCall is identifying protective antigens, viral proteins that produce a protective immune response in the body, within the ASFV genome. This information is critical to developing an efficient vaccine against ASFV, greatly benefitting global pork producers.

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Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) builds public-private partnerships to fund bold research addressing big food and agriculture challenges. FFAR was established in the 2014 Farm Bill to increase public agriculture research investments, fill knowledge gaps and complement USDA’s research agenda. FFAR’s model matches federal funding from Congress with private funding, delivering a powerful return on taxpayer investment. Through collaboration and partnerships, FFAR advances actionable science benefiting farmers, consumers and the environment.

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

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