Chickens are why Jessica Vande Vorde says she first got interested in veterinary medicine.
So it just seems natural for the third year veterinary student in Iowa State’s College of Veterinary Medicine to spend the summer studying Avian Pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC), which causes colibacillosis, a significant cause of death in the poultry industry.
Vande Vorde was one of 25 College of Veterinary Medicine students who spent their summer in Ames participating in the college’s annual Summer Scholars Research Program.
The program introduces veterinary medicine students to research in a wide variety of areas including clinical medicine, animal science, public health, neuroscience and immunology. Students are teamed with faculty researchers for the summer and work on an active research project.
Vande Vorde grew up on a family farm near Aurora, IA concentrating on row crop and beef cattle. As a hobby, she started raising, and ultimately showing, purebred Cochin chickens.
Soon she was attending two summers at the Midwest Poultry Consortium. After graduation, she plans to work in the poultry industry as a veterinarian.
Her summer research project is just the latest step in that goal.
“This project really sparked my interest,” Vande Vorde said.
While she had experience with poultry, the Summer Scholars Program gave her an initial, first-hand look at the research process itself. “I came into the summer with literally no experience working in a lab,” she said. “I had never run a PCR. I had never done lab bench work.”
“This summer working in a lab gave me a real, good feel for what that is like. I may not do any additional work in a research lab, but this experience had a lot of practical aspects that will translate to any type of veterinary work I wind up doing.”
There were additional benefits to spending a summer in a lab. Going into the summer, Vande Vorde knew little about APEC and avian pathogens.
“Now I have a pretty good understanding,” she said. “It’s amazing what you can learn in three months.
“I have a basic understanding of what research is all about but this summer gave me more exposure to things I never realized existed.”