Posted June 26, 2023

At the 2023 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF), students under the mentorship of College of Veterinary Medicine instructors won four awards in total.

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Maya Salamey, Lydia Kapeller, and Allie Fricano with their poster presentation.

Among the winners were Allie Fricano, a rising senior studying Animal Science, and Lydia Kapeller, a senior who has now graduated and will be joining the College as a veterinary student in the fall. Both completed a research project under the mentorship of Dr. Jane Manfredi, assistant professor, and Kapeller completed an additional project under Dr. András Komáromy, professor.

Kapeller had participated in UURAF the year prior, and Fricano had formerly presented research at the Animal Science Undergraduate Research Forum (ASURF), so neither were strangers to research. In fact, both brought in new undergraduate talent to their project.

As research co-chairs of the Animal Science Undergraduate Research Student Association (ASURSA), Fricano and Kapeller introduced several ASURSA members to UURAF. These members were able to participate in the research in bite-sized forms if they were not ready to commit full-time to UURAF— though many chose to join in. This was also made possible by Manfredi and her DVM-PhD student, Brooke Boger, opening Dr. Manfredi’s lab and offering mentorship to the ASURSA students.

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Maya Salamey, Lydia Kapeller, Dr. Jane Manfredi, and Allie Fricano.

Manfredi noted that part of UURAF mentorship with Fricano and Kapeller became teaching them how to mentor others, as well as training them on key clinical skills and best practices. She expressed the mentorship experience had been positive from her end as well.

“It’s exciting for me because I like to foster familiarity and interest in research from the undergraduate time forward. I, myself, was able to participate in research as an undergraduate which opened my eyes to continuing in academia and wanting to mentor others. I think it’s an opportunity not all students get to have, and some would realize that it’s something they would like to incorporate into their future careers," says Manfredi.

Q&A

What is it like to participate in UURAF?

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The UURAF poster exhibition hall.

“My first year I was very nervous, but my second I was more excited. My favorite part of doing research is sharing it with people, and UURAF is a great way to both showcase your hard work and learn from others. The poster presentations can definitely be very loud and chaotic just because there’s a lot of people rotating through, but you get used to it pretty quickly. The oral presentations are a little different, as we did them all online this year, instead of in-person. Presenting can be intimidating at first, but after the first five or ten minutes you realize, ‘No one is out here to eat me.’” - Kapeller

“The mentorship we received was incredible. Our mentor helped us learn so much throughout the year not only about research, but about leadership and presenting research. Both Dr. Manfredi and Brooke Boger are so intelligent and allowed us all to grow as researchers and as leaders. I truly learned so much throughout the year that will help me with my future career!” - Fricano

What’s the most valuable thing a student can gain from UURAF?

“It’s a great way to get your feet wet to understand basic concepts behind research and it also helps evolve your critical thinking and your clinical thinking, which is so important for so many jobs. Your troubleshooting, your problem-solving abilities — it’s all capitalized by an undergraduate research experience.”- Manfredi

Will you continue research in the future?

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Lydia Kapeller, Maya Salamey, Allie Fricano, and Brooke Boger.

“I am considering pursing a DVM-PhD in the future! I love the opportunities research allows and have loved my experience with research this far." - Fricano

“I’m actually an incoming DVM-PhD student. I’m most interested in Ophthalmology, and will be doing a PhD studying glaucoma with my mentor Dr. Komáromy. I hope to lead a career in academia where I can conduct research and practice medicine, all while mentoring others along the way.” - Kapeller

Advice for Undergraduates considering UURAF?

“Take the chance and just do it! It is an incredible experience, and everyone is so welcoming and kind. It will help you in the future." - Fricano

Don’t be afraid to try new things. I thought I was going work in my small town and be a general practice veterinarian, but trying out research completely changed my career goals and interests. Presenting at conferences like UURAF allow you to gain invaluable feedback that will help you grow as a scientist and future veterinarian.” - Kapeller

“Seeing that our undergraduate students are doing such great work that is already contributing to our large body of knowledge — it’s so reinvigorating to see the enthusiasm and the passion that they’re developing in response to different projects, and that in turn reinvigorates me for my interest in the project, the research, and the science. It’s a nice positive feedback loop that helps make scientific success possible.” - Manfredi