The Ontario Veterinary College offers undergraduate and DVM students an opportunity to explore some of the exciting research being conducted here at OVC. This program, the Summer Career Opportunities and Research Exploration (CORE) Program, runs from May until August.
This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to join the OVC (Ontario Veterinary College) Pet Nutrition lab as an undergraduate research assistant. During that time, I worked under the advisement of Dr. Adronie Verbrugghe, Dr. Sarah Abood, and Shoshana Verton-Shaw on studies being conducted by graduate students; Alexandra Rankovic, Hannah Godfrey, and Caitlin Grant.
Despite the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team still provided me with the chance to take part in various studies evaluating the effects of diverse diets and nutrient supplements on dogs and cats. My role in these studies encompassed literature searches, data preparation, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing. The primary study I worked on examined the lipotropic effects of choline supplementation in overweight cats at maintenance energy requirements. The supportive environment fostered by the Pet Nutrition team enabled me to get as involved in the study as I was willing. In effect, I was able to make significant contributions in writing a literature review evaluating past studies regarding choline supplementation in companion animals.
I was also given the unique opportunity to help organize and attend the Global Animal Nutrition Summit. This conference gave me insight into the problems faced by the animal nutrition industry and the multitude of research currently being conducted in the animal nutrition field.
Furthermore, the team encouraged my involvement in the Summer CORE program offered by OVC. This program allowed me to learn about what types of research my peers are conducting, the research currently taking place at OVC, and gain insight into a career in veterinary research. Additionally, the CORE program offered several self-reflection assignments which enabled me to focus my goals and determine what professional skills I possess and which I needed to improve on.
The final activity of the program was to present a research poster that illustrated the work I performed over the summer. My poster’s focus was on the literature I found regarding choline supplementation in companion animals and its importance in reducing the incidence of obesity and the risk of hepatic lipidosis in cats. This was a great learning opportunity for me as it was my first poster presentation and I was able to present my work to both my team and faculty judges at OVC. All of the members of the team provided me with constructive and supportive feedback that helped me put together the poster pictured below.
Being a part of the Pet Nutrition team, I received fantastic mentorship from both the professors and the graduate students. The team works very hard to cultivate a positive work environment in which everyone is approachable and positive. This lab is the perfect place for undergraduate researchers to get involved, as they put considerable effort into enhancing their students’ knowledge of animal nutrition, research skills, and professional development. They were kind enough to allow me to continue my involvement in the fall by taking a research course, where I have been able to learn more about the methods used for data collection in nutrition studies and continue to build on projects I worked on over the summer.
Written by: Cristian Mastrangelo, OVC Pet Nutrition Summer CORE Student
Edited by: Shoshana Verton-Shaw, RVT, VTS (Nutrition)
Alex Rankovic, BScH, MSc, PhD Candidate