CSU labs show how research is improving the lives of humans and animals

CSU researchers present posters at the annual CVMBS Research Day. (Photo credit: Rachel Griess)
CSU researchers present posters at the annual CVMBS Research Day. (Photo credit: Rachel Griess)

Before classes begin and after classes have ended, many students in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences head to a lab to work on research projects aimed at understanding human and animal health. Although the projects are diverse, for the past 16 years students in CVMBS labs have all come together annually. They presented their work at the CVMBS Research Day, which was held Saturday.

“As a basic science lab, I feel like we don’t often get to interact with more clinical and translational research labs,” said Michelle Sullivan, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, who has presented her work at the CVMBS Research Day for the past two years. “CVMBS Research Day really allows us to interact and present our ideas to each other, to strengthen our research community.”


Sullivan works in CSU Assistant Professor Yumei Feng’s lab, where they are studying how the brain controls blood pressure.

Scientists at CVMBS Research Day explained how they collaborate with labs in different departments or disciplines to generate new solutions to research questions. Renee Lake, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering, is using mathematical modeling to create a clinical tool that can help veterinarians make better decisions about drug dosing when caring for cats with cancer, due to the differences in how cats and dogs metabolize drugs.

“The goal of this research is to build a model to simulate how drugs get distributed and metabolized within a cat, so that we can understand how to optimally dose cats,” Lake said. “This model also has translational implications for treating humans with similar types of cancer.”

Research that spans different departments benefits human and animal health through the discovery of effective solutions, as well as rewards the scientists involved, according to Elizabeth Ryan, a researcher and professor in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences and recipient of the Zoetis Early Career Research Award.

“I really enjoy the collaborations … that’s what challenges you,” Ryan said. “It challenges you in a way that is very different from the traditional models (working alone or collaborating within one’s field).”

Ryan works with other labs at CSU and around the state to study how rice bran and beans can reduce the risk of colon cancer, and improve gut health. Ryan’s lab is currently working with the Medical Center of the Rockies, through the Healthy Hearts program to determine if rice bran and beans can improve cholesterol levels in children at risk for cardiovascular disease.

Katie Schmitz, a senior in the department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, presented her work on the collaborative project with the Healthy Hearts program. Schmitz said that she really enjoys the community-based outreach work she has been a part of while working in Ryan’s lab.

“I got to do a collaboration with King Soopers,” Schmitz said. “I got to do a whole grains and legumes informational booth. We talked (with people) about legumes for four hours. I do really like the community-based academic partnerships, I think they are pretty cool.”

A primary goal of biomedical and veterinarian research is to have a positive impact on the health of humans and animals.

According to Ryan, simply showing the impact certain foods have on health does not always translate to changing people’s behavior. Ryan’s research on health aims to inform the public of further explanations that translation of research has a real impact on health when people begin making different choices based on scientific findings.


Collegian Science Beat Reporter Christina Dennison can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @csdennison.