Adam Werts, a second year student at NC State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, is the recipient of the “Leadership Program Prize,” the highest honor awarded participants in the Cornell Leadership Program for Veterinary Students, a competitive 10-week emersion in veterinary research.
Program faculty deemed Werts had the best overall research achievement as judged by his underlying hypothesis, investigative protocol, results, and presentation for his project, “Microvesicles: potential mediators of intercellular communication between stem cells.”
Werts, who has a doctorate in cell biology from the University of North Carolina, was one of one of 27 scholars representing veterinary programs in the U.S., U.K., Europe, and Australia. Additional awards were presented for achievements in integrative biology, cell biology, and molecular biology.
“This is an awesome program for any student looking for a non-traditional, research-based veterinary career,” says Werts. “I feel that this experience has helped me better understand the different styles of running a research lab. Together they have solidi?ed my desire to pursue a career in basic research.”
Supported by funding from Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health, Werts studied microvesicle production. Microvesicles, or MVs, are small membrane-bound structures that contain host cell speci?c proteins that function as intercellular signaling molecules. According to Werts, MVs generated from cancer cells mediate the transient transformation of normal cells into cells that have oncogenic properties. Whether MVs function in a similar capacity in a normal, healthy organism has not yet been established.
“Working with my lab partner, I showed that mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells produce MVs, potentially helping ES cells maintain their pluripotency or ability to differentiate into specialized cells,” says Werts. “I also conducted protein analysis on isolated ES cell MVs. The results showed more than 1,500 different proteins enriched in these MVs. The project raised more questions than answers and I am eager to see where the research will head next.”
The mission of the annual Cornell Leadership Program for Veterinary Students is to provide students with learning experiences that clarify and reinforce their commitment to careers in science. Program scholars pursue individual research projects under the guidance of Cornell faculty members who are scientists and experienced mentors. In addition to laboratory-based research projects, program scholars participate in modules and workshops designed to highlight employment and leadership opportunities for veterinary graduates in academia, government, and industry.