Veterinary student receives Morris Animal Foundation scholarship award

UF vet student Sara Ferguson

UF veterinary student Sara Ferguson is shown at the Dell Cheetah Center in South Africa. She performed a month-long internship at the center. (Photo courtesy of Sara Ferguson)

University of Florida veterinary student Sara Ferguson, a rising sophomore, is among a select group of students who have received Morris Animal Foundation scholarship awards in support of various research projects.

The awards were given to students at each of the nation’s 28 veterinary colleges.

Ferguson’s project consisted of developing a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic assay for a novel adrenal coccidian parasite found in leatherback sea turtles.

“My assay not only detects the presence of the parasite, but also gives an estimate of how many are in samples,” Ferguson said. “This assay reduces both the cost and time involved for testing samples and will hopefully allow us to screen more individuals, test more samples and elucidate more about the characteristics of this parasite and its impacts on leatherback sea turtle health.”

Ferguson said her primary interest is in zoological/wildlife conservation medicine, an area she would one day like to obtain board certification in. A requirement of obtaining board certification is publishing in a primary research publication, Ferguson said.

“So with that and the desire to find out what research was all about, I talked to Dr. (Jim) Wellehan about working in his lab, and he agreed to let me. He said this particular project was on the table as available and needing to be done,” she said. “The opportunity to apply for the Morris Animal Foundation student scholars grant became available and we jumped on submitting it. We were lucky enough to be funded.”

Through its Veterinary Student Scholars Program, the foundation provides scholarships of up to $4,000 to veterinary students to allow them to participate in animal health and/or welfare research. Selected students conduct research projects on a wide range of topics in the areas of companion animal or wildlife health.

Since its inception in 2005, the program has awarded more than 350 grants to students from more than 50 different colleges and universities in 15 countries. Many former students in the program have since pursued careers at zoos, veterinary colleges and animal health and conservation organizations, according to an announcement circulated by the foundation.


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August 2013

UF vet student Sara Ferguson

Veterinary student receives Morris Animal Foundation scholarship award

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