Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cornell Duo: Student Profile with Emily Cornwell and 10 Questions with Mentor Rod Getchell

Dr. Emily and a large muskie!

Student: Dr. Emily Cornwell

Emily is currently a  DVM/PhD student at Cornell University. She completed the PhD portion of her program in July 2012 with  Dr. Paul Bowser as her program chairman and is now in the 3rd year of her veterinary curriculum. Her thesis works is focused on the infection dynamics of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus in the Great Lakes.

1.     What is your current research/position?
I am in the dual DVM/PhD program at Cornell University.  Currently, I am a 3rd year veterinary student and a part-time postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Paul Bowser’s lab.  My PhD research focused on the epidemiology of viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus in the Great Lakes and I am expanding that work during my post-doc with more of a focus on the genetic variation of this virus that has occurred since it was first introduced into the Great Lakes.

 2.     What sparked your interest in aquatic animal health?
I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was in 4th grade, but in college I had a summer externship at the Hatfield Marine Science Center with Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan and fell in love with research and with fish.  Focusing on aquatic animal health in vet school and for my PhD seemed like the perfect way to combine my passions.

 3.     What has been your favorite fisheries-related job?
Teaching students about fish health.  I have been fortunate to have several opportunities to teach, both by mentoring students in the laboratory and more formally in the classroom.  One of my favorites has been teaching middle and high school students in 4H about how amazing fish are.  Another veterinary student, Caroline Laverriere, and I designed the class together and we talk about fish diversity, anatomy, native species identification, aquarium care and maintenance, and then the students get to do a complete necropsy on a fish. It’s so rewarding to see students go from being grossed out or entirely disinterested by fish to excitedly pointing out parasites on gill clips.

 4.     What do you like most about graduate/professional school? 
In graduate school, I really enjoy being able to ask questions and then figure out how to design an experiment to answer them.  I also like the camaraderie in our lab – we all support each other and help each other out on our respective projects.  In vet school, my favorite parts are interacting with clients and their pets and trying to make connections between what we are learning about in domestic animals and fish.

5.     When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS?
I became involved with AFS and FHS during my first year of graduate school.  It seemed like a great way to start to meet other people in the field.  Since joining, I have been really impressed by what a close-knit and collaborative community the FHS is and feel really lucky to be a part of it. 

6.     What are your long-term professional goals (FHS or otherwise)?
I hope to be able to combine my interests in clinical medicine, research, and teaching, most likely in academia or government but I am open to anything.  I would also really like to continue incorporating international work into my career.

Mentor: Dr. Rod Getchell

Rod teaching a group of students

Rod Getchell is a Senior Research Associate at Cornell University in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the College of Veterinary Medicine.  He oversees diagnostic tasks for the department’s Aquatic Animal Health Program and recently became a Block IV tutor for second year veterinary students.  His primary research interests involve emerging diseases of fish and the development of new molecular assays for their detection.  He also is the Associate Director of AQUAVET®.

1.      How did you get to where you are today?   
My love of science began with my father, who was a Junior High School science teacher.  Then, when I went to the University of New Hampshire, I focused on microbiology.  I took an interest in fish and marine biology as well and spent many summers at the Shoals Marine Lab out at the Isles of Shoals in the Gulf of Maine.  I also took Sea Semester, which is run by Sea Education Association, and sailed on the R/V Westward out of Woods Hole, MA.  I decided to go to graduate school to study fish diseases and was lucky enough to get into Oregon State University (OSU) and John Fryer’s research group.  I came to Cornell in 1990 and entered the Employee Degree Program in 1996 while working in the labs of Dr. Bruce Calnek and Dr. Benjamin Lucio.  Eventually, I joined the lab of Dr. Paul Bowser, where I conducted the research requirement for my PhD and have continued to perform studies on a variety of fish diseases.

2.      What do you like most about your current job? 
I like the combination of research, extension/diagnostic work, and the teaching I do at AQUAVET® and in the small-group learning environment of Block IV, the microbiology and immunology portion of the vet student training.

3.      When and why did you first become involved with AFS and the FHS?  
I joined the Fish Health Section in 1981 when I started at OSU.  I think someone I respected just told me to do it, probably John Rohovec.

4.      How do you feel that FHS has influenced your career path?  
I have met many of my close colleagues through the section and the Eastern Fish Health Workshop.  FHS is the most important professional group in our field, and it has helped me foster collaborative relationships on a number of projects.

5.     What do you see for the future of the FHS?  
I think the organization will continue to fulfill the mission that was laid out by many of our own mentors.

6.     What has been your favorite part about being a part of the FHS network?  
Reconnecting with members both old and new at the meetings each year.  It is great to hang out with people who I can talk with about the subjects I am most interested in.

7.     Who were your mentors as you were an up-and-coming fish health specialist? 
How did they influence you?  My mentors at OSU were John Rohovec and Craig Banner.  They showed me how to conduct fish disease research, but, more importantly, they showed me how to treat other people in the lab, how to work hard, and how to enjoy life.  My mentor at Cornell has been Paul Bowser, a person who has dedicated his life to this field.  Most of my recent success I credit to Dr. Bowser’s guidance.

8.     What would you say to yourself now, when you were going through school? 
Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible.  Find a mentor you respect and learn as much as you can from him or her.

9.     If you mentor students currently or hire new graduates, what sort of qualities do you look for?   
Enthusiasm for what we do in the lab goes a long way for me.  We can train students to perform most any assay, but they have to bring the drive to push themselves.

10.    Any words of wisdom to up-and-coming FHS students and new members?  
Don’t be afraid to walk up to colleagues you do not know and introduce yourself.  The path my career has taken was greatly influenced by unplanned conversations.  You never know when a door will open for you. 

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