Projects Seeking MS & PhD Applicants

Below are some of the currently available research opportunities for PhD and MS applicants. Applicants for these projects must still adhere to the standard admission process for the intended degree. 

Learn more about our programs and apply today!

Please email the listed contact person for more information.  Prospective applicants are not limited to just these projects, however, and should review our faculty web pages to examine the wide range of research activities at the College of Veterinary Medicine.  If you have an interest in a specific project or faculty advisor, indicate this in your personal statement. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact individual faculty working in a research focus area of interest to them, or contact our Office of Graduate Programs for more information on potential research opportunities. 

Comparative Medicine and Pathology

We are accepting applications from veterinarians seeking state-of-the-art research training in Comparative Medicine and animal models of human disease. This is an NIH comparative medicine and pathology training program that will provide sufficient broad based knowledge, quality communication skills, and advanced research training essential for a career as an independent investigator. Areas of study include cell biology, infectious disease, neurobiology, physiology, genetic diseases, molecular biology, and pharmacology. 

Requirements: Applicants must be US citizens or non citizen national with permanent residency status and graduates of an accredited veterinary school. 

To learn more: visit or contact Yorie Smart

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences, PhD or Veterinary Medicine, PhD program and apply today

Immunity at the Fetal-Maternal Interface

Inflammation is a common driver of fetal loss and premature delivery during pregnancy. Although some pathogens may directly cause damage to the fetus, many studies have suggested that excessive inflammation associated with infection of the placenta can be damaging in itself. Natural killer T cells (NKT) are a special class of lymphocytes that recognize lipid antigens as opposed to peptide antigens that conventional T cells recognize. Preliminary data in mice suggests they are involved in protecting the developing placenta from damage during microbial infection. We seek to understand what pathogen(s) is involved, and how NKT cells achieve protection. This research will aid in understanding what causes miscarriage, growth restriction, and pre-term birth. 

To learn more, contact: Dr. Kristin Hogquist

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences program and apply today.

Infectious Agent Epidemiology

High impact pathogens of livestock threaten animal health and food security.  We seek a graduate student with an interest in the epidemiology of foreign animal diseases, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, or Classical Swine Fever.

Preferred: US nationals with a DVM degree as international travel for meetings and research will be expected. Click here for more information

To learn more, contact: Dr. Andres Perez

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Comparative Oncology of Human and Canine Sarcomas

Our research focuses on understanding fundamental oncogenic mechanisms of human and canine aggressive sarcomas such angiosarcoma and osteosarcoma. Specifically, we aim to establish chromatin accessibility and the mutational landscape that contribute to tumor-specific gene expression profiles in those sarcomas using next-generation sequencing technology. We also develop novel modeling platforms for those sarcomas using induced pluripotent stem cells and genome engineering. Our projects will provide insights into new perspectives of cancer development and progression, and in turn will contribute to development of novel therapies.

To learn more, contact: Dr. Jong Hyuk Kim

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences program and apply today.

The Interface Between Animal-Based Medical Research and Animal Well-Being

The Preclinical Research Center uses an integrated interdisciplinary approach to address issues in human and animal health and well-being. The lab has a unique focus on developing methods to understand immunometabolism towards innovative therapies for diseases with high public health impact (e.g. diabetes, obesity, and infectious disease), and providing solutions to improve the efficacy and well-being of animal models.  Current projects include 1) the impacts of behavioral management on coping, physiology and well-being of primates, and 2) development of predictive biomarkers and regenerative medicine in primates-to reverse metabolic disease, induce immune tolerance, and replace damaged cells through xenotransplantation.  

Interested students should apply to MS or PhD program and review admission criteria. Encouraged to indicate interest in the project in personal statement.

Additional questions, contact the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Office of Graduate Programs

Learn more about Comparative and Molecular Biosciences or Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Veterinary Public Health Scientist Training

The Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) is the veterinary public health (VPH) service unit of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. We are seeking a candidate for a combined PhD/VPH residency program. The focus of research for the PhD will be a problem of VPH importance.  After completing the preliminary PhD examination and while working on the final chapters of the dissertation, the student would initiate a 2-year VPH residency program that will help them gain field experience and leadership skills in Public Health. Candidates for this position are required to hold DVM and MPH degrees.  

To learn more, contact Dr. Andres Perez

Learn more about the Veterinary Medicine, PhD program and apply today.

Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

My position as a clinical-scientist is to recognize “gaps” in our understanding in both basic science and clinical arenas. I employ a “bedside to bench, back to bed” approach in my work. My work is unified by the study of the biology surrounding the hematopoietic system following hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT). Each area that I focus on has both a clinical and laboratory component: brain engraftment, graft failure after HCT, stem cell homing, the biology & biomarkers of metabolic storage disease including mucopolysaccharidosis type-IH, and Adrenoleukodystrophy. In engraftment studies, I try to understand how the microenvironment influences recruitment of hematopoietic stem cells to the marrow. In rare metabolic diseases (MPS-1H, Hunter Syndrome ALD, MLD, etc) I try to improve HCT for the treatment of these diseases. I also try to develop biomarkers associated with disease that can predict outcomes. Finally, my lab studies how oxidative stress affects the above disease conditions and specifically trying to understand how oxidative stress changes the function of the hematopoietic system. 

To learn more, contact Dr. Troy Lund

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences or Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Purposeful Genetic Mutation in Viral and Tumor Immunity

The Harris Lab uses a large repertoire of model systems and experimental approaches to understand how DNA mutating enzymes (APOBECs) provide immunity against viral infections and, in many cases, also catalyze genomic DNA mutagenesis and contribute to tumor evolution. We often leverage molecular and comparative biology approaches to solve problems and are particularly interested in developing novel murine models for studying mutagenesis and tumorigenesis by human APOBEC enzymes (ex. Law et al., 2020, Journal of Experimental Medicine). Comparative biology and/or veterinary medicine students would be exceptionally good fits for this exciting and rapidly expanding project. 

To learn more, contact Dr. Reuben Harris 

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences or Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Pediatric Cancers: Osteosarcomas and Neuroblastomas

The Largaespada lab is seeking graduate students interested in the molecular drivers of osteosarcoma metastasis and chemoresistance in the lung metastatic niche, the role of hyaluronic acid in cancer drug responses, and the role of a novel oncogene called FOXR2 in pediatric neuroblastoma.  

To learn more, contact Dr. David Largaespada

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences program and apply today.

NIH Training Grant in NeuroImmune Pharmacology

This training grant supports students studying aspects of behavior, neurobiology, and immunology, particularly as it relates to infection and drug addiction. 

Requirements: US citizenship or permanent residency. 

Please visit the PharmacoNeuroImmunology Program website for more information.

To learn more, contact Yorie Smart

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences or Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Improving dairy cattle animal welfare by addressing lesion-related lameness using a combination of novel technology, epidemiological, genomic, and extension approaches.

The Cramer Hoof Health Lab currently has 3 projects ongoing that require a student(s) who is or wants to become passionate about lameness and using the latest technological and epidemiological tools to reduce the impact lameness has in the industry. 

The projects include the following:

  1. One project is a randomized clinical trial that uses an autonomous camera for lameness detection. 

  2. The second project consists of evaluating a footbath product for regulatory purposes using a non-inferiority study design. 

  3. The final project will attempt to develop a data collection framework using hoof health records to determine genomic indices for hoof health and answer research questions using a target trail framework. 

Please visit the Dairy Know website for more information

To learn more, contact Dr. Gerard Cramer

Learn more about the Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Using qualitative tools to understand stakeholder perspectives on animal welfare issues

Drs. Knauer and Cramer are looking for a grad student with an interest in using qualitative methods to understand stakeholder perspectives and needs for dairy cattle welfare. Through both labs, there are several projects that will use qualitative methods to gain a deeper understanding of stakeholders' thoughts and needs. The calf project will focus on understanding producer and veterinarian attitudes, perceptions, and experiences with socially housed dairy calves. The project will include a mixed-methods survey of bovine veterinarians, and producer/calf manager focus groups.  For the lameness project, the qualitative approach is part of a larger project that is attempting to address lesion-related lameness lesions using a combination of epidemiological, genomic, and extension approaches. The qualitative aspect of the project will evaluate both the initial training needs and project-provided resources of hoof trimmers, veterinarians, and farm personnel. 

To learn more, contact Dr. Knauer or Dr. Gerard Cramer 

Learn more about the Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Comparative Genomics PhD

The Equine Genetics and Genomics Laboratory is seeking applicants interested in working on a research project investigating cardiac arrhythmias in racehorses, mentored by Drs. Sian Akhurst and Molly McCue. Our goal is to reduce the rate of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in equine and human athletes by developing methods to identity individuals at increased risk of SCD using the horse as a translational model. During this project we will perform ECGs before, during, and after exercise, and echocardiography on Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses. We will then determine if: 1) resting ECGs can be used to identify horses that develop arrhythmias at exercise; and 2) putative arrhythmia-causing variants are associated with horses that have arrhythmias and/or develop SCD.

Please review the PhD in Comparative Genomics project description for additional information.

To learn more, contact Dr. Sian Akhurst

Learn more about the Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

Drug Discovery for Protozoan Parasites

Our lab is focused on identifying new compounds effective against the protozoan parasites Cryptosporidium and Toxoplasma.  We look for new compounds in marine natural products.  Potential projects would include screening natural product libraries for new compounds, mechanism of action studies, characterization of compound's anti-parasitic activity.

To learn more, contact Dr. Rob O'Connor.

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences program and apply today.

Foreign Animal Disease Epidemiology

The Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) is offering three fully-funded positions for PhD students interested in developing their thesis projects on foreign animal disease epidemiology. The project may include opportunities for international travel to collect data in Africa and / or South East Asia and to present research results at international conferences. 

Requirements: US National

To learn more, read the complete project description and contact Dr. Andres Perez

Learn more about the Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.

HIV Immunopathogenesis 

We are looking for individuals to join us in our efforts to cure HIV. We are focused on understanding HIV immunopathogenesis and developing a cure. We found that HIV-specific cytotoxic lymphocytes, whose job it is to track down and kill virally infected cells, are largely excluded from lymphoid B cell follicles where HIV producing cells are most concentrated.  This suggests that B cell follicles are somewhat of an immune privileged site that allows ongoing viral replication. We are working now to develop a cellular immunotherapy to target HIV-specific CTL to B cell follicles to allow an HIV infected individual's own immune system to control HIV replication in the absence of antiretroviral drugs.  

To learn more, contact Dr. Pamela Skinner.

Learn more about the Comparative and Molecular Biosciences or Veterinary Medicine program and apply today.