Projects Seeking PhD & MS Applicants

Below are some of the available research opportunities for PhD and MS applicants. Please email the listed contact person for more information.


Comparative Medicine and Pathology

We are accepting applications from veterinarians seeking state-of-the-art research training in an NIH comparative medicine and pathology training program. Our goal is to 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. Applicants must be US citizens and graduates of an accredited veterinary school. Contact the T32 Directors, Dr. Cathy Carlson (carls099@umn.edu) or Dr. Molly McCue (mccu0173@umn.edu).

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. Contact Dr. Kristin Hogquist hogqu001@umn.edu.

Zika Virus Ecology

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne agent that causes mild illness in adults but has catastrophic impacts on the developing fetus.  The Aliota lab seeks a PhD student interested in arbovirus evolution, transmission, and pathogenesis. Potential dissertation topics include (a) the molecular evolution of Zika virus during transmission, (b) antiviral signaling at the maternal-fetal interface, or (c) immune responses to arthropod blood feeding. Contact Dr. Matt Aliota (mtaliota@umn.edu) for more information.

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.  US nationals with a DVM degree will be highly preferred as international travel for meetings and research will be expected. Contact Dr. Andres Perez (aperez@umn.edu) for more information.

Ecology of PRRS Virus Transmission

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is the most economically-costly disease of pigs in the U.S.  We seek a PhD student interested in the epidemiology of swine diseases, viral evolution, and transmission to work on a NSF/USDA funded project (https://vetmed.umn.edu/news/new-3-million-grant-helps-researchers-tackle-porcine-reproductive-and-respiratory-syndrome-virus).  The research will involve on-farm sampling of outbreaks, data analysis, collaboration with the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project, and some international travel.  Candidates with a DVM or familiarity with swine production are encouraged to apply.  Contact Dr. Kim VanderWaal (kvw@umn.edu) or Dr. Cesar Corzo (corzo@umn.edu)  for more information.

Graft versus Host Disease

Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a multi-organ system disorder in which donor T cells recognize host alloantigens present on antigen-presenting cells and tissues in the context of an inflammatory response.  We are using a newly developed model of chronic GVHD that results from T-follicular helper/germinal center B cell cooperativity, leading to alloantibody and subsequently, collagen deposition, culminating in multi-organ system injury and pulmonary and liver fibrosis. Studies include targeted approaches that affect T-follicular helper or regulatory cells, germinal center B cells, and anti-fibrogenic directed therapies to treat established chronic GVHD.  A PhD trainee is preferred.  For more information, contact Dr. Bruce Blazar at blaza001@umn.edu.  

Comparative Oncology of Human and Canine Sarcomas

Our research focuses on understanding fundamental oncogenic mechanisms of human and canine aggressive sarcomas such osteosarcoma and angiosarcoma.  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.  Our comparative transcriptomic analyses demonstrate that there are molecular traits that regulate shared pathogenic pathways between human angiosarcoma and canine hemangiosarcoma.  Our goal is to determine molecular mechanisms of how they create a niche that contribute to the development of osteosarcoma and angiosarcoma, and this will provide insights into the pathogenesis of these sarcomas.  Contact Dr. Jong Hyuk Kim (jhkim@umn.edu) for more information.