Department of Comparative Medicine introduces new master’s program

Sept. 20, 2015, 11:29 p.m.

In conjunction with celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Department of Comparative Medicine will begin accepting applicants for its new master’s program in laboratory animal science this fall. Those accepted into either the master’s or coterminal program can start the program as early as winter quarter.

Co-directed by associate professor of comparative medicine Corinna Darian-Smith and professor of comparative medicine Sherrill Green, who is also the department’s chair, the program will focus on translational research using animal models of human and animal diseases. The coterm is one of the first master’s degrees to be offered by the Stanford Medical School and is the department’s first degree-granting program.

“There aren’t very many [master’s programs] across the nation that are at a medical school and based at an academic department where we have very many veterinary and non-veterinary faculty studying animal models,” Green said. “That’s a very unique fit.”

The department first developed a strategic plan to build coursework to support the program five years ago. According to Green, the department also took this time to “cultivate relationships with Stanford students.”

The department surveyed students who took freshmen or sophomore seminars in comparative medicine and reached out to students who previously worked in its labs. Many students expressed interest in research and felt the program would help them as future medical school or veterinary school applicants.

Maggie McCann, a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and a medical school hopeful, is one of the first students to be accepted into the master’s program. She became acquainted with the program after doing cancer research with the department this past summer.

“Participating in the program will give me a solid foundation in research with the advantage of being mentored by top-flight research scientists,” McCann said.

“I almost feel that this master’s program was created specifically for me,” she added.  

Green said that the coursework will likely be minimal for most coterminal students, though students may be advised or compelled to take additional courses in areas such as genetics or biostatics to develop core skills as they move through the program. Students will spend the majority of their time doing research and attending lab meetings and journal clubs.

Journal clubs are weekly departmental open discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of the latest academic papers. Green said that the meetings teach students to look at methodology, experimental design and the generation of conclusions.

“It’s a strong way to teach people to really critically evaluate the published literature,” Green said.

Additionally, students have the option of doing research rotations with various labs to experience an array of lab cultures and to learn about their goals before narrowing down their research interests.

“We try to make [the program] flexible,” Green said. “We want to tailor it to what the students wants to get out of it for their future careers and their future studies.”


Contact Alexandra Nguyen-Phuc at nguyenphuc ‘at’

Alexandra Nguyen-Phuc ‘18 is a news deputy desk editor and former staff writer. A freshman from Los Angeles, California, she wants to learn more about urban studies, economics and food system sustainability in her time at Stanford. Contact her at nguyenphuc ‘at’

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