Published: 06 March 2014

Veterinary Biosciences internship – Anna Dent

The top four first year students on our Veterinary Biosciences degree have the opportunity to take a funded overseas internship in either America or Brazil. Anna Dent spent 10 weeks at North Carolina State University.

Veterinary Biosciences student Anna Dent describes her summer research internship at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in America. She was joined on the trip by fellow Veterinary Biosciences student Jess Powell.

"During my scholarship I carried out research in Dr. Sid Thakur's lab, which focuses on studying the molecular epidemiology of bacteria that are resistant to multiple drugs, specifically with regard to the bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter.

I worked on two main projects. The first was a soil study looking at the transmission of antibiotics from food producing animals to the environment soil. The two drugs we were looking at were chlortetracycline and tylosin.

I spent the majority of my time perfecting the method that would be used to test the soil. To do this, we acquired clean soil and added the drugs artificially. We then ran the samples through a mass spectrometer. This allowed us to calibrate the mass spectrometer so it would be able to identify the drugs.

After this, we tested soil samples from five different pig farms. Samples were collected before and after animal waste was applied, and then 7 and 14 days after application. In my last week at NCSU we were able to start processing the real field samples.

The second project I worked on involved testing the samples for the presence of pathogens, antimicrobial susceptibility and genotypic fingerprint of Salmonella and Campylobacter. In this study, I carried out the antimicrobial susceptibility testing, which allowed us to see the types of antibiotics the bacteria were resistant to and the ones they were sensitive to. The results showed that the main antibiotics the Salmonella was resistant to were tetracycline, ampicillin, streptomysin, while Campylobacter was resistant to the antibiotics ampicillin and ciprofloxacin.

The next process that was carried out was the purification of the DNA from both the Salmonella and Campylobacter. This procedure was called Quiagen and was completed using the DNeasy blood and tissue kit. Once the DNA had been purified it could then be used to carry out the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). The purpose of the PCR was to aid in the detection of different antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes.  

The final process I carried out was pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), which is used in order to separate large DNA molecules.

During our time in North Carolina, Jess and I had our weekends off so we spent this time exploring as much of the state as we could. On our first and second-to-last weekends we went to the Crab Tree Valley Mall and to Walmart, which was an experience as it is absolutely massive and seems to sell just about everything. We went to a baseball game to see the Carolina Mudcats play, got the greyhound bus to New York for a long weekend and spent a day in Washington, D.C. where we went on a Segway tour of the city.

We also spent a weekend in Charlotte, where we went to the theme park Carowinds and to the National White Water Rafting Centre.

I had such an amazing time during the ten weeks I spent in North Carolina. It was such a valuable and worthwhile experience. In the lab I learnt so many new scientific skills, which I know will be really helpful now I am going into my second year at university. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to explore part of a different country."

Find out more about Veterinary Biosciences at Surrey and read the blog from Veterinary Biosciences student Jess Powell.

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