Although Virginia Tech’s annual Graduate Education Week and attendant awards dinner were canceled on the heels of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Graduate School has recognized the university’s master’s and Ph.D. students, along with faculty mentors, with awards of excellence. While the students were nominated for the awards by Virginia Tech’s eight colleges, faculty mentors were nominated by graduate students and faculty across the university.

Two VA-MD Vet Med graduate students and a faculty member were among those receiving recognition for outstanding service, teaching, research, academic performance, and mentoring.

“I extend congratulations to all the awards recipients,” said Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw. “I’m pleased that you were acknowledged for your significant accomplishments and contributions. … Be assured that we are planning a celebratory initiative in the near future.”

Outstanding Doctoral Degree Student

Bruno Menarim (Ph.D. ’19)

Ph.D. student Bruno Menarim with Linda Dahlgren, professor of large animal surgery
Bruno Menarim and Linda Dahlgren, professor of large animal surgery in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, who served as Manarim's major advisor and chair of his examination graduate committee

After graduating with a doctor of veterinary medicine in 2004 from Midwestern State University in Parana, Brazil, Bruno Menarim completed a residency in large animal surgery and earned an M.S. in radiology at Sao Paulo State University. Before arriving at VA-MD Vet Med and joining the Comparative Musculoskeletal Research Lab, Menarim worked in private practice in equine sports medicine and held assistant and associate professor positions in equine surgery at Universidad Austral de Chile.

“My education and training spans a variety of biomedical fields, including veterinary clinical sciences, large animal surgery, equine sports medicine, and translational biomedical research, with emphasis on the immunological aspects of inflammation and inflammation-resolution involved in tissue repair and degeneration of joints and tendons,” explained Menarim, whose research has been published in numerous journals. He has been first author on four publications.

Menarim currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the Musculoskeletal Research Laboratory at Gluck Equine Research Center in Lexington, Kentucky, where he studies the role of macrophages in joint inflammation and inflammation resolution and how fetal progenitor cells may be used to repair osteochondral defects. Menarim is also working on several studies on the mechanisms leading to early diagnosis of musculoskeletal injuries in racehorses. He hopes to work in academia, remaining in Lexington due to its ties to the horse racing industry.

Outstanding Master’s Degree Student

Giulio Menciotti (Ph.D. ’17, M.S. ’20)

Ph.D. students Paula Camacho-Sierra and Giulio Menciotti with Professor of Cardiology Michele Borgarelli
Giulio Menciotti (center) with fellow Ph.D. student Paula Camacho-Sierra and their advisor, Michele Borgarelli, professor of cardiology in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Soon after earning a DVM in 2012 from Padua University in Italy, Guilio Menciotti moved to Virginia to begin a Ph.D. in biomedical and veterinary sciences at the veterinary college, where he worked with Michele Borgarelli in the Comparative Cardiovascular Laboratory.

Upon completion of the doctoral program, Menciotti entered entering a residency in cardiology at the veterinary college and began the master’s program. Menciotti’s research examines canine mitral valve disease, focusing on valvular morphologic analysis by way of cutting-edge, non-invasive diagnostic imaging through three-dimensional echocardiography and the role of molecular signaling pathways.

Menciotti’s work has been published widely, and his manuscripts have been published in several peer-reviewed international journals. In addition, he has presented research abstracts at international conferences and earned a second-place prize in Young Investigator Research Communication at the European College of Veterinary Cardiology Internal Medicine Congress in 2016. His publication received won the European Society of Veterinary Cardiology’s Young Investigator Award for Original Study in 2017.

In the fall, Menciotti will join the veterinary college’s faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

» Interesting fact: Menciotti graduated from A. Pedrollo Conservatory in Vicenza, Italy, with a bachelor of music.

Outstanding Faculty Mentor

Irving Coy Allen

Irving Coy Allen,  associate professor of inflammatory disease
Irving Coy Allen, associate professor of inflammatory disease in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, in his lab

When asked about the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, Coy Allen is quick to turn the spotlight back on his mentees: “I think this award is less about me and more about the students whom I have had the opportunity to mentor.”

Students working with Allen have received recognition at the college and national levels for their research, and scores of graduate and undergraduate mentees have gone on to achieve in their field. A one-size-fits-all approach to mentoring doesn’t work, Allen says. Instead, the key is learning each student’s goals and motivators and tailoring mentorship to the individual.

“By far, the most rewarding part of being a mentor are the moments when students rush into my office to discuss some awesome results or to tell me about how they solved an experimental model,” Allen said. “Seeing my students succeed both in science and in life makes me proud to serve as a mentor.”

On the other hand, students are given a critical opportunity for growth when their experiments fail. “I try to always challenge my mentees and encourage them to work hard, set high standards, embrace innovative ideas, and most importantly, be persistent in reaching difficult goals.”

Students in Allen’s lab receive more than research guidance: They are supported and encouraged. “They are at a time in their lives when they are getting married, having children, buying their first home, and starting their first real careers,” Allen said. “I have always tried to support my students as they navigate these events and to create an environment that instills them with the confidence they need to succeed.”

Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium award winners

Research presentations by the following VA-MD Vet Med graduate students were recognized with awards at the 36th Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium: Innovation and Creativity in Research (PDF).

15-Minute Research Oral Presentations

CATEGORY: Myths and Mysteries Unraveled

  • Sarah Kuchinsky, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences
    2nd place, “Assessing susceptibility to Usutu virus in avian models”
  • Holly Morrison, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Mentor: Coy Allen
    3rd place, “Redness, swelling, and heat, oh my! — Inflammation Results in Cancer Development”

CATEGORY: Small Structure with a Big Impact

  • Allison Cash, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Mentor: Michelle Theus
    1st place, “Insights into a novel regulator of blood brain barrier dysfunction following traumatic brain injury”

Flash Talk Presentations

CATEGORY: Eye-opening Societal Interventions

  • Margaret Nagai-Singer, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Mentor: Coy Allen
    2nd place, “Mitochondria: The roadmap to understanding NLRX1 as a tumor suppressor”

Poster Presentations

CATEGORY: Myths and Mysteries Unraveled

  • Allie Marie Kaloss, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences, Mentor: Michelle Theus
    1st place, “Improving blood flow through EphA4 inhibition as a novel stroke therapy”
  • Hanna Kiryluk, undergradate in Animal and Poultry Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; animal care technician in TRACSS (Teaching and Research Animal Care Support Service)
    3rd place, “Brucella abortus is recognized by the negative regulator NLRX1 of the innate immune system”

CATEGORY: New Educational Viewpoints

  • Lauren Buttling, Population Health Sciences
    2nd place, “Maternal residential proximity to Central Appalachian surface mining and adverse birth outcomes”

» Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences students Danielle Lewis, Holly Morrison, and Emily Webb served as Graduate Student Assembly reviewers for both the Graduate Research Development Program and the GSA Research Symposium.