Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program


Veterinarian Scientists

Program Details

The Graduate Training Program in Comparative Medicine for Veterinary Scientists is an NIH-supported Institutional Training Grant (T32OD011000) provided To Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine by the Office of the Director. The Program provides training support to eligible DVMs seeking a PhD degree

Program Structure
Research: Trainees enrolled in the Comparative Medicine Training Program are expected to earn the PhD degree. A PhD requires original research. The average length of time to degree for our trainees is 4.2 years. Scholars typically take their Admission to Candidacy ("A") Examination before the first anniversary of their enrollment. Successful completion of the A Exam is required for continued enrollment in the Scientist/Scholars Program. A final ("B") examination is scheduled at the conclusion of the student's period of graduate study.

Maintaining Professional Skills: For those trainees who plan a career that will incorporate clinical work, it may be important to maintain their professional skills during their graduate studies. To accommodate such individuals, the program can allow scholars to spend up to 10% of their time (2-3 days per month) in clinical practice or professional development activities. Prior approval for such activities must be obtained from the Program Director and the faculty trainer/mentor.

Career planning and the Cornell BEST Program
: All trainees are strongly encouraged to enroll in the Cornell BEST (Broadening Experience in Scientific Training) Program ( and to develop a career plan early in their graduate training. The BEST program provides many resources that are applicable to careers within and outside of academia.

Program course work requirements:
Contemporary biomedical research requires a broad base of knowledge and skills that are best acquired through formal coursework. It is essential that Program scholars have graduate-level knowledge in the areas of biochemistry, genetics, cell and molecular biology, experimental. Because of this trainees appointed to the T32 are required to complete BIOAP 6100, a graduate level course in experimental design, and two core graduate level core courses for letter grade in the areas of biochemistry, genetics, or cell and molecular biology (see table below). This formal course work must be completed before the first anniversary of their enrollment. This requirement in some cases may be partially or completely fulfilled prior to appointment. Trainees should discuss their course selections with their faculty advisor, graduate training committee, and the training director. Waivers for prior course work must be agreed upon by the Program Director. Additional coursework information can be found here

Program Expectations of Trainees
We expect trainees on the Comparative Medicine training grant to:

  • Participate in laboratory meetings and journal clubs
  • Participate in the bimonthly career discussions for DVMs and combined-degree students.
  • Present at Work-in-progress seminars once per year
  • Present your work in posters and as talks at National meetings
  • Publish! This might seem obvious, but it is very important that you publish your work.
  • Network with other scientists and know your fellow trainees.
  • Join the Scientific Society for your field.
  • Be ethical
  • Get involved in your community
  • Enjoy!

Preparation of a research proposal: All supported scholars are required to prepare a fellowship application for submission to an external sponsor by the first anniversary of their enrollment. Trainees should consult with the Program Director and their Faculty mentor at least 6 months prior to the due date of their fellowship application to discuss a suitable external sponsor mechanism. Fellowship awards available to veterinarians include Ruth Kirchstein Individual National Research Service Awards (NRSA), Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Awards (K08), American Heart Association Fellowships and others.
An advantage of writing a research proposal is that it will help focus your thinking about your research. During the process of preparing a proposal will have to: 1) critically evaluate existing knowledge related to your thesis research; 2) develop hypotheses; and 3) design experiments to test your hypotheses in a logical and connected way. You will need guidance writing your first proposal and scholars are strongly advised to seek advice from their mentor. Trainees should consult with the Program Director about their proposal during the first 6 months of support, as it will take some time to formulate a successful proposal.

Individual Development plan (IDP): All trainees must prepare an individual development plan each year and review this plan with their Faculty mentor and Graduate committee. This document should be submitted to the Program Director by February 1st annually.

Satisfactory Academic Performance: For continued support on the training grant, trainees must maintain a B average grade in their coursework and show satisfactory progress in their thesis research.

Trainee Outcomes 
What happens to our trainees? Data for 26 trainees who were appointed during the years 2004 to 2013 is available.
Average # of papers published as part of the PhD studies:     5.7
Average # first author papers: 3

Current positions of these 26 trainees:

Current Position



Academia 8 30.8%
Government 3 11.5%
Clinical practice/residency 5 19.2%
Post-doctoral training 10 38.5%

Of those trainees who are no longer in formal training programs, ~ 50% are in academic tenure-track or clinical track professorships at academic institutions.

Progress Monitoring
Annual Assessments: The primary responsibility for monitoring the progress of each trainee falls to the individual’s faculty mentor and his or her Individual Training Committee. However, the Comparative Medicine Program Executive Committee also provides feedback to trainees on their progress. Trainees are expected to provide a written report of their training activities, progress and future goals each February. These written reports serve as a tangible record of progress and are required for NIH reporting purposes. The Executive Committee will also meet individually with trainees to discuss progress, any problems, and career plans.

Annual completion of an Individual Development Plan (IDP): As part of their annual evaluation, all trainees must complete an IDP. The trainee and mentor (trainer) use this document as the basis for discussions of career goals and progress towards those goals. In addition, career goals are discussed when the trainee meets with the Executive Committee each year.

Conditions of Appointment
The scholarship funds for The Graduate Program for Veterinary Scientists are provided by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH requires that the research conducted by the trainee must address the NIH mission and goals (  All of the approved faculty trainers have NIH-funded research projects that will meet this requirement.

Trainees appointed to an NIH T32 fellowship are required to sign a Payback agreement ( that indicates that you will perform qualified research or teaching activities for a length of time equal to the period of NRSA support you received. Receiving 12 months of training support obligates you to perform 12 months of qualified research or teaching activities as payback. Only the first year of training incurs a payback obligation; the second year of training pays back the first year, with each month of qualifying payback activity paying back one month of NRSA support. If you receive two full years of T32 training, you will have completed your payback obligation. In general, payback activity must involve at least 20 hours per week and be conducted over 12 consecutive months.