A U.S. Department of Homeland Security Program is bringing select visitors to the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, or CEEZAD, at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The center, which enhances the capability of the Department of Homeland Security in developing advanced countermeasures for high priority emerging and zoonotic animal diseases, is taking part in the department’s Summer Research Team Program for Federal Service Academies. The program provides faculty and students from military academies a chance to build research collaborations.
Lt. Col. Craig Narasaki and Cadet John Rosenberg of the U.S. Air Force Academy recently spent four and a half weeks at the center, becoming familiar with its vaccine and diagnostic research programs.
“I was initially attracted to Kansas State University because of the cutting edge research,” Narasaki said. “And it was very clear that Kansas State University had a great research program that was consistent with my background in academia. When I reached out to the director of CEEZAD, he was very receptive to us coming and have been great hosts.”
As part of the visit, Rosenberg was immersed in a project on cloning and expression of antigens of African swine fever virus for potential vaccine candidates in the lab of Jürgen Richt, center director. It was Rosenberg’s first experience with laboratory research.
“We’ve got labs at the academy, but they’re more for teaching - so not too much research like this going on,” Rosenberg said. “The one thing I’d say the academy does well is prepare you to just be flexible and just kind of accept what’s going on. So the first day I came here, I had a few background papers to read on what was going on, so I read those and then went into the lab. I was, ‘All right, let’s figure out what we’ve got to do here’ to kind of get a loose understanding of what I read, but it’s almost learning as you go.”
The summer research program is expected to lay the foundation for future partnerships between the Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s department of biology.
“I think the most important takeaway for me for this program will be the people that I’ve met and the things, the experiences, we’ve had,” Narasaki said. “I think in order to get things done in today’s time, it comes through agencies working together and I think gone are the days where we try to solve problems in a vacuum. So the greatest takeaway is my experience learning who the people are in CEEZAD and what their mission is. I’m hopeful I can reciprocate that. Now the members of CEEZAD know something, a little more about the Air Force and the Air Force Academy. We hope to take what we learned in the laboratory and make it into a capstone course for our cadets and continue to do research and continue to collaborate with the Richt lab.”