New AGcelerate program provides CANR freshmen with support

April 10, 2014 under CANR News

UD's new AGcelerate program sets students on the path to successLast fall, University of Delaware faculty members Erin Brannick and Tanya Gressley welcomed the inaugural 30-member class to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) AGcelerate Program.

Funded through the President’s Diversity Initiative, the AGcelerate program is designed to foster a sense of community, to prepare students for academic success by giving them peer and faculty mentors, and to help them make important contacts in the real world to secure internships and promote career development.

“We just opened it up to freshmen this year and we have about 30 freshmen enrolled. We paired them all with peer mentors, so we have 22 peer mentors that are a part of it, also,” said Gressley, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Brannick, assistant professor in the department, added that the program is “tailored for individual support. We have students that may want to be a part of this program for the tutoring that’s offered here on South Campus.”

Brannick added that group tutoring sessions are held once a week on Tuesdays, from 5-7 p.m. in 049 Townsend Hall.

In addition to tutoring, the students also get mentoring from peers and can request a faculty mentor, in addition to their regular faculty member adviser.

Brannick explained that the peer mentoring is more focused on having the freshmen learn the ropes of the University, while the faculty mentors help give the students career attention and career planning advice.

The program also brings resources directly to the students. For instance, Joyce Henderson, assistant director at the University’s Career Services Center, spoke to program members about opportunities available to them.

“We do a weekly discussion thread through our campus site that usually relates to either campus resources or to how students learn and study, giving tips and advice about any detailed support that they can share with each other,” said Brannick. She added that the group also has weekly prize giveaways, such as gift cards to bookstores or restaurants on Main Street, to encourage the students to contribute to the discussions.

In addition, Brannick said many of the students enjoy the fact that the group is close-knit. “The students have indicated that another major factor for them is just the friendships and that idea of camaraderie in the group and feeling like they have other people to go to when they need help, or knowing who to approach when they’re looking for assistance beyond what they can find on their own,” said Brannick.

The group also participates in off-campus excursions, such as going to Milburn Orchards in the fall, and in service learning activities, such as planting beach grass at the Delaware shore.

Gressley said the hope is that students who are taking the program as freshmen will come back and serve as peer mentors for the next group as they continue their college careers.

There are also funds allocated to “support travel to conferences and internships and in the future we hope to kind of team up a little bit to help get them internships in their fields,” said Gressley. “This year is predominantly about academic success but then as they mature, we want to get them to hit the ground running. Once they’re running, we’ll focus more on leadership skills and career building.”

Brannick added that the program is designed to “support students as they develop so it’s everything from hitting the ground running and finding everything that you need around campus to being successful and to wanting to stay at UD and at our college. And there is that next phase about how to develop themselves while they’re here to become leaders.”

The AGcelerate program is teaming up with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) to host two booths at Ag Day on April 26 and they will host a MANRRS reunion panel on May 2 in the Townsend Hall commons from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with a panel discussion from 11 a.m.-noon and lunch from noon-1 p.m.

AGcelerate has open enrollment and is open to CANR students in all fields of study.

Those interested in applying for the AGcelerate program should email the group at

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


New RSO takes on UD’s global initiative

August 6, 2013 under CANR News

UD's VIDA takes trip to Central AmericaAs the winter holidays were winding down and most students were taking their well-needed winter break, six University of Delaware students opted for an alternative to their vacation. The students were members of UD’s chapter of Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA), a new Registered Student Organization (RSO) on campus. The club was founded by Jessica Applebaum, a senior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major, and it stands to promote education for general health care problems abroad.

The national non-profit organization VIDA, from which the club adopts its mission, leads trips to Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The service learning charity is dedicated to its mission of helping underprivileged citizens of Latin America with medical, dental and veterinary services, and divides members on the trips into teams in those three areas.

VIDA encourages the combining and exchanging of ideas across the different health professions, allowing students to broaden their perspectives within their own discipline. This growing ideology is one factor contributing to the increased competitiveness of pre-health professional schooling.

Members of UD’s VIDA teamed with the non-profit to travel from January 3-15 to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, where they worked in medical and veterinary clinics getting hands-on experience.

UD had representatives traveling on both the medical and veterinary teams, and when they weren’t touring the beautiful country sides, volcanoes and rain forests, they were working in free mobile medical and veterinary clinics supervised by both doctors and veterinarians.

Within six days, the medical team performed general consults and ran a free pharmacy for a total of 365 patients. The veterinary team performed general consults, administered vaccinations, and spayed and neutered a total of 203 animals including cats, dogs and rabbits.

“The experience has been incredibly valuable and has really opened my eyes to issues in the health care system abroad, especially in Nicaragua which is the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere,” said Applebaum. “And the people there were so great. Our host family cried when we left and we were only with them for four days.” She also expressed how grateful the people were for the donations they received, recalling one mother standing in line for the clinic crying as she was handed some clothes.

Donation drive

To prepare for the trip, the club hosted two donation drives, one before they left and another after their return from Latin America. The drives received everything from hygiene products and toys to clothes, dog collars, and school supplies.

All the donations were shipped to Nicaragua by the non-profit and distributed this June to a preschool located in one of the charity’s adopted communities in Masaya. The more recent spring donation drive also went on to receive national recognition by the parent organization, who published an article about it this past July–an impressive feat for the first year RSO.

UD's VIDA takes trip to Central AmericaAnother donation drive is said to be in the planning for next November, and the RSO hopes to get the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the wider UD community aware and involved.

The club is also hoping to have a spot at activities night, a night where UD students have the opportunity to find extra and co-curricular activities, to promote themselves and to reach out to students who might be interested in taking advantage of trips offered through the founder charity.

“You don’t have to be in the club to go on the trips, and you don’t have to go on a trip to be in the club. Either is a great opportunity and our RSO is simply an avenue to connect you to resources and experiences like these,” said Applebaum, who is also trying to get more local volunteer opportunities for club members.

Erin Brannick, a veterinary pathologist and assistant professor at CANR, eagerly jumped on board as the RSO’s advisor after hearing of the organization’s mission at an American Veterinary Medical Association conference.

Brannick said it was important for her to try to seek out opportunities that will change medical outlooks and benefit her students throughout their careers. “The students that seek out these kinds of immersive experiences end up being more well-rounded candidates for health-based professional schools, being able to offer a unique perspective that incorporates varying socio-cultural and economic outlooks to their respective field.” Some of the students, she said, have seen diseases she has only ever read about in textbooks.

Applebaum said, “I received clinical experience I could have never imagined on this trip. When I—hopefully–become a Vet, I’d like to do stuff like this–travelling abroad to help underprivileged people care for their pets.”

Aside from the veterinary exposure, she also got to put her Spanish minor to use by translating for some of the local pet owners who came to the clinics.

Emily Fritz, a member of the RSO who also traveled with the non-profit and who plans on applying to veterinary school, said “I think these trips are great alternative breaks for students applying to medical, dental, or veterinary professional schools, as well as for those students that want to gain a more global perspective on healthcare. It’s definitely made me a stronger applicant.”

Students interested in joining VIDA, attending a trip through the parent organization, or donating to the next drive are asked to e-mail Applebaum or visit “VIDA at UD” on Facebook.

Students interested pursuing health-based professional careers are asked to contact Dave Barlow or visit the Center for Premedical and Health Profession Studies website.

Article by Angela Carcione


CANR students learn about veterinary career opportunities

November 2, 2012 under CANR News

15 University of Delaware students studying in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) recently took a trip to Johns Hopkins University to hear Mark Pokras, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Population and Health and at the Wildlife Clinic & Center for Conservation Medicine at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, speak about opportunities available to them in the veterinary science field.

Erin Brannick, assistant professor in ANFS, director of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Comparative Pathology Laboratory and a veterinary pathologist, went on the trip with the students and said that Pokras, “Offered invaluable insight into the wide array of career options open to veterinarians. More importantly, the speaker emphasized the flexibility of a career in veterinary medicine, indicating how important it is for students to be open to changes in career aspirations and paths which can be shaped and reshaped by the students’ pre-veterinary and veterinary experiences.”

Laura Nemec, the laboratory coordinator in ANFS, who also went on the trip said that it was great for the students to learn about all the opportunities afforded to those with veterinary degrees and to see that there are more options out there than just the three most common veterinary practices: small animal practice, large animal practice and food animal practice.

“There is wildlife conservation, there are public health aspects, aquatic and marine aspects and regulatory aspects, it is huge what you can do with a veterinary degree,” said Nemec.

Nemec said that she was glad to see a wide range of students, from freshman up to seniors, go on the trip because it benefitted them all in different ways. “Our juniors and seniors were able to benefit from the procedural aspects of applying to veterinary schools and our freshman and sophomores were able to get a glimpse into the vast realm of veterinary medicine,” said Nemec.

Nemec added that it was great for the freshman, who may have come into college only looking to study small or large animals as undergraduates, to see the different opportunities afforded to them. “At the college level we are opening their minds to small, large and food animal practices, but at the vet school level they realize that these three practices are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Nemec said that Pokras also spoke to the students about funding opportunities to help them pay for vet school, application and interviewing tips, and interesting career opportunities—such as working as a veterinarian in the Army—once the students complete vet school. “Dr. Pokras was a fantastic speaker and was able to encourage and engage the students in discussions throughout the time we were there,” said Nemec.

Jesse Kovacs, a sophomore in CANR, said of the trip, “After attending Dr. Pokras’ lecture, I realized just how many options I had available to me. I had always thought of veterinary school as a way to become a small animal vet, a large animal, or an exotics vet. He demonstrated how many other jobs were out there for someone who had attended vet school.”

Ashley Tait, a sophomore in CANR, echoed these sentiments, saying that she was “amazed at how many options there were besides being a large and small animal veterinarian. Joining the military, working in public health fields, or working for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), all encompass jobs with veterinarians.” She also added that Pokras made it clear that if you do not get accepted into veterinary school right away, to keep applying yourself and to not give up. “Become more experienced and diversify yourself, until you are accepted and make your dreams come true.”

Article by Adam Thomas


High school students explore College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

October 22, 2012 under CANR News

High school students interested in studying food science, plant and soil science and poultry science at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) had a chance to take a closer look at those fields on Friday, Oct. 12, as part of the college’s Exploration Day.

The day started with a continental breakfast in the Townsend Hall Commons followed by a reception at which professors from the departments welcomed the students to the college.

Among those were Blake Meyers, the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences and chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Jack Gelb, professor and chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Meyers talked about the diverse areas of expertise in the plant and soil sciences department, with professors working in areas ranging from horticulture to landscape design to sequencing plant DNA. “It’s a remarkable department for the range of expertise that we have and we have wonderful student to faculty ratios,” said Meyers. “We have a relatively small undergraduate program, and a larger graduate program in some respects, so that really affords a lot of opportunities for one on one interactions between students and faculty and a lot of research opportunities, and of course a lot of those opportunities lead to internships and lead to jobs later on.”

Gelb spoke to the parents and students about the plethora of job opportunities available to them in the agriculture and natural resources field. “Colleges of agriculture and natural resources generally graduate 30,000 students a year across this nation but really, we need about 50,000 to 60,000,”said Gelb. “There are many job opportunities, so I think this is good news for the parents and the students alike, especially when you’re making a big commitment for that college education.”

After a presentation on admissions and scholarships by Heidi Mulherin, UD admissions counselor, the students divided into three groups — one for students interested in food science, one for plant science and one for poultry science.

The food science students got to visit the UDairy Creamery in the morning, where they tried their hand at making ice cream and participated in an ice cream taste test. In the afternoon, they had lessons on topics such as food packaging and investigating a foodborne illness outbreak.

The plant and soil science students learned about suburban landscaping with Sue Barton, associate professor of plant and soil science; toured the Fischer Greenhouse and the UD Botanic Gardens with David Frey, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; and explored a plant cell with Janine Sherrier, professor of plant and soil sciences at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

As for the poultry science students, they had a chance to tour the Allen Laboratory in the morning, and in the afternoon, they learned about avian histopathology for disease diagnosis from Erin Brannick, assistant professor of animal and food sciences and director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory, and investigated a foodborne illness outbreak with Kali Kniel, associate professor of animal and food sciences.

The three groups had lunch together in the Townsend Hall Commons before breaking off for panel discussions with current UD students and alumni from their respective areas of interest.

Latoya Watson, academic adviser at CANR, said of the event, “Exploration Day is designed to introduce high school students to some of our science-based majors in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Students participate in hands-on activities so that they can get a better understanding of their majors of interest. For example, depending on the track students choose, ‘student explorers’ may find themselves touring our Biosafety Level 3 avian research facility, performing activities that simulate a foodborne illness outbreak or even traveling inside plant cells by using some of the most high tech microscopes. These are unique experiences that we hope give them more insight into their intended fields of study.”

Patrick McDonough, a student interested in plant science who manages his own vegetable garden at his home in New Jersey, said that he was looking forward to touring the Fischer Greenhouse.

Caroline Coffee was one of the students who participated in Exploration Day, and she said that she enjoyed touring the Allen Laboratory and getting to see the chickens. “I’ve never held a chicken before and never worked with chickens,” said Coffee. “That was just a really cool experience for me.”

Coffee, who is interested in studying veterinary medicine, said that she also enjoyed learning more about virology and getting to tour the CANR facilities. “The facilities are definitely impressive and if I decided to go here and get accepted, knowing what I would have as far as the hands-on things and the opportunities for my education was really cool.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD interactive conference highlights diagnostic, research benefits of digital pathology

October 3, 2012 under CANR News

With researchers from throughout the world collaborating on projects, the need to share and analyze tissue specimens remotely in real-time is ever present. To preview technology which can help meet that need, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Comparative Pathology Laboratory hosted “Introduction to Digital Pathology” demonstrations Sept. 6-7 at the Charles C. Allen Laboratory Conference Room.

Conference participants experienced digital pathology, or ePathology, technology firsthand through live demonstrations of slide scanning quantitative image analysis and real-time conferencing on virtual slides without a microscope.

Erin Brannick, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory and a veterinary pathologist, organized the conference with representatives from Aperio, a company specializing in digital pathology slide scanners, analysis software, and data management systems.

Digital pathology systems have many applications, and Brannick explained that during the sessions, participants were able to see how one Aperio system could meet the diverse needs of researchers, diagnosticians in human and veterinary medicine, educators and industry partners.

Multiple research application sessions offered individual researchers the chance to create and analyze virtual slides of their own research specimens. The bovine hoof and rumen, marine animal eyes and fungal organisms were among the images scanned on-site for attendees by a machine that can accommodate up to 400 glass slides at a time. Participants could then observe the virtual tissues across magnifications from a whole slide view up to 40x magnification, either on the attached monitor or on one of several laptop computers in the room.

Aperio representatives also demonstrated specific features of Genie, image analysis software that can be trained to meet the individual needs of a user. Once trained, a Genie analysis template can be applied to all virtual slides in a research study simultaneously, minimizing viewer subjectivity and lengthy time requirements typical for manual slide review by an individual researcher.

On the morning of Thursday, Sept. 6, a diagnostic applications conference was held in which diagnosticians from the UD Allen and CANR Comparative Pathology laboratories on Newark campus were able to interface with veterinary diagnosticians from Delaware and Maryland at the Lasher Laboratory in Georgetown, Del., as they held their monthly diagnostic conference. The ability to connect via computer to examine the same slides remotely in real-time is a function that Brannick said could be very beneficial to both diagnosticians and researchers. “Because our groups are so spread apart, it would be nice if we were to get this system on board to be able to conference directly using virtual slides,” she said.

The groups briefly learned about the digital pathology equipment through a standard videoconference, then held a consultation on their diagnostic cases using remotely-linked computers and digital slide images that had been uploaded to Aperio’s servers in California. “I was able to share cases remotely and show participants directly what the lesions were and what I was seeing that helped me make my diagnosis,” said Brannick.

Participants at both locations could take turns analyzing disease lesions at multiple magnifications while discussing details of the case. “We could give Lasher laboratory participants control and they could drive the slide and ask questions,” she said. Despite streaming data from servers across the country, the images uploaded with minimal delay, projected crisply, and maneuvered easily, even for first-time system users.

The diagnostic applications conference was also a first for the Aperio representatives. While remote slide conferencing is a common use for the Aperio imaging system, the UD conference marked the first time the representatives were able to fully demonstrate the intuitive ease of digital conferencing before actually installing a system at a university. “The representatives tell people how to set remote conferencing up all the time but to actually get to do it too was a lot of fun for them,” said Brannick.

As for a teaching tool, Brannick brought the undergraduate and graduate students in her animal histology class in to try the Aperio system to demonstrate to other educators in attendance how beneficial it can be when an entire class can look at the exact same specimen on computer screens as opposed to a variety of samples under individual microscopes.

“If you were to use digital pathology in a lab setting, you could actually have a computer lab where everyone gets the same electronic slide set and then students pull up image after image. You can directly talk with students and guide them as a class through an image,” said Brannick. “Then you could turn control over to the students and have them drive around and show others what they’re looking at and what they see. So that’s a real strength of this system.”

Brannick is now looking to move forward, trying to bring the Aperio brightfield and/or fluorescence digital imaging system to UD on a full-time basis. “We really feel like it will greatly benefit all of these aspects for UD: the research, the teaching and the diagnostics.”

For more information about the Aperio digital pathology technology, contact Erin Brannick at 831-1342.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Comparative Pathology Laboratory to host ‘Introduction to Digital Pathology’

August 29, 2012 under CANR News

The University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Comparative Pathology Laboratory will host  “Introduction to Digital Pathology” demonstration sessions on Thursday, Sept. 6, and Friday, Sept. 7.

The sessions will be held in the conference room of the Charles C. Allen Laboratory on the UD campus in Newark.

Times and topics are as follows:

Thursday, Sept. 6

8 a.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
10 a.m., Diagnostic Applications in Digital Pathology
1 p.m., Teaching Applications in Digital Pathology
3 p.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
Friday, Sept. 7

8 a.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
1 p.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology
3 p.m., Research Applications in Digital Pathology

Digital pathology, or ePathology, is a virtual platform for analyzing and sharing tissue specimens. The technology involves scanning and recreating a digital version of glass slides allowing for viewing, quantitative analysis, and real-time conferencing on virtual slides without the need for a microscope. The slides can be viewed and shared remotely, wherever an internet connection is available.

The sessions will feature information about digital pathology given by representatives from Aperio, a company specializing in digital slide scanning systems and related image software.  Complimentary slide scanning will be offered during the demonstrations for individuals interested in viewing specific prepared slides (limit two slides per person; please bring stained slides to the demonstration).

Sessions will last approximately one hour and will have specific themes such as research, diagnostic, and teaching applications in order to provide tailored information to varied audiences at UD and regional partner institutions. All sessions are open to UD researchers, regional partners and the public.

For more information and to register, visit this website.  For questions, contact Erin Brannick.


Brannick brings Veterinary Pathology experience to CANR

November 17, 2011 under CANR News

After leaving Philadelphia in 2006 to head to Ohio State University (OSU) for veterinary school, Erin Brannick thought that she and her husband were done with the east coast. “We both decided—or we thought—that we were mid-westerners,” said Brannick. Little did she know that in five years time, she’d be back by the Atlantic, working at the University of Delaware.

Hired in September, Brannick, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the director of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Comparative Pathology Laboratory, said that she knew UD was the place for her the moment she arrived for her interview. “I love UD and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. I would say that from the moment I came for my interview, it was immediately this sense of peace and this sense of home.”

Brannick said that all of her colleagues have been wonderful and loves how open everyone is to research collaboration. She notes that she has “been really impressed with the caliber of the students as well. I’ve gotten wonderful chances to meet quite a few of the pre-veterinary students as they’ve come in to talk with me about various things. Just to hear about their experiences here and how excited they are about the University and what it has to offer has been very encouraging.”

Brannick has already met with potential students as well, serving as a recruit for the students interested in the University. After sitting in on a single recruiting session for Kimberly Yackoski, assistant dean for student services at CANR, Brannick recalls that the very next day, Yackoski asked if she could meet with a recruit as early as that Friday. Brannick joked, “ ‘Do you think I already know enough to do this?’ But it was a lot of fun. I had a great student. I remember my own undergrad recruiting sessions where you go and talk with professors and I remember the ones that really stood out to me, so I hope to provide that to students considering UD.”

Having completed her undergraduate degree at Wittenburg University, a liberal arts college in Springfield, Ohio, Brannick went on to veterinary school at OSU where she earned her veterinary degree (DVM) in 2006 and then her masters degree and ACVP-board certification in veterinary pathology in 2010.

It was near the end of her stint in OSU veterinary school that Brannick decided that she wanted to be a veterinary pathologist instead of a small animal private practitioner. Brannick likened veterinary pathology to putting together pieces of a puzzle, connecting the dots between healthy and un-healthy animal tissue, and then diagnosing a disease. “Compared to what I would expect in a normal tissue, what is different? And when you see something different, whether it’s inflammation or cancer or a degenerative process or anything, then it’s up to you to put the pieces together.”

UD will benefit from this pathology expertise as Brannick heads the Comparative Pathology Laboratory. The lab is located in Worrilow Hall and Brannick said that she works there with Joanne Kramer, a research associate in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. While the majority of their work supports the poultry diagnostic laboratories of Delaware and Maryland, the two “welcome outside submissions, even outside of our department, and we’re happy to collaborate when people need advice or just thoughts on how to proceed with collecting tissues.”

Another area where Brannick will help CANR is that she is a valuable resource for any student interested in applying to veterinary school. Having served on the veterinary admissions committee at OSU, Brannick has been involved behind the scenes and knows what admissions committees are looking for in candidates.

“The big things that veterinary schools are going to look for are strong academic skills, strong leadership and involvement both in the University and also in community,” in addition to varied animal experience and strong communication skills.

Brannick said that she welcomes students and faculty to stop by her office, 41 Townsend Hall, to discuss plans for veterinary school or upcoming research projects.

“I would say that I have an open door policy, even when my door is closed. When you’re doing diagnostic work, you sometimes have to concentrate so carefully that it’s easier to work when the doors are closed but anybody is welcome at anytime.”

Entering her third month of working at the University of Delaware, Brannick is indeed happy to have returned to the east coast and excited to call CANR home.

Article by Adam Thomas