Graduate Research Assistant, PhD Student
University, Department, Lab, Etc.
Kansas State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, Center for Outcomes Research and Epidemiology, Dr. Natalia Cernicchiaro Lab
Diana graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences and Industry in 2013 and a Master of Science in Veterinary Biomedical Science in 2015 from Kansas State University (KSU). After finishing her Master’s degree, she worked for a large animal health company as a scientist of a global team working on cattle vaccine research and development for three years. In addition to her academic background, Diana’s real-world work experience at the lab “bench” and in the “field”, provides a very unique and valuable understanding of the intricacies of the animal health industry. Currently, Diana is a PhD student studying epidemiology with a focus on veterinary outcomes-based research. As a part of her PhD program, she is also gaining more real-world experience by working for a contract research organization as a part of a team that specializes in veterinary and biomedical research.
In her free-time, you’ll find her playing with her dogs—Peter and Jade—and cat who thinks he’s a dog—Bennie, running half-marathons as a part of the Kansas Team Beef endurance team with her husband Mike, road-tripping and yelling “COWS!” every time she sees cattle, enjoying time outside with friends and family, and just trying to survive graduate school.
Current Research Question:
Epidemiology can be described as studying disease (or any other health related outcome) and factors such as diet, breed, vaccination, treatment, and environment that may contribute to or play a role in disease. The really neat thing about Diana’s program and studying epidemiology is that she does not have a single research question. In terms of her current research, overarching themes can be summarized as:
- What is the frequency, distribution, and control strategies for foodborne pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7, in cattle and their environment?
- What treatment options successfully prevent or reduce disease in animals?
- Which management strategy improves animal welfare, decreases disease, and is most financially feasible?
- Is there a difference between the name brand product and the generic product?
Background on Research:
The above themes are typical questions that ultimately help move the animal health industry forward by 1) gaining knowledge by observing factors contributing to disease or health outcomes, 2) comparing products to continually research and develop better diets, vaccines, pharmaceutical products and so on, 3) increasing efficiency and economic return in livestock production by different management techniques and treatment protocols, 4) providing alternative medication options to decrease the cost of caring for our pets, and 5) identifying the best way to visually observe disease to be able to identify and treat animals sooner.
Overview of Methods Used:
Epidemiological methods used depend on the research question being asked but always consider the epidemiologic triad, the fundamental interaction between the host, environment, and agent causing disease or outcome of interest. Epidemiologists evaluate how the host, environment, and agent interact to cause disease (or other outcome of interest), then using the appropriate statistical tools analyze these factors and any interactions to answer their research questions. For some projects Diana analyzes data provided, in other projects she uses her field and laboratory skill set to collect field samples and bring them back to the “bench” generating data to be analyzed. Diana and her lab frequently analyze veterinary health, production, and economic outcomes.
Connect with Diana Valencia:
Diana is also always happy to connect with individuals or public audiences of all ages whether it be in person or via virtual connections such as Zoom. She is also willing to collaborate on developing a lesson plan, give a presentation over an animal health topic of interest, and/or visit with anyone interested in STEM fields or graduate school in general. Let Sunset Zoo's Behind the Science staff help you connect with Diana Valencia by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.