WCVM graduate students who are convocating on June 7
Clockwise from top left: Dr. Pashupati Bhandari (PhD), Dr. Sally Sukut (DVM), Dr. Kayla Buhler (PhD), Dr. Kylee Drever (PhD), Dr. Temitope Kolapo (PhD), Dr. Shubham Dutta (PhD).

WCVM graduate students part of USask spring convocation ceremonies

Graduates of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) aren’t the only scholars celebrating during the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Spring Convocation.

Graduates of the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) aren’t the only trainees celebrating during the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Spring Convocation. 

A group of graduate students and clinical interns based at the WCVM are receiving their degrees and certificates during the university’s convocation ceremonies on June 7. 

Nine students will receive their Master of Science (MSc) degrees, and six students will earn Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. As well, three veterinarians will receive graduate certificates for completing their one-year programs as clinical small animal rotating interns or specialty veterinary interns in the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre.

The convocation ceremony for the WCVM and USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources will commence at 2 p.m. on Wed., June 7.


Department of Veterinary Microbiology

Subash Chapagain, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Uladzimir Karniychuk

Thesis title: “Towards a better understanding of vector-free Japanese encephalitis virus transmission.”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a mosquito-borne virus that’s prevalent in Asia. The virus is a common cause of encephalitis in humans. There are risks of JEV being introduced to the Americas through pigs, wild boars and insect vectors — Culex mosquitoes. In his program, Chapagain studied whether JEV is present in the female lower reproductive tract and can be caused by sexual transmission in humans. He found that JEV targets the vaginal epithelium (inner lining of the vagina) and has the potential for sexual transmission in humans.


Shubham Dutta, MSc program

Supervisors: Drs. Emily Jenkins and Vikram Misra

Thesis title: “Development of novel competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to detect SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies in animals.”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the COVID-19-causing virus and a zoonotic pathogen. There is concern about the virus spreading to wildlife species, affecting future infection of humans and other animals. In his research, Dutta looked at developing a method to measure the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife species in which other tests are not used. Dutta’s thesis found that this method can be valuable in investigating SARS-CoV-2 in multiple species.


Qingyi Ren, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Janet Hill

Thesis title: “Characterization of the salivary microbiome in COVID-19 infection and development of a cpn60 classifier.”

Click here to read thesis. 

Snapshot: There are few studies about the salivary microbiome’s (bacteria in salivary glands) relationship with SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19-causing virus. In this study, researchers look at if there are differences in the salivary microbiomes of people who are SARS-CoV-2 positive and people who are SARS-CoV-2 negative using a classification device. Researchers found differences between SARS-CoV-2 positive and negative groups on a population scale. The study serves as a foundation for future studies regarding the relationship of SARS-CoV-2 with oral microbiota.


Pashupati Bhandari, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Janet Hill

Thesis title: “Elucidating the mechanisms of extracellular glycogen utilization in Gardnerella spp.”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: In his project, Bhandari explored how Gardnerella species (Gardnerella spp.), which is associated with bacterial vaginosis, interacts with glycogen — a form of energy storage that can be found in the vagina. Understanding the characteristics of disease-causing Gardnerella spp. in the vaginal microbiome can help to improve women’s health diagnostics and identify high-risk microbiomes.


Kayla Buhler, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Emily Jenkins

Thesis title: “Wildlife reservoirs and sentinels for vector-borne zoonoses in northern Canada.”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Warming temperatures due to climate change have an impact on wildlife in the Canadian Arctic. This study explores the prevalence of three vector-borne pathogens in northern Canadian wildlife — California serogroup viruses (CSV), Bartonella spp. and Francisella tularensis bacteria. Buhler’s research explored disease ecology in the Canadian Arctic and how new health issues arise in wildlife species due to changing temperatures.


Kylee Drever, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Jeffrey Chen

Thesis title (embargoed): “Novel insights into the regulation of the mycobacterium tuberculosis Type-VII secretion system ESX-1.


Rankodthde Mudiyanselage Dinesh Hirantha Wellawa, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Wolfgang Koester

Thesis title: “Characterizing the role of putative virulence genes associated with infection, colonization and persistence of Salmonella enteritis in chicken using a bioluminescent reporter.”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Salmonella enteritidis (SEn) is a common cause of gastroenteritis in humans. Wellawa studied the early stages of infection in day-old chickens using bioluminescent imaging (BLI) — a method for analyzing biological processes. The study found an indication of interaction between Salmonella and chickens in environments with low iron supply — showing a need for alternatives to importing iron as an essential element.


Temitope Kolapo, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Emily Jenkins

Thesis title: “Molecular epidemiology and diagnostics for Echinococcus multilocularis in canid definitive and intermediate hosts

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Kolapo’s research focused on improving the diagnosis of Echinococcus multilocularis (E. multilocularis), a parasite that causes alveolar echinococcosis (AE) in humans, dogs and rodents. Kolapo’s research found that the Canadian Arctic is vulnerable to the introduction of European and Asian strains of AE. She used diagnostic tools for large-scale preventive studies of E. multilocularis in canids to aid in the formulation of control and prevention policies.


Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences 

Atefeh Nasri, PhD program

Supervisor: Dr. Suraj Unniappan

Thesis title (embargoed): “Regulation of metabolism and stress hormones by nucleobindin-derived bioactive peptides nesfatin-1 and nesfatin-1-like peptide.”


Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences

Evelyn Harris, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Behzad Toosi

Thesis title (embargoed): “A comparative study of the role EphA2 performs in canine and human osteosarcoma.”


Sally Sukut, MSc program

Supervisor: Drs. Monique Mayer and Brent Burbridge

Thesis title (embargoed): “Innovative teaching strategies in undergraduate veterinary medical imaging education.”


Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences

Jayce Fossen, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Cheryl Waldner

Thesis title: “Antimicrobial use and resistance in Canadian cow-calf herds”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Fossen’s work addressed the limited amount of research regarding antimicrobial use in cow-calf herds by investigating antimicrobial use practices on Canadian cow-calf operations while exploring antimicrobial resistance of bacteria in cattle that also affects human health. Further studies are necessary to better understand the prevalence of resistance of different bacteria in cow-calf herds.


Karen Pimentel, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Steve Manning

Research focus: investigation of the equine temporomandibular joint (TMJ).


Navgeet Singh, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Dinesh Dadarwal

Thesis title: “Feasibility study on bovine fetal sexing utilizing circulatory cell-free fetal DNA in maternal peripheral blood.”

Click here to read thesis.

Snapshot: Singh aimed to develop a PCR method (DNA-finding technique to identify genetic changes and diseases) to determine the sex of cow fetuses during pregnancy. The study found that fresh plasma can be used for PCR-based prenatal fetal sexing. But PCR-based testing was deemed unreliable for fetal sex determination in pregnant cows. Future studies must replicate this analysis with a larger dataset to confirm these observations.


Department of Veterinary Pathology 

Vasyl Shpyrka, MSc program

Supervisor: Dr. Bruce Wobeser

Thesis title: “Feline oral neoplasms: a 20-year retrospective survey and expression of amelogenin and ameloblastin in feline conventional (keratinizing) ameloblastoma and oral squamous cell carcinoma.”

Click here to read thesis. 

Snapshot: Feline oral neoplasms (new, abnormal tissue growths in the mouth) are not extensively studied compared to similar neoplasms in dogs. Shpyrka aimed to study feline neoplasms — such as those of the oral cavity, pharynx, tongue and tonsils. He found that ameloblastoma, a non-cancerous tumour commonly developed near the jaw, is more common in cats than previously thought. The study also found that oral proteins called amelogenin and ameloblastin are unrelated to odontogenic neoplasia — a form of oral tumour.


Clinical Internships

This one-year certificate program serves as the first step in preparing candidates for clinical residency/graduate degree training programs that lead to board certification in a specific specialty – such as medical imaging or small animal surgery.

Graduate certificate in small animal rotating veterinary internship

  • Ewa Krolak
  • Katarzyna Paulina Kulinska 

Graduate certificate in small animal specialty veterinary internship

  • Liang Jun Tseng


Cat Zens of North Battleford, Sask., is a fourth-year student in the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. She is working as a research communications intern at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) for summer 2023.

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