Bound for Biomedical Research
Cummings School Programs: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, PhD in Biomedical Sciences
Undergraduate Studies: BS in Biology, Rochester Institute of Technology
Favorite Course: Immunology
Jonathon Stone, V22, (PhD candidate) is tying his research interests in genetics, infectious disease, and bioinformatics together with veterinary medicine in Tufts University’s dual DVM/PhD program at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. He will earn a DVM this spring and will continue toward a PhD in biomedical sciences.
Jonathon started honing his research skills early. Growing up in Oregon, Wisconsin, he experimented with science kits, built volcano models, and assembled ant farms. He attended Oregon High School, where he took courses in biotechnology, biochemistry, and human anatomy. Jonathon later served as an Undergraduate Research Fellow in the Sweet Lab at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), studying gene expression throughout embryo development in a cidaroid sea urchin.
“It solidified my love for science, research, and genetics,” he confirms.
Additionally, Jonathon conducted research at the University of Montana through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. As a summer research fellow, he studied the evolution of endosymbionts in volvox algae as a method of acquiring vitamin B12.
Jonathon was named a Baldwin Scholar by RIT’s Gosnell School of Life Sciences for his academic excellence and service, a Research Scholar by RIT’s College of Science for his achievements in undergraduate research, and an Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar, RIT’s highest academic honor. He graduated in 2016 with a BS in biology.
After college, Jonathon worked at the Sight Society of Northeastern New York, an eye bank, recovering eyes and corneas from organ donors. He eventually became the director of processing and surgeon relations, overseeing everything from recovery to transplant.
However, early plans to earn an MD/PhD shifted to DVM/PhD when he learned more about the vast opportunities in veterinary medicine, which better aligned with his research interests.
“I knew I wanted to do research and I wanted clinical practice,” Jonathon admits. “The first thing that brought Tufts to my attention is the strong research focus. They put a higher value on my research experience than most vet schools.”
Jonathon began the DVM program in 2018, and within a few months he was researching again, this time in Cummings School’s Runstadler Lab. There he studied avian influenza and investigated the 2018–20 Northeast Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event, when there was an unexpected increase in marine mammal strandings, through microbial profiling.
“We focus primarily on infectious diseases, looking at the human-animal interface—how viruses spillover between species,” he explains. “It combines my interests, circling back to my undergrad research in genetics, and applies to biomedical science and infectious disease, where my interests lie now.”
As part of Tufts’ Selectives Program, he researches in his free time and during the summer. “Tufts carves out time every week for students in this program to pursue their own interests, to take an additional course, or work in the research lab for an afternoon.”
Jonathon also serves on the Donation Working Group that oversees Tufts’ veterinary anatomical donation program. Leveraging his experience in human organ donation, he is helping launch a family follow-up program with funding from the Elizabeth A. Lawrence Endowed Fund, to thank families that donate deceased pets to Cummings School. He shared Cummings School’s Exceptional Service Award for Faculty and Staff with the rest of the working group.
Jonathon will complete his DVM in May and continue pursuing his PhD in the Runstadler Lab, studying influenza A viruses and the multitude of species they infect.
“The pandemic shed a bright light on my field, not only infectious diseases, but zoonotic pathogens,” he acknowledges. “Tufts infectious disease program is very strong, especially with Tufts’ New England Regional Biosafety Lab and location outside of a major biotech hub.”
Jonathon jokingly referred to the dual degree as “dual-edged sword” in some respects, but appreciates Cummings School’s research opportunities and flexibility to earn his degrees in a way that works for him.
“As a whole, Tufts has been customizable,” he shares. “If you have an interest in something, everyone will support you to pursue it.”
Jonathon was also profiled by Tufts University as part of their Profiles in Inspiration series spotlighting 2022 graduates.
“Tufts Now invited all the university’s schools to share the names of members of the Class of 2022, so that we can convey to our readers the creativity, intelligence, and drive of some of Tufts' newest (soon-to-be) alumni. We hope you enjoy meeting some of this year’s graduates. Prepare to be surprised, delighted... and inspired.”