Mark Lawrence, DVM, PhD

​AVMA Members Working to Advance Animal and Human Health through Research

Professor, Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Educational Background

My DVM is from Texas A&M in 1990. I also got my BS from Texas A&M in Veterinary Science in 1988. After working in small animal private practice in Dallas for 2 years, I started my PhD at LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in 1992. I earned my PhD in Veterinary Medical Science (microbiology/aquatic animal health specialty) in 1997. I did a post-doc at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine from 1997-98, then I started as an Assistant Professor at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. I was promoted to Associate Professor in 2004, then Professor in 2009. I have been serving as Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies at MSU CVM since 2011.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, we have 5 cats and one dog. They are all strays we adopted or they were adopted from the animal shelter. Two brothers are male black DSHs that were feral kittens that we tamed (named Julius and Caesar). Two sisters are female tortoiseshell DSHs that were strays found at 1 week old that we nursed and raised (Cookie and Snickers). Another stray calico DSH named Rascal we adopted, and our dog Buddy was adopted from the Oktibbeha County Humane Society.

What is the focus of your research?

I am a veterinary microbiologist. I conduct research primarily on bacterial pathogens affecting farm-raised channel catfish. I also conduct research on the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

What is the scientific and clinical significance of your research?

Our research on catfish pathogens is focused primarily on vaccine development. We are working on finding solutions catfish farmers can use to prevent three major bacterial diseases that cause major losses for the industry: Edwardsiella ictaluri, Aeromonas hydrophila, and Flavobacterium columnare. We have had USDA grants to study E. ictaluri, and as a result, we have a live attenuated vaccine strain that is currently being patented and developed. We have a current USDA grant for Aeromonas hydrophila and just filed an invention disclosure for some vaccine candidates that show promise for this disease. We have submitted a USDA grant application for work with F. columnare. For Listeria monocytogenes, we are studying why some strains are highly pathogenic and others are non-pathogenic. We have identified genetic markers that can be used to separate pathogenic and non-pathogenic strains.

What do you find most enjoyable about research?

I love the problem solving aspect. The interactions between pathogens and host are amazingly complex, and I enjoy studying this interaction and coming up with hypotheses to explain how they cause disease and avoid host immune response. But it is working with students, post-docs, and collaborating scientists that really makes it fun. I love helping students develop in their abilities to understand host-pathogen interactions, design research, and become independent scientists. Their enthusiasm and fresh perspectives keep it fun. I also enjoy the traveling, interaction with colleagues at scientific meetings, and constant learning from a career in research.

What advice do you have for veterinarians considering a career in biomedical research?

I advise pursuing a PhD. It is a 4 year investment, but it is well worth it. There is not a more fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding field a veterinarian can pursue than biomedical research. I truly believe that human and animal health will be improved if more veterinarians pursue biomedical research. If you want to make an impact in your career, pursue biomedical research!

See how other AVMA members are advancing animal and human health