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Celebrating Staff Excellence

Established in 2019, this annual awards program celebrates staff excellence in the humane care and use of animals in research within the University of Michigan community.

About the Excellence in Research Animal Care & Use Awards Program

Two awards are distributed each year to one member of EACH of the following:

Award recipients receive an honorarium, commemorative plaque, and recognition across the entire U-M research enterprise.

Criteria for Consideration

Eligible nominees must meet at least ONE of the following criteria:

Excellence in Animal Welfare —

The nominees should demonstrate, through their actions, concern and compassion for laboratory animals and be advocates for the welfare of animals involved in laboratory research.

Excellence in Outreach and Education —

The nominees should make specific and notable contributions to the education and/or mentorship of members of the animal research community and/or the general public in a manner which promotes the field of animal research.

Excellence in Innovation and Collaboration —

The nominees should engage in cross-disciplinary partnership to facilitate creative and data-driven refinement of research animal care and use practices.

Additional Details

  • Current U-M students (undergraduate or graduate) and staff with a minimum of one year of institutional service in animal care and/or use**
  • Must be a current U-M employee at the time of award selection

**Please note: this excludes AFSCME, temporary students and staff, and all faculty.

Nomination packets must include:

  • Completed nomination form in the Animal Care & Use Program’s InfoReady Review website, which requires a narrative (minimum 250 words) describing, in reasonable detail, the nominee’s contributions related to the selected criteria described above
  • At least one, but not more than three, letters of support detailing the specific contributions to excellence made by the nominee. Letters of support must not be more than a single-typed page in length
  • Deadline for nominations: Friday, March 1, 2024 at 5:00 PM EST

Previous Award Winners

​Claire Swinton, a Veterinary Technician in the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine (ULAM), was named winner of the 2024 Animal Care & Use Program Excellence in Animal Care & Use Award.

A photo of veterinary technician, Claire Swinton, wearing scrubs in front of a colored background holding a Certificate of Recognition

Claire’s responsibilities as a veterinary technician take her all across campus, where she partners with ULAM staff, researchers, and their teams to provide compassionate and exceptional care to the many animals she works with.

ULAM Faculty Veterinarian Dr. Tara Martin noted that, “I am always happy when I am paired with Claire. She has a strong work ethic and unparalleled organizational skills, both of which are put to great use in her patient care. As well, I know that Claire continues to develop her skills in companion animal medicine, and that she brings her knowledge of common laboratory animal species to that work (and vice-versa.) Claire’s cross-disciplinary work both within the university and outside of it helps us share knowledge across the veterinary field, which I feel is invaluable as we come up with innovative methods to improve animal care.”

Claire’s level of engagement, her commitment to learning new methods of animal treatment, and her dedication to sharing those skills and best practices with her ULAM colleagues, ultimately improves the entire U-M Animal Care & Use Program with her efforts.

Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Claire, and thank you for your commitment and compassion to all of the animals entrusted in our care.

Cathy Luke, a Research Associate and Lab Manager for Dr. Peter Henke in the Conrad Jobst Vascular Research Laboratories (Jobst Lab), has been named winner of the 2024 Research Community Excellence in Animal Care & Use Award.

Photo of Cathy Luke, standing in front of the Conrad Jost Lab sign holding a Certificate of Recognition

Working alongside Drs. Henke, Andrea Obi, and Daniel Myers, Cathy is responsible for performing microsurgical models of deep vein thrombosis; she is also accountable for training laboratory staff, postdoctoral fellows, and undergraduates in those models. 

Her passion for education, in addition to her exceptional 32-year career in animal care and research at the University of Michigan, led to Cathy’s nomination for this award. In this time, she has mentored dozens of undergraduate, medical, and postdoctoral students in compassionate animal care and rigorous scientific method(s). Her teaching ability and expectation that the highest standards of excellence are met have helped the Jobst Lab become a pioneer in the field of vascular research. 

“Cathy has earned a reputation for her expertise and excellence in this field in her past 22 years in the Jobst Lab,” said Dr. Henke. “She is an extraordinary technician and has improved the care of our animals with refinement to our microsurgical techniques and her independent research into new methods for safety and harm reduction.”

Thank you for your dedication to education and animal care, Cathy. We are grateful and proud to recognize your achievements!

Renee Jehmlich, 2023 Animal Care & Use Program Excellence in Research Animal Care & Use Award Winner

​Renee Jehmlich, an Animal Care Supervisor in the Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, was named winner of the 2023 Animal Care & Use Program Excellence in Animal Care & Use Award.

Renee collaborates with researchers across campus on a variety of studies and helps ensure animal welfare by providing daily husbandry care and health monitoring to all animals in her assigned locations. 

Dr. Zhi “Elena” Zhang, a close collaborator with Renee stated that, “[Renee] consistently demonstrates exemplary excellence in animal welfare through her actions, concern, and compassion for laboratory animals involved in research. She always performs thorough animal health examinations and assures that the animals receive high-quality care and humane treatment. Her support not only promotes animal welfare but also ensures the quality of animal research.”

Renee also manages the Animal/Rodent Redistribution Program, which aims to reduce the number of animals used in research by re-distributing naïve animals to different U-M investigators.

Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Renee, and thank you for all that you do to support the U-M research community and the animals entrusted to our care! 

Eric Kennedy, 2023 Research Community Excellence in Research Animal Care & Use Award Winner

Eric Kennedy, a Senior Animal Technician and Lab Manager for both Dr. Timothy Bruns and Dr. Cindy Chestek’s laboratories in the Biomedical Engineering Department,  received the 2023 Research Community Excellence in Animal Care & Use Award.

Working alongside Dr. Bruns, Eric investigates new methods for modulating and monitoring bladder function toward translational technologies to restore human health.

Eric was specifically nominated for his work with Dr. Bruns’ laboratory for his willingness to collaborate with ULAM Faculty Veterinarians and staff to further improve animal handling techniques to minimize animal stress and ensure the highest standards of care. Eric also provides training for other laboratory members on proper animal handling and monitoring procedures to support animals throughout all stages of various complex studies.

Dr. Bruns praised Eric’s diligence and care saying, “Eric works with the rest of our research team to make sure all of our animals are well taken care of – including coming in on nights and weekends to check animal health.”

Thank you for your commitment to compassionate and humane animal care, Eric. We are proud to recognize your many efforts! 

Hadrian Kinnear, Excellence in Research Animal Care & Use Award Winner

Hadrian Kinnear, a student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, was named the recipient of the inaugural Excellence in Research Animal Care & Use Award in 2019.

Working alongside Dr. Ariella Shikanov from the Biomedical Engineering Department, Hadrian studies the reproductive consequences of testosterone administration for female-to-male gender transition.

He has also collaborated with experts in Obstetrics & Gynecology to turn a simple idea into a robust and well-refined animal model, which led to his nomination for this award.

Hadrian also serves as a peer mentor for his fellow graduate students who have said, “Hadrian has gone above and beyond teaching me and others in the lab… he ensures that everyone he trains understands why we do certain steps and always puts the health of the animal(s) first. He is always ready to assist when evaluating the best way to do a procedure or evaluating an animal’s behavior, which is an invaluable asset to our lab.”

Congratulations on receiving this well-deserved award, Hadrian!


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