2011 Enrichment Rising Star Award Winner

Casey Acklin

Dr. Ruth Gault, faculty advisor and research scientist in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Nevada with Casey Acklin, 2011 “Enrichment Rising Star” Award winner.

Casey has consistently engaged in furthering his interest in scientific research. He is honored to receive this award, and we agree that he is a rising star in the area of scientific research.
—Colleen Harsin, Director, The Davidson Academy

Where will our future science leaders come from? Fortunately, we don’t have to look too far! Casey Acklin is the brightest shining star on the research horizon. At fifteen, this gifted student has a remarkable set of accomplishments, and his unending natural curiosity has led him on an exciting scientific journey. Casey has an extensive body of work, but it is his latest project, The Effects of Cage Naturality on the Scientific Viability of Mouse Models in Relation to Stress and Cognition, that earned him the 2011 Enrichment Rising Star Award.

Since his first science experiment in early elementary school, Casey Acklin has been hooked on research. He realized that scientific research could be applied to a host of different questions about how the world works, and could be used to increase understanding of various phenomena. At the Davidson Academy of Nevada, a public school for profoundly gifted students, Casey has been pursuing his passion for science and research.

Casey’s interest in animal enrichment began while observing the complexity of a field mouse’s nest in his garage. He noticed how dissimilar the natural habitat was compared to typical laboratory housing. Working with faculty advisor Dr. Ruth Gault, Research Scientist, Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Laboratory Animal Care Services at the University of Nevada, Reno campus, Casey began his research project. “We have a certain obligation to help the next generation through the system and to encourage them,” Dr. Gault said.

Casey’s research attempts to increase the scientific viability of laboratory mice by designing laboratory cages to mimic the natural environment of mice. Since studies have shown that enrichment is beneficial, he hypothesized that a more natural setting would result in more natural behaviors, increasing scientific viability. Results of his research pointed to natural enrichment contributing to a better mouse model for scientific research.

Casey presented his work at the Enrichment Extravaganza on June 13 in Atlantic City, where he was recognized for his achievement with the Enrichment Rising Star Award. Recently, Casey also received the 2011 Special Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research presented by States United for Biomedical Research (SUBR) at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, in Pittsburgh, PA.

The Enrichment Rising Star Award was created by the Enrichment Record  to recognize exceptional students conducting research in the field of laboratory animal enrichment. Like other scientific fields, enrichment is ever evolving with new and better ways of contributing to animal welfare—the ultimate goal being to provide the best possible environment for the animals in our care. Funded by Huntingdon Life Sciences and Pfizer, the Enrichment Rising Star Award  is designed to encourage and inspire the next generation of our “caring community.”


Enrichment Record July 2011

Issue 8, July 2011