She was lost in books. She was lost in travel. She was lost in science. Then she found her place in a laboratory at Colorado State University, and Valeria Scorza knew her life’s wanderlust had been creating a path for her to do what she loves in a way that honors who she is.
When Scorza was a child in Argentina, her parents didn’t let her watch television. She doesn’t look back with regret or resentment, but, instead, remembers the many ideas and worlds she was exposed to through her reading. Her reading inspired her writing and a yearning to visit faraway places and to learn.
Scorza grew up with pets. Her fondness for animals helped weave her educational path and she would study zoonotic diseases of companion animals to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Degree at the School of Veterinary Medicine in La Plata, Argentina. She practiced veterinary medicine for a time until her desire to learn more came calling and she hit the road for adventures with a friend. Together, they had the kind of journeys that fully engage the senses – the colors, the sounds, the smells of places – and become life-changing. They ate good food, got dirty, slept in their car, counted their pennies, and found new inspiration.
Scorza found Colorado nearly two decades ago and she began emailing Dr. Michael Lappin, a professor of infectious disease in the Department of Clinical Sciences at CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. When they did not connect by email (to this day they argue whether she was spammed or he was too busy to respond!), Scorza knocked on Lappin’s office door during a visit to the States. She shared her story and a connection was created that day. Shortly thereafter she began a Master’s degree program at CSU in Lappin’s Laboratory where she has worked ever since. She earned a PhD and completed a post-doctoral fellowship. During her time as a Research Scientist she expanded her research interests to wildlife and humans and vector-borne disease.
When she started her graduate education, there was a concern that Cryptosporidium spp. from companion animals could be zoonotic to humans. She concentrated on the molecular characterization of Giardia and Cryptosporidium from companion animals in the United States and developing countries.
Currently, she is working on two on-going research projects: a service contract with Portland Water Bureau for detection and molecular characterization of Cryptosporidium spp. DNA in wildlife scat in their watershed area, and the evaluation of the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites and vector-borne agents in dogs in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. Her study with dogs recently was awarded the 2016 World Small Animal Veterinary Association One Health Award.
“I am very glad that the study was so well received since many researchers collaborated on it,” Scorza says. “I have a personal satisfaction working in Latin America and I realize this award will open more doors for future studies which encompass not only companion animals but also humans, wildlife, and the environment.”