Skip to main content

Graduate Spotlight: On the path to becoming a scientist

Haley Lewis, senior molecular biology major, came to Lipscomb with a specific path she wanted to follow: research.

Janel Shoun-Smith | 

Haley Lewis presenting at the Student Scholars Symposium

Inspired as a child by her grandmother’s battle with multiple myeloma, Haley Lewis, of Nashville, entered college knowing she wanted to pursue disease research, so she immediately began looking for opportunities.

She learned about the College of Pharmacy’s Summer Research Program, involving primarily Pharm.D. students, and was accepted to enter the program as a freshman. 

“I fell in love with how involved all the professors are and how really invested they are in students being involved in the research environment,” she said. 

Lewis has worked for Dr. Scott Akers, executive director of the pharmaceutical sciences research center, for two and a half years to grow human kidney cells in the lab to study the specific proteins in those cells that identify a drug and help excrete it through the urine. Funded through a private research company called Inotiv, Lewis and Akers are developing methods to detect transporters that help eliminate a drug from the body.

“In Lipscomb’s pharmaceutical sciences research center, we are developing a standard process to evaluate any new drug developed in the market to understand how it is eliminated from the body, because the more we understand about how drugs are excreted, the better we can understand how to dose the drugs and prevent potential drug interaction with other medications,” said Akers.

Lewis never doubted she wanted to follow the path to a Ph.D., and Akers, who is often tapped as an investigator for various grant-funded projects at Vanderbilt University, had plenty of projects that offered firsthand experience with cell culture to give her an advantage on that journey. 


Haley Lewis presenting at the Student Scholars Symposium

“Being independent in my research and doing hands-on work on my own time is really important to my becoming a scientist one day. So I really wanted a project to do on my own. Part of the reason why I chose Lipscomb was because I knew it would provide research opportunities to me earlier than at a larger university,” said Lewis.

Her experience helped earn her a summer 2022 fellowship at Upstate Medical University where she worked on infectious disease research, looking at proteins in the lungs and their role in bacteria-induced pneumonia. She later presented that work at the St. Jude National Symposium on Undergraduate Research.

Lewis won an outstanding presenter honor at the 2023 Student Scholars Symposium for a presentation on her work at Upstate Medical as well as winning an outstanding poster honor in a previous year for her research at Lipscomb. As an undergraduate she served as secretary of the Tri Beta biology honor society, and she founded Lipscomb Women in STEM. Lewis is currently in the process of applying to Immunology Ph.D. programs.