Pharmaceutical Sciences Summer Research and Internship Program



Douglas Poster

Students participating in the fourth year of the pharmaceutical sciences summer research program were part the largest cohort to date since the establishment of the college in 2008.  The purpose of the program is to identify and introduce students to the excitement and importance of biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences research through a mix of educational and research activities.  This past summer, eight students engaged in research experiences that ranged from drug discovery, to drug testing, and clinical outcomes as research partnerships and opportunities continued to grow with more emphasis being placed on developing faculty research and scholarship within the college. 

Student pharmacist Emily Douglas (Class of 2015) worked with Dr. Eva Harth at Vanderbilt University whose laboratory focuses on the development of polymer-based drug delivery systems for imaging and treatment of various cancers types.  Her specific project evaluated the incorporation of tumor-specific receptors onto a ‘nanosponge’ drug delivery vehicle for chemotherapeutic agents targeting lung cancer cells.  Douglas (pictured above) was recognized as one of the top students participating in the summer research program and was awarded a full stipend by the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University to continue her research in Dr. Harth’s lab next summer.

Student pharmacist Brittany Duerk (Class of 2016) and undergraduate student Emily Holder (Junior Biochemistry Major) worked in Dr. Susan Mercer’s laboratory at Lipscomb University whose research is centered on the design and synthesis of molecules as potential tools to study biological systems concerned with drugs of abuse and the development of novel opioid analgesics with reduced side effects.  Both Duerk and Holder participated in research projects focused on synthesizing meperidine analogs that retain opioid activity necessary for their analgesic effects but lack structural recognition sites that contribute to central tolerance by efflux transporters and the generation of toxic metabolites by cytochrome P450 enzymes.

Student pharmacist Elizabeth Gibson (Class of 2015) and undergraduate student Kellie Regal (Junior Molecular Biology Major) worked in Dr. Joe Deweese’s laboratory at Lipscomb University whose research interests include characterizing the mechanism of chemotherapeutic agents that target DNA topoisomerases and understanding their off-target effects related to secondary leukemias.  Gibson’s project focused on generating topoisomerase II mutants that confer resistance or hypersensitivity to etoposide while Regal’s project focused on investigating the mechanism of a cannabinoid-based quinone as a potential anticancer drug that inhibits topoisomerase activity.

Student pharmacist Alan Their (Class of 2015) worked with Dr. Sheila Dawling at Vanderbilt University and Drs. Scott Akers and Mike Fowler at Lipscomb University to characterize the in-vitro effect of intralipid emulsion therapy to enhance partitioning of free verapamil concentrations from serum and peripheral compartments.  Student pharmacist Kate Claussen (Class of 2015) participated in a summer internship at Aegis Sciences Corporation, which is a full service forensic chemical and drug-testing laboratory specializing in drug testing for businesses, professional and amateur sports drug testing, pain management physicians, and medical examiners.  Student pharmacist Holly Sybert (Class of 2015) participated in a clinical research project at the Vanderbilt Transplant Center under the direction of Dr. Christie Truscott to evaluate the clinical effects and pharmacoeconomic impact of thymoglobulin therapy versus calcineurin inhibitors in hepatitis C positive liver transplant recipients.

“One of our primary goals is to blend their science interests and pharmacy education with opportunities to engage in scientific inquiry and consider a career pathway in the pharmaceutical sciences”, said Scott Akers, Pharm.D., Ph.D. , chair and associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences.  Career opportunities in the pharmaceutical sciences include research and regulatory positions in academia, the pharmaceutical industry, and governmental agencies.  Students will be presenting their research at a variety of scientific forums during the year, including a poster symposium at Pharmacy Research Day on October 9th