Research day participants with Dr. Kathryn Meier (left)

On August 19, current and future scientists gathered to show off their work at the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CPPS) Research Day. The all-day event is a celebration of the broad range of research that is ongoing in the college, and an opportunity for trainees to obtain valuable presentation experience and feedback on their research.

“I’m so proud of these students,” said Associate Dean for Faculty and Student Development Kathryn Meier. “The energy and enthusiasm that they put into their scientific discoveries is a joy to their mentors, and helps to move research projects forward in new directions.”

The day began with keynote speakers, Drs. Ashley Snider and Mandi Hopkins, Ph.D. are both alumnae of the CPPS graduate program who provided personal insights into career paths in academia and the Pharmaceutical industry, respectively.

Following the keynotes, Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), Summer Research Fellowship (SRF) and current CPPS graduate and professional students presented posters describing their research projects. The posters are judged in three categories – 1) undergraduate, 2) professional and 3) graduate. Prizes are awarded for first and second place. Postdoctoral trainees and Pharm.D. fellows give oral presentations; which are also eligible for awards.

This year’s poster topics ranged from drug interactions with cinnamon to new drug delivery approaches. Oral presentations covered chemo-resistant prostate cancer and the way lack of sleep might contribute to cancer risk.

Oral presentation winners:

Tyler Bland, a CPPS pharmaceutical sciences postdoctoral research associate in Wu lab, received first place for the presentation, “Exploring and exploiting acetylcholine signaling in chemoresistant prostate cancer.”

Bala Koritala, a CPPS pharmaceutical sciences postdoctoral research associate in Gaddameedhi lab, received second place for the presentation, “Unraveled mechanisms behind night shift and cancer in humans.”

SURF student poster winners:

Matthew Thompson received first place for the poster, “Pentagalloyl glucose (PGG) suppresses IL-1β-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine production and matrix metalloproteinase activation in human osteoarthritis synovial fibroblasts.”

Martina Hunt received second place for the poster, “Interaction of microRNA 485-5p with the 3’UTR of UGT2B7 and UGT2B10.”

Professional student poster winners:

Bahar Adamzadeh received first place for the poster, “Inhibition of CYP2A6 enzyme by cinnamaldehyde and 2-methoxycinnamaldehyde, major constituents of cinnamon.”

Christopher Bran-Morales received second place for the poster, “Characterizing inhibition kinetics of silymarin flavonolignans against organic anion transporting polypeptide transporters.”

Graduate student poster winners:

Christopher Szlenk received first place for the poster, “Molecular dynamics simulations reveal a possible membrane-involved microkinetic mechanism for long-lasting action of salmeterol, a β2-Adrenergic receptor agonist.”

Tarana Arman and Xinyue (Sheena) Dong tied for second place.

Arman presented the poster, “Microcystin-LR renal toxicity in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

While Dong presented the poster, “Neutrophil membrane-derived nanovesicles target inflamed brain.”

Research Day also serves as the culminating event for the SURF program. According to Meier, who serves as the director of the SURF/SRF program, SURF is an incredible opportunity for students to gain valuable experience in federally-funded research groups.

SURF provides a hands-on research experience for college students with demonstrated scientific aptitude who have expressed an interest in pursuing graduate studies and/or research careers in pharmaceutical, biomedical or health sciences. SURF students are given the opportunity to work with CPPS scientists on a project. In fact, one of this year’s SURF students, Martina Hunt contributed to work by the team of Dr. Phillip Lazarus, Boeing distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, enabling the paper to be accepted into the journal, Molecular Pharmacology.

The SURF program is supported by a grant from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, which provides funding for five undergraduates each summer with cost-sharing by the college through endowment funds from the Sue Harriet Monroe Mullen Innovative Cancer Prevention Research Fund. SURF applicants come from all parts of the country, and are selected by faculty members comprising the SURF committee. The goal of the ASPET funding is to increase the number of students seeking Ph.D. degrees in Pharmacology; research experience is a critical component of applications to graduate school.

In recent years, Research Day has been expanded beyond just SURF students to include all trainees in the college, including Summer Research Fellowship (SRF), graduate, and professional students.

The college has also recently increased the number of SRF fellowships offered to CPPS student pharmacists. SRF students, also selected from submitted applications, attend the same weekly career-oriented sessions as the SURF students. The goal of the SRF program is to increase interest in the Pharm.D. Honors Program and the Pharm.D./Ph.D. career path available in the college. Funding to support the SRF program is provided by the James and Diann Robbers Student Research Fund.

Funding for Research Day is provided by the Louise Holzer Darden Memorial Research Quasi-Endowment Fund.