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Forensic Chemist Named 2018 UM Joseph Sam Distinguished Alumnus

Randall Clark

Randall Clark, a 1973 University of Mississippi graduate with a doctoral degree in medicinal chemistry, has been named the School of Pharmacy Department of BioMolecular Sciences’ 2018 Joseph Sam Distinguished Alumnus Award honoree.

Clark earned degrees in both biology and chemistry from Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia, before completing his Ph.D. under the direction of late Ole Miss professor Ronald F. Borne. He has spent his 45-year academic career at Auburn University, where he is a professor of medicinal chemistry, mentoring more than 50 master’s and doctoral students.

“It is truly an honor to be selected for this award,” Clark said. “Just receiving consideration for an award of this magnitude is a significant achievement.

“The previous recipients are all very successful individuals, and many, many very productive and talented people have passed through the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy.”

Clark will deliver the Joseph Sam Distinguished Alumnus Lecture at 11 a.m. Friday (Aug. 17) in Room 2066 of the Thad Cochran Research Center. His presentation is titled “Forensic Chemistry of New Psychoactive Substances: Regioisomer Differentiation in Cannabinoid, Cathinone and N-BOMe Drugs.”

“It’s a great privilege for our department to be able to recognize our alumni leaders in pharmaceutical sciences with the Joe Sam Distinguished Alumnus Endowment,” said Kristie Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences. “Having Dr. Clark back on campus provides our students and current faculty with a unique opportunity to expand their professional network and learn about cutting edge research in medicinal chemistry.”

With a research interest in forensic drug chemistry, Clark has received more than $2.5 million in research funding over the last 10 years from the National Institute of Justice, the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. He has authored or co-authored more than 250 scientific publications.

Clark has served as the faculty chair of Auburn athletics’ drug testing oversight committee for the last 20 years. His research group has contributed more than 1,000 mass spectra of new druglike substances to the National Institute of Standards and Technology mass spectra database.

He is the recipient of Auburn’s Alumni Professorship, Distinguished Graduate Faculty Lectureship and the Sandra Kent Gilliland and David Louie Gilliland Endowed Professorship in recognition of outstanding research and teaching accomplishments. In 2012, he was awarded a New Zealand Government International Fellowship to present a series of workshops and lectures on forensic drug science.

John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology at the UM School of Pharmacy, served on the award’s selection committee and knew Clark was a perfect fit for the accolade.

“Dr. Clark is most deserving of this award,” Rimoldi said. “He has built a distinguished career at Auburn University and is a leading authority in forensic drug chemistry and analysis. 

“His commitment to student mentoring and graduate education in medicinal chemistry is remarkable and inspiring.”

The award’s namesake, Joseph Sam, was an influential part in educating future scientists in the field of drug development and discovery. He served as one of the first chairs of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, as well as dean of the university’s Graduate School and vice chancellor of research. In honor of his spirit and inspiration, the Joseph Sam Distinguished Alumnus Award was created in 2009.

“Dr. Sam was a constant figure in the labs and other pharmacy facilities,” Clark said. “He took a personal interest in all the graduate students in the program and provided encouragement to everyone. He and the members of the pharmacy family at Ole Miss made my four years in graduate school a most enjoyable experience.”


By Whitney Tarpy

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