At the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, students have opportunities to get hands-on experience to prepare them for careers in pharmacy. It’s no different for graduate students, who undertake research at the school that can make a real difference in lives around the state and region.
Fortunately for students, they’ll have plenty of help along the way. Soumyajit Majumdar, associate dean for research and graduate programs, advises students to take full advantage of several School of Pharmacy resources.
These include faculty expertise representing the length and breadth of drug discovery and pharmaceutical product development, excellent staff supporting students’ scholarly activities and progress through the program, state-of-the-art instrumentation and relevant scientific software, core research facilities, classroom instructional technology, and library resources.
“Graduate students should focus on holistic development and also take advantage of the many career and professional development workshops organized through the School of Pharmacy Research and Graduate Affairs Office,” Majumdar said. “Training in public speaking, manuscript and grant writing, and networking skills are just some examples of these opportunities.
“They can give students an extra edge in establishing their career.”
Huy Dao, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery who recently successfully defended his thesis, was among the graduate students taking advantage of these resources.
Dao engaged in interdisciplinary projects ranging from drug delivery, pharmaceutics and applied chemistry to biomaterials. Of particular note is his research into hybrid drugs designed to prevent malaria.
Dao’s work has been widely recognized, having been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals. Notably, he has been the lead author on two manuscripts published by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemical Communications, a journal ranked in the top 10% worldwide.
He is also the recipient of the university’s Graduate Achievement Award in Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery.
Resources at the pharmacy school were invaluable to Dao. In particular, he praised the antimalarial screening service that made his research possible.
“On one hand, the streamlined and well-established antimalarial screening procedure provided us a fast and efficient service to screen the compounds that our lab synthesized,” Dao said. “Several potent antimalarial hybrid drugs have been identified as a result of this process.
“On the other hand, the screening procedure allows enough flexibility so that parameters and protocol can be modified to better study different aspects of the mechanism of antimalarial activities.”
Dao also praised the NMR Core facility located within the school, recommending student seek out both the facility and its “knowledgeable and dedicated” manager, Pavel Kucheravy.
The school’s faculty members are a great help to any graduate student, offering needed mentorship. Dao acknowledged Seonbong Jo, associate professor of pharmaceutics, as a particularly influential mentor whose guidance allowed Dao to take his research in interesting directions while staying focused.
“Dr. Jo is a great mentor, and trained me to be an independent researcher,” he said. “He gives me some freedom to pursue wild ideas, but at the same time constantly guiding me to focus on the applicability of the projects.
“Sometimes I get carried away and chase an idea that seems to have little practicality in the near future, but it’s Dr. Jo who pulls me back to the ground by asking ‘What is the application of these findings, in real life?'”
Dao applied his mentor’s advice to build a successful research program.
“Huy is always curious about new things,” Jo said. “He is very much open to applying what he learned from the classroom to explain new things. Curiosity and perseverance are among the two most important factors of a successful scientist.
“Future students can learn from Huy about the attitude to facing questions related to science and research. He has taken them really seriously and honestly.”
Besides the pharmacy school’s resources, Majumdar encourages students to utilize university support services such as the Career Center, Counseling Center, Student Disability Services, Office of International Programs and multiple graduate student organizations that benefit all Ole Miss students.
Prospective students are encouraged to review the pharmacy school’s graduate program brochure to get a full understanding of everything the school offers.
By Patrick Smith