A Closer Look at Research Opportunities

Published on 24 June 2019

From examining antipsychotic prescription trends and medication savings behaviors to studying the treatment of multiple myeloma cells, St. Louis College of Pharmacy’s research opportunities are as diverse as they are important.

On Saturday, April 13, the College celebrated the 10th Annual Student Research Symposium, a campus tradition that has showcased the work of more than 400 students and featured nearly 300 different student research projects throughout the years.

Each year, undergraduate and professional students work alongside faculty mentors for months to prepare for the symposium. During the event, participants present the findings of their research projects as part of a poster or podium session. Attendees have the opportunity to view the various research project posters and interact directly with student researchers. Those participating in podium sessions during the symposium prepare and present formal presentations to attendees and address in-depth questions about their methodology and results. Both poster and podium sessions prepare students to think critically, and defend and evaluate their research.

“Understanding the basics of conducting research equips students with the necessary skills to make calculated decisions later on in their careers,” said Sara Richter, Pharm.D. ’12, assistant professor of pharmacy practice and advisor of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy-Student Chapter. “Whether students are interested in a career in research, pursuing a residency program or just want to engage in hands-on lab training, attending the symposium is critical for opening the door to new opportunities.”

Serving as the symposium’s keynote speaker, Tom Burris, Ph.D., FAAAS, FAHA, Alumni Endowed Professor in the Center for Clinical Pharmacology and vice president of research at the College, echoed the importance of research opportunities for students, encouraging them to get involved in research early on in their professional careers.

“Young researchers are the lifeblood of academic research,” Burris said. “It’s important to give students a place to develop their skills and transition from teaching labs to more complex labs. It’s difficult for someone who is new to research to develop the skills to take their career to the next level.”

Among those presenting at this year’s symposium were P4 students Ciara Kellogg and Lauren Koscal, who conducted their longitudinal research project as part of a pre-residency program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The pair conducted an observational study that examined the use of antipsychotics in managing intensive care unit patients who developed delirium.

“Presenting at the symposium allowed me to grow my confidence in presenting research to others,” Koscal said. “I know this experience will make next year’s independent residency project easier.”

Kellogg added, “I am glad we took a chance on this project. This experience helped us gain valuable research skills that we will be able to use throughout our careers.”

During her sophomore year, P3 student Matea Markovic knew she wanted to apply for a competitive pharmacy residency program after graduation. After attending her first symposium, Markovic realized that conducting research at the College would give her an advantage during the residency interview process and provide her with a solid foundation to complete a residency research project.

Markovic began collaborating with Ehren Bucholtz, Ph.D., director of undergraduate programs and associate professor of organic chemistry, who introduced her to the basics of using coding to analyze data.

“Building my research skills early on allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom into my lab work,” Markovic said. “These building blocks helped me to obtain a position conducting hands-on research at a biomedical lab at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.”

Markovic’s work at the School of Medicine was focused on measuring whether Brefeldin A, an antiviral drug, could be used to treat multiple myeloma. She conducted her research alongside P4 student Joseph Kotsybar under the direction of principal investigator Abdel Kareem Azab, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine.

Kotsybar plans to use his research experience to pursue an industry fellowship designed to help him gain experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

“Doing research is a great way to set yourself apart, especially if you are interested in a specialized position,” Kotsybar said. “Prospective employers are impressed when job candidates are able to speak about research in an interview, and can demonstrate that they have presented at research conferences and have had their research published.”

Like Kotsybar, P2 student Marissa Chow also understands the benefits of participating in research opportunities. Having participated in the symposium for the past four years, Chow recently became a student research mentor. In her new role, she helps train new researchers who are working with Melanie VanDyke, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, to explore the relationship between medication hoarding, medication risks and falls and injuries in older adults.

“This year, I created research tools to help students learn the research process,” Chow said. “It’s rewarding to see someone else grow and apply their research skills to think more logically.”

As the College continues its work to become a leader in research, plans are in the works to provide students with even more research opportunities through the creation of a Center for Student Research where students will learn the basic skills necessary for conducting bench research. The center will be used as an educational training pipeline designed to prepare students for high-level, grant-funded lab positions.

"Our goal is to offer student-focused research training that will give our students the experience and skill set required to work in grant-funded labs or the industry,” Burris said.

To learn more about research at the College, visit stlcop.edu/research.

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