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2015 Summer Diversity Program Wraps

It was a summer of hard work and discovery for four undergrads who participated in the Pharmacological Science Summer Diversity Program (PSSDP).  Hector Caldera (Fort Lewis College), Brianna Morgan (Southern Oregon University), Monica Pengshung (Southern Oregon University), and Hannah Rudolph (Agnes Scott College) recently presented posters at Mary Gates Hall to wrap up their summer experience at the School of Pharmacy.

The PSSDP provides opportunities for talented undergraduate students from diverse social and cultural backgrounds to perform hands-on research in drug metabolism, pharmacokinetics, cellular pharmacology, molecular pharmacology, and biophysical virology.  Participants are selected from a national pool of applicants as well as current UW students.  Those selected receive a stipend, living accommodations, and a transportation allowance for the summer.  The host departments are Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, and Pharmacology.

Monica Pengshun rotated with Professor Joanne Wang in Pharmaceutics. Her poster, “Substrate-dependent inhibitory effect of cimetidine and pyrimethamine on renal organic cation transporters OCT2 and MATE1,” focused on predicting drug-drug interactions that could alter the clearance of drugs and toxins from the kidneys.

Hector Caldera collected medicinal plants as a child, sparking an interest in chemistry.  “My summer project took me out of my comfort zone, from organic chemistry to molecular biology,” said Hector.  His poster, “Investigation of the Structure of Recombinantly Expressed Influenza M1 Matrix Protein,” reflects his research into a protein that plays a key role in the life cycle of the influenza virus.  Discovering how to disrupt the protein’s function could lead to new drug designs in the ongoing war against  influenza.  Hector’s faculty mentor was Medicinal Chemistry Associate Professor Kelly Lee.  “I really enjoyed the mixture of support and independence from my mentors,” said Hector. “But . . . I don’t know about being down in that basement.”

Brianna Morgan is a pre-med student and new to the lab environment.  “This experience opened my eyes about grad school and options I might not have had before,” said Brianna.  “It was a supportive team experience for me, and I learned new techniques for research.”  Her poster, “Inhibition of the Cholesterol Biosynthetic Pathway by Known Drugs,” discusses how certain drugs can interrupt the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway.  This inhibition effect may be a risk factor for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, because cholesterol plays important roles in the development of the nervous system.  Brianna’s faculty mentor was Medicinal Chemistry Assistant Professor Libin Xu.

Hannah Rudolph rotated with Associate Professor Paul Phillips in Pharmacology.  We wish our 2015 Summer Diversity students all the best as they begin Fall Quarter in their respective colleges and universities!  Learn more about the PSSDP here.