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Summer of research

Pharmacy program to help undergrads choose research careers


By Heidi Wicks

The School of Pharmacy’s first Undergraduate Student Summer Research Program (USSRP) is underway, allowing eight students to explore career options in research.

The goal of the program is to encourage undergraduate students in pharmacy or any discipline with relevance to pharmacy research to become aware of career options in research.

“We have a diverse graduate research program here in the School of Pharmacy that many people don’t know about,” said Dr. John Weber, associate dean, graduate studies and research. “We have been making a concerted effort over the past few years to promote our graduate programs, and the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Program is something we’re really proud of and look forward to being able to offer for many years to come.”

Research program events

In February the school pioneered its Pharmacy Research Matchmaking Game, intended to draw students who may never have considered pharmaceutical sciences or clinical pharmacy graduate research as an area they’d like to explore. In March, as part of Pharmacist Awareness Month, the second annual Pharmacy Research Innovation Day was held, and featured the first ever Snappy Synopsis: Pharmacy Graduate Research in a Nutshell, wherein graduate students gave short, five-minute presentations to creatively communicate their work to a mass audience.

“One of the highlights of our 2014-17 Strategic Plan is to increase our undergraduate students’ awareness of career opportunities in research,” explained Dr. Carlo Marra, dean, School of Pharmacy. “Whether in practice or a lab, there are many ways students can become involved in research and we feel it’s our responsibility here in the school to make them aware of the most current and exhaustive list of opportunities that exist with an undergraduate degree in pharmacy or a related discipline.

“And of course we’d also like them to consider continuing their education by doing a graduate program with us. We want to make sure they know that we have a diverse and outstanding program right here at Memorial. Our graduate supervisors are well funded and are excellent mentors.”

The USSRP takes place throughout June, July and August, and culminates with a reception event where participants give an oral presentation of their findings.

“Part of the purpose is to get students used to presenting their research,” said Dr. Weber. “Whether they choose to go into a career in research or not, effective communication skills are essential, so no matter which way their career goes, presenting and speaking in an articulate manner to groups of people will serve them well.”

The students will also participate in the school’s research poster competition on Pharmacy Research Innovation Day, which takes place annually during Pharmacist Awareness Month in March.

“We want the teaching and learning aspect of this program to be long lasting and to have impact,” said Dr. Marra. “We don’t want them to just forget what they’ve learned when the summer program ends.”

From health outcomes to drug discovery and delivery, the USSRP includes a varied collection of research projects. See below:


  • Dr. Tiffany Lee working with Jeremy MacDonald (Class of 2017), “Evaluation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Antibiotics Adherence Program” (funded by TEVA)
  • Dr. Debbie Kelly working with Caitlyn Walsh (Class of 2017), “Developing an Evaluation Framework for the MTS Clinic” (funded by Apotex)
  • Dr. John Weber working with Scott Unruh (Class of 2018), “Potential protective effects of wild blueberry extracts in a model of Parkinson’s disease” (funded by TEVA)
  • Dr. Noriko Daneshtalab working with Robyn St. Croix (Class of 2017), “Determination of hemorrhagic stroke formation in the hypertensive, arthritic rat model” (funded by Apotex)
  • Dr. Laleh Alisaraie working with Maria Flynn (Class of 2017), “Computational Research on Cancer Drugs and their side effects (funded by Apotex)
  • Dr. Lisa Bishop working with Jillian McInnis (Class of 2018), “A description of services utilized by youth in a community health centre: Preparing for a youth drop-in-clinic” (funded by Apotex)
  • Dr. John Weber working with Steven Rowe (Class of 2018) “Effects of adolescent alcohol exposure on long-term motor function ” (funded by The Loomis Undergraduate Research Award in Pharmacy)
  • Dr. John Weber working with Catherine Grandy (Class of 2019), “The effects of wild blueberry extracts on neuroinflammation“(Ms. Grandy is a recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Undergraduate Student Research Award)

The School of Pharmacy’s USSRP is made possible through unrestricted financial support from Apotex and Teva. For more information on graduate programs, please visit here.

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