Get to Know our Students and Faculty
Joseph Lutz: I am a graduate student in Dr. Littleton’s lab working on finding novel compounds in plants. I graduated from the University of Bath, United Kingdom, with a degree in biochemistry. As part of my undergraduate degree I completed one year of professional training at the University of Kentucky and had my first taste of the Bluegrass State. I spent a year in Paris, France, my hometown, working for the CNRS (National Center of Scientific Research) organizing a conference on Science and Society issues. I was, however, drawn back to the lab and therefore decided to pursue a Ph.D. My thesis is geared toward characterizing compounds from native Kentucky plants with interesting pharmacological activities. I am currently extracting a compound that could potentially protect against alcohol induced neurodegeneration and alcohol withdrawal induced neurodegeneration. Other than the lab, Lexington is a great city to live in, very relaxed but full of life due to the large student body. When I am done with my studies I plan to either pursue an academic track or a career in science policy, communications or publication.
Derek Reichel: After graduating from The Ohio State University in 2012, I knew I wanted to do pharmaceutical science research, but I still wanted to use the skills I developed as a chemical engineer. The University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy has allowed me the opportunity to do this. In my classes and in my research, I have been able to build upon my engineering skill set and apply myself in exciting, novel research areas.
Christin Hollis: I graduated with a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky. After conducting undergraduate research in drug delivery, I decided to apply to the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate program. For me, it is interesting to learn how pharmaceutical scientists can take part in translating drug molecules from bench to bedside by blending knowledge from multiple scientific disciplines (e.g. chemistry, biology, math, and engineering). To complete my graduate research work, which focuses on formulating and evaluating multifunctional hybrid nanocrystals for cancer theranostics, I continually work in multidisciplinary teams of scientists, engineers, and physicians.
Kyle Fugit: I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama in 2008. My work in Dr. Brad Anderson's lab is focused on multifunctional nanoparticles for imaging and thermosensitive release of anti-cancer drugs for the treatment of glioma. I chose Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Kentucky because of the focus and application of chemical engineering principles towards biological systems and pharmaceutical formulations.
Liu Xue: I am a graduate student in Dr. Chang-Guo Zhan’s lab working on anti-cocaine enzyme therapy. Upon completion of my bachelor's degree in biology from Purdue University in 2008, I joined the Pharmaceutical Sciences Ph.D. Program at the University of Kentucky. My research is focused on design and development of high-activity human butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) mutants specific for cocaine detoxification. I am currently working on in vivo validation and characterization of high-activity and high-selectivity BChE mutants for cocaine addiction and overdose treatment. Once I complete my education at UK, I plan to work in pharmaceutical industry.
Andrei Ponta: I am a graduate student working in Dr. Younsoo Bae's lab. I received a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama. After conducting undergraduate research, I became interested in the portion of chemical engineering geared towards cancer therapy research. I applied to a few graduate programs, including chemical engineering programs, but it was clear that UK offered me the best opportunity to continue doing research in this field. I have enjoyed working here, developing a drug delivery system for the treatment of cancer.
Nidhi Tibrewal: I am pursuing my Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences under Dr. Jurgen Rohr. I was born and brought up in Delhi, India and completed my undergrad from Delhi University. I graduated with a master's degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from Banasthali Vidyapith, India in 2006. Later I worked with Jubilant Chemsys, a pharmaceutical company, which further strengthened my interest in drug discovery and motivated me to pursue my career in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Currently, I am investigating the biosynthetic pathway of Gilvocarcin V and the photoactive Gilvocarcin V offers selective treatment of cancer, particularly lung cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer or wherever solid tumors can be reached through light capillaries. My aim is to chemically synthesize the proposed intermediates and exogenously feed these substrates to the enzymes involved. Finally, products formed from such reactions will be characterized and this information will be used to assign enzymes their role in the biosynthetic pathway. After delineating the pathway, we intend to develop more potent Gilvocarcin V analogues through chemo-enzymatic synthesis. Studying at UK is a new experience every day.
Nico Setiawan: I graduated with a B.S. in chemical and biopharmaceutical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 2012. This biopharmaceutical track gave me an insight of how chemical engineering plays a role in the pharmaceutical sciences. I participated in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Summer Undergraduate Research Program in 2010 working on the improvement of bioavailability of orally-administered drug by lipid-based drug delivery system, which really offered a blend of both chemical engineering and pharmacy aspects. These opportunities, together with my background and interest in drug delivery, led me to join the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate program.
Sucharita Sen Somkuwar: I graduated in 2007 as a silver medalist in Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences from Banaras Hindu University in India. I worked for a year in the National Center for Biological Sciences as a research assistant/trainee in a behavioral neurobiology laboratory. This experience strengthened my desire to pursue a career in neuropharmacology. Currently, I am working on a project in the lab of Dr. Linda Dwoskin investigating the co-morbidity between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and cocaine addiction using an animal model. More specifically, my studies will determine if the vulnerability to cocaine addiction is altered after discontinuation of treatment with methylphenidate during adolescence in an animal model of ADHD, and if altered dopamine transporter localization and function contributes to the underlying mechanism of the vulnerability for cocaine abuse. As for my future plans, I have not decided between industry and academia, but I plan to make significant contributions to the advancement of the field of neuroscience and towards the improvement of health standards of people.
Steven Rheiner: After graduating from Iowa in 2011, I came to a difficult decision in my search for a graduate program: do I continue my interests in drug delivery in an Engineering school or a Pharmacy school? UK offered me a little of both. The College of Pharmacy faculty have respected and encouraged my engineering skills. The class work and research in my first year have allowed me to expand upon previously learned drug delivery concepts, such as diffusion, but it also gave greater meaning beyond the numbers and equations. In Dr. Younsoo Bae's lab, I am working on a less toxic, more efficient biocompatible polymeric nanoparticle for delivery for siRNA to targeted cells.
Brad Anderson, Ph.D. As part of the Cancer Nanotechnology Training Center at UK, we are involved in the design of drug delivery systems for the treatment of brain cancers by remotely controlling drug release after convection enhanced brain delivery of drug-loaded liposomes and paramagnetic nanoparticles that heat in the presence of an alternating magnetic field. We are collaborating with Dr. Zach Hilt in the Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Materials in this project. In related research, we are exploring quantitative models to predict drug loading and release kinetics in liposomes. In a second area of interest, we are exploring the chemical and physical stability of amorphous drug formulations using a combination of experiments and molecular dynamics computer simulations. Finally, our laboratory is involved in the development of drug formulations and novel delivery systems of anti-cancer agents suitable for preclinical or clinical trials in humans.
Eric Munson, Ph.D. As part of the Center for Pharmaceutical Development, a NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center, we use solid-state NMR spectroscopy, powder X-ray diffraction, and other techniques to characterize solid pharmaceuticals. Specific research areas that are being pursued include the investigation of the structure and reactivity of pharmaceutical agents in polymer matrices; correlation of solid-state NMR chemical shifts with molecular structure; investigation of the transformations between crystalline and amorphous forms of pharmaceutical solids; effect of processing upon drug structure and stability; investigation of peptide and protein stability in formulations; and the effects of freeze drying upon drug stability. Our research is extremely collaborative, and we work closely with researchers across the country in working to solve problems related to drug substance and drug product, especially as it relates to Quality by Design (QbD).
Kimberly Nixon, Ph.D., associate professor, has been with the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences since 2005. Her research focuses on the role of neural stem cells in alcoholic neurodegeneration in both adult and adolescent models of alcohol use disorders (alcoholism). The goal of the lab is to discover novel pathways involved in the regulation of neural stem cells and whether those pathways can be manipulated to prevent cell loss or promote recovery. Dr. Nixon's lab utilizes animal models of alcohol use disorders, specializing in a model of binge drinking combined with neuroanatomical, biochemical, and behavioral methods. Dr. Nixon, a yankee by birth and Texan by choice, considers the rural Ft. Worth community of Keller, Texas, as her hometown. She received her bachelor's and doctoral degrees in Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience) from the University of Texas at Austin where she was co-supervised by Steven W. Leslie, Dean of the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Nixon completed postdoctoral fellowship and research associate positions at The Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, NC.
Paul Bummer, Ph.D. We are involved, as part of the Cancer Nanotech Training Center at UK, with designing means of delivering anti-cancer agents to the brain by tuning the phase transitions in lipid gels so as to remotely-control the release of active agents. In this work we are collaborating with Dr. Zach Hilt in the Dept. of Chemical Engineering and Materials to apply the nanomagnet technology developed in his laboratory. As a second area of interest, as a member of the Center for Pharmaceutical Development, we are modeling the mechanism of solubilization of poorly-soluble drug in lipid-based formulations (mixed micelles; microemulsions, etc) in the GI tract with the overall goal of converting candidates from those too insoluble to be clinically useful to viable therapeutic agents.
Daniel Pack, Ph.D. The Pack lab sits at the intersection of the Department of Chemical & Materials Engineering, Pharmaceutical Sciences and the Markey Cancer Center, and we participate in the Cancer Nanotech Training Center and the NSF-IGERT in Engineered Bioactive Interfaces & Devices. We focus on engineering of advanced drug and gene delivery systems. Specific areas of interest include investigation of intracellular trafficking mechanisms of polymer/DNA vectors, design of new materials for siRNA delivery, development of a new class of hybrid gene therapy vectors comprising synthetic materials and virus-like particles, and applications of monodisperse, biodegradable-polymer microspheres and microcapsules for controlled-release of peptides and proteins. Through collaborations with faculty in CME, Pharmaceutical Sciences and the UK medical center, our work incorporates chemical engineering, polymer synthesis, cell biology and oncology.
Gregory Graf, Ph.D., associate professor, joined the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2004. His research focus is the relationships between obesity and changes in lipid metabolism that link obesity to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and gall stone formation. Dr. Graf's lab utilizes animal models of obesity and dyslipidemia as well as fat cell (adipocyte) and liver cell (hepatocyte) culture systems to examine the role these transporters play in determining whether cholesterol and key fatty acids are stored, catabolized or excreted. Dr. Graf, a native of Vernon, Texas, received a bachelor's degree in from Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, in 1994 and his doctoral degree in physiology at UK in 2000. He joined the faculty in the College of Pharmacy after completing post-doctoral training in Molecular Genetics at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Younsoo Bae, Ph.D. The overall goal of our research is to develop an effective and safe customized therapy to detect, diagnose, image, and treat human diseases by combining nanotechnology and pharmaceutical sciences. We are developing nanoscale polymer nanoassemblies for controlled delivery of various therapeutic agents, such as small molecule drugs, proteins, plasmid DNA, and siRNA. The nanoassemblies, comprising either self-assembled or cross-linked functional block copolymers, are designed to release their payloads at a targeted disease site (e.g. cancerous tumor) in a tunable manner in response to time or external stimuli (e.g. pH, heat, light, and enzymatic activity), and thus maximizing therapeutic efficacy while reducing undesirable side effects to the body. The nanoassemblies capable of targeting tumor can be used for non-invasive cancer imaging, based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), fluorescence probing and bioluminescence techniques.
Linda P. Dwoskin, Ph.D. is the U.S. Surgical-Pfizer Endowed Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. She also is director and principal investigator of a national cooperative drug discovery group which collaborates with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to discover novel treatments for tobacco dependence. Dr. Dwoskin joined the faculty in 1988 as an assistant professor. She received her B.S. in 1974 in psychology from Syracuse University, and her Ph.D. in 1983 from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Minnesota. She was a postdoctoral fellow in endocrinology at the Oregon Health Science Center and in pharmacology at the University of Colorado Health Science Center. She has graduated four Ph.D. students and trained 13 postdoctoral fellows in her laboratory.
Dr. Dwoskin's major research focus is drug discovery in neuropharmacology, such as the development of novel therapeutic candidates for the treatment of psychostimulant abuse, specifically for nicotine and methamphetamine abuse. She also is founder and vice president of pharmacology for Yaupon Therapeutics Inc., a drug discovery company. Creating New Treatments for Nicotine and Methamphetamine Abuse