Pharmacy students get research work UBC Reports
April 16, 1998

Pharmacy students get research work

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

Waiting tables, grinding coffee or pulling weeds won't be part of this year's summer employment scene for a group of aspiring researchers in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Thanks to the Summer Student Research Program (SSRP), 11 undergraduate students will be spending the summer working in pharmacy research labs.

"We want to give undergrads a taste of what it's like to be a research scientist," says assistant profesessor and program director Kishor Wasan. "We want them to see what they can do with a pharmacy degree."

Targeted to students in first, second and third years, the projects are designed to give a variety of research experience, ranging from basic science to community pharmacy education.

"We have high profile research being conducted by our faculty," says Pharmaceutical Sciences Dean Frank Abbott. "By getting students involved early, we're hoping to help fulfill President Piper's vision of using research to enrich the undergraduate education at UBC."

Competition for the summer research positions is intense. This year, 70 students applied for the 11 openings.

"This experience will be an asset if I decide to apply for grad studies," says third-year student Frank Strobel, who is entering his second summer with the program. "Also, employers look for people who can work in teams -- now I have that experience."

"Research is creating new knowledge," says second-year student Jenny Chou, who will be taking a break from a summer retail job to participate in the SSRP. "It's not just textbooks and lectures."

After graduation, pharmacy students usually go directly to high-paying jobs as pharmacists without any knowledge of research options, according to Wasan. About 15 per cent of students in the summer program have gone on to graduate studies.

In addition to being a stepping stone to further research, the program gives students additional job skills, such as expertise in operating drug analysis equipment.

"Besides the basic science, there's a lot of mentoring that goes on," says Wasan.

The availability of funded research staff also helps junior faculty members grow their research programs, he adds.

Increased funding has allowed the program to double the number of students it employs since it started in 1989.

It recently received a two-year grant from the Medical Research Council of Canada and new funding from the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Wasan hopes to have the program endowed and to increase its ties with industry, creating summer research placements with community pharmacy laboratories.