Research Day Showcases Student Excellence, Alumni Success in Pharmaceutical Sciences

As pandemic restrictions eased, the return of in-person College of Pharmacy signature events has been a welcoming venture. The Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Department (PBS) wasted no time in seizing the opportunity to host its annual Research Day in-person, and under the direction of Dr. Jason Zastre, PBS Interim Assistant Department Head for Graduate Education, and Dr. Eileen Kennedy, Interim Department Head, the unit made an astute decision to change the format as well. The result? More College participation and engagement of faculty and staff, along with students who shared pride in the research of their fellow PharmDawgs.

Research Day exemplifies the College’s deliberate strategy to merge the disciplines of research and discovery with the significance of teaching and learn ing so that students gain a greater appreciation that the work they are doing will lead to the betterment of humankind.

Held at the College of Pharmacy on the Athens campus, the event shifted from spring to fall semester to ensure we could maximize this program’s impact on student successes in research.  “We were pleased with the content of the program and the engagement of our entire college,” said Dr. Zastre. “It was an outstanding Research Day – one of the best we have ever hosted!”

Featuring more than 31 student poster presentations, talks by various faculty, and opportunities to network, the event was highlighted with two keynote addresses delivered by alumni. Dr. Vishal Gupta (PhD ’00), Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President of Specialty Generics at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey, discussed “From UGA to Chief Scientific Officer: Reflections on a 22-Year Career Journey.” Later in the day, fellow alumnus, Dr. Tanzir Mortuza (PhD ‘18), Senior Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Gilead Sciences in New York, shared his view on, “From Toxicology to Regulatory Affairs.”

Remarked Jeremy Burton, a 2024 Ph.D. Candidate in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences from Mount Airy, GA, “I enjoyed Research Day!  It was great hearing from alumni from our program and learning about their career choices.” 

Research Day culminated in presentations of student awards.  Honorees and their awards included:


Dr. James T. Stewart Graduate Student Endowment 

Honors the late Jim Stewart, former faculty member

Tyler Brown, 2023 Ph.D. candidate, Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Tyler is from Evans, Ga., and he aspires to be an Organic Chemistry professor. His research area of interest is in the design of inhibitors for protein arginine methyltransferases. Dr. George Zheng is his major professor. 


Joseph P. LaRocca Graduate Research Poster Award

Honors the late Dr. Joe LaRocca, former faculty member

Gui GuimaraesWinner, 2023 Ph.D. candidate, Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Poster:  “Oligonucleotide Nonspecific Binding and Its Implications in Pharmaceutical Development”

Gui is from Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil, and he plans to work in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry upon graduation. Gui is interested in bioanalysis, and Dr. Michael Bartlett is his major professor.  

Ian Durie Finalist, 2022 Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences 

“Broad spectrum therapeutic development towards high-risk pathogens”

Originally from Parkland, FL., Ian focused his research on therapeutic development through structural immunology. Drs. Scott Pegan and Eric Bergeron were his major professors and he leads a team within a biotechnology company. 

Jiabao SongFinalist, 2023 Ph.D. candidate, Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Poster:  “Chemoproteomic profiling of HAT substrates in the native cellular context”

Jiabo is from China and focuses his research on using chemical tools to decipher the function of histone acetyltransferases and protein post-translational modifications. Dr. George Zheng is his major professor, and he plans to apply for a postdoctoral position at a top university to further strengthen his research skills and experiences. Long-term, Jiabo aspires to work on challenging biological and disease problems facing human beings.


Outstanding Poster Awards

Jeremy Burton, 2024 Ph.D. Candidate in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

“The Spatiotemporal Mapping of Proinflammatory GPCR-induced MAPK p38 Signaling Reveals A Key Role for Receptor Internalization” 

Originally from Mount Airy, GA, Jeremy focuses his research on pulmonary vascular inflammation. Jeremy aspires to be a Principal Investigator in Clinical and Translational Research, and Dr. Neil Grimsey is his major professor.  

Elizabeth Hughes

“Using Structure-based Activity Relationship Analysis (SAR) to Overcome Anthracycline Chemoresistance” 

Dr. Eugene Douglass is her major professor.  Liz is from Savannah, GA.

Jiabao Song 

“Chemoproteomic Profiling of Cellular Substrates of the Lysine Acetyltransferase HAT1 Using Cell Permeable Bioorthogonal Reporters”

See above.

Autumn Tobin 

“Inhibition of Class I Fusion Proteins by Targeting the Intermediate State” 

Dr. Eva Strauch is her major professor.


PBS Junior Student of the Year

Matthew Whittaker, 2025 Ph.D. Candidate, Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Dr. Eileen Kennedy is his major professor.  


Dr. Beth LaRocca-Pitts, the daughter of the late Dr. LaRocca, participated in the award presentations.

“We look forward to showcasing our research again next year,” said Dr. Zastre.


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