June 17, 2018
By Whitney Tarpy
OXFORD, Miss. – Austin Fitts and Mary Paige Thrash, both rising second-year professional students at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, were named recipients of the Gateway to Research Scholarship by the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education.
The award provides students an opportunity to work on faculty-mentored research projects while improving the students’ knowledge of clinical skills.
“I was extremely excited because this fellowship, quite literally, will be used as my gateway to research the topics which I am interested in, such as oncology,” said Fitts, a native of Myrtle, Mississippi.
Fitts has worked with Chalet Tan, associate professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery, exploring the delivery of microRNA via exosomes to treat a variety of cancers. His interest in this area came after studying the isolation and characterization of exosomes at Jackson State University in the summer of 2016.
Fitts hopes this award will assist in his future plans of earning his Ph.D. in the field of biochemistry, cancer biology or medicinal chemistry.
“I am very proud of Austin for receiving this scholarship,” Tan said. “Austin has an inquisitive mind and unusually strong interest in cancer biology and drug delivery. His undergraduate research training was exceptional, which is the key impetus for the current project.”
Originally from Columbus, Mississippi, Thrash’s interest in cancer research has her studying new ways to target and defeat cancer cells along with forming new therapies. With cancer serving as a challenging field for researchers, Thrash believes this award will allow her to grow and develop new laboratory skills.
“When I heard the good news, I was very excited,” Thrash said. “I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of the research community that is making strides to advance the field of medicine. I am honored to be given this chance to learn and work alongside faculty who have inspired and supported me throughout my research experience.”
Thrash is a veteran to research, as she recently designed and created new molecules that could have potential therapeutic benefits for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s in her Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College thesis. She is a member on the research team of John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, who called Thrash’s commitment to research “extraordinary.”
“I was thrilled to learn that Mary Paige was awarded this highly competitive AFPE Scholarship,” Rimoldi said. “She is most deserving of this award, and I am confident she will make significant and impactful contributions towards her proposed research in drug discovery and development.”