March 5, 2020
By Whitney Tarpy
OXFORD, Miss. – The Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has successfully prepared numerous alumni for high-level careers with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The department’s stimulating learning environment and emphasis on real-world experiences have allowed graduates to take advantage of opportunities with the FDA. The relationship with the national agency has strengthened the program by way of research sponsorships for the school’s labs and attendance at the school’s Hands-on Course in Tablet Technology.
“The department’s long history with the FDA has led to seven doctoral graduates serving as permanent employees, while seven more earned distinctions as ORISE fellows,” said Michael Repka, chair and distinguished professor of the department and director of the Pii Center for Pharmaceutical Technology. “The FDA’s sponsorship of research in our department provides opportunities for faculty and graduate students to work on projects that have an immediate impact on patient health.
“Their attendance at our tablet course allows for interaction in a more casual environment so that we can better understand the challenges FDA scientists face in regulating the global pharmaceutical market.”
Preparing students for jobs at the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry is one of the graduate program’s top priorities. Xin Feng graduated with a Ph.D. from the department in 2016 and works as an FDA research scientist, conducting projects to support its review, policy and compliance functions. The department’s offerings provided Feng a strong foundation for career growth.
“Working with the Hands-on Course in Tablet Technology provided immediate experience with advanced pharmaceutical processing technology,” Feng said. “Dr. Repka’s help with my career development, such as assigning me as a reviewer for top pharmaceutical peer-reviewed journals, also impacted my work after graduation.”
Suneela Prodduturi agreed that working with hot-melt extrusion technology to develop complex pharmaceutical dosage forms readied her to become a FDA staff fellow in the Office of Pharmaceutical Quality.
“Dr. Repka’s tireless efforts to provide guidance and resources were outstanding,” Prodduturi said. “He gave us great insight into hot-melt extrusion and was instrumental in helping with my multidisciplinary doctoral research, which not only increased the visibility of my work, but also enhanced my knowledge and prepared me to be a team player.”
Eman Ashour, research assistant professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery and doctoral graduate of the department, previously worked as an ORISE fellow in the FDA’s Office of Pharmaceutical Quality. Since returning to Oxford to join the pharmacy school’s faculty, Ashour uses her experience to prepare future FDA staff members.
“Working in a big organization like FDA allowed me to meet and collaborate with multidisciplinary scientists, such as pharmaceutical, chemical engineering and regulatory scientists,” Ashour said. “This expanded my knowledge and encouraged me to think critically about the pharmaceutical field.”
Collaborating with the FDA allows the department to invite speakers for educational seminars, such as FDA senior staff fellow Ahmed S. Zidan, who spoke about 3D printing in the pharmaceutical industry.
Access to these speakers benefits students searching for career advice. Prodduturi recommends that all students pursuing careers at the FDA or other regulatory field jobs network, build communications skills and keep a positive attitude.
“My advice is to build strong fundamentals with your coursework and to work honestly and passionately on your research project,” Prodduturi said. “Never stop learning from any and every source you have.”