PhD Student Spotlight: Alicia Warnecke

Meet Alicia Warnecke, a first-year PhD student at the USC School of Pharmacy who double-majored in biology and neuroscience at Syracuse University. Here, she shares her journey to graduate school and describes life on the West Coast after years living in the East, and why she chose the USC School of Pharmacy.

Why did you choose USC School of Pharmacy?

I chose the USC School of Pharmacy because the program here is geared towards developing researchers who are prepared for highly competitive industry spots after graduation. PhD students are also eligible to enroll in a regulatory science masters degree program to compliment their research and coursework. This program is part of what helps PhD graduates from the USC School of Pharmacy to successfully move into industry positions.

What is one of the best experiences you’ve had at the School of Pharmacy so far?

I greatly enjoyed the CXPT 609 Preclinical Experimental Therapeutic Drug Development course that I took this past semester. We learned a lot about what goes into creating successful drugs and at the end of the semester we had a potluck to celebrate all our hard work.

Also, our cohort is pretty close and we have our own group chat to help set up study groups or plan activities outside of school. We have gone hiking together and we meet up for happy hour, and we’ve had different get-togethers at each others’ houses. Having a group of good friends at the School has definitely been something that helped me get through my first year successfully.

Why should prospective PhD students consider the USC School of Pharmacy?

Prospective students should consider coming to the USC School of Pharmacy because of the department’s exciting research, great connections, and ability to draw impressive speakers. The USC School of Pharmacy has a wide range of research currently being conducted, from drug delivery in tumors to possible treatments in neurological diseases. A large number of speakers come to the USC Health Sciences Campus every month for lecture series, such as the Amgen series. In these lectures students are able to meet researchers currently advancing drug development in their respective areas of research.

Could you tell us a bit about your research and work in Daryl Davies’ lab?

My research is focused on evaluating the ability of moxidectin, a P2X4 receptor agonist, to enhance dopamine as an adjunct therapy in a Parkinson’s model.

In Dr. Davies’ lab we are all focused on researching the P2X4 receptor which is part of a family of purinergic recptors. The work in the lab mainly centers on how P2X4 receptor modulation effects alcohol use disorder (AUD), using in vivo and in vitro models.

As someone who is from the East Coast, what do you think of living in LA so far? How is it different from what you expected?

Los Angeles is a lot more laid back than the East Coast, which is something I expected. It is refreshing to work in an environment that is a little more casual and less rigid.  The weather here is also something I appreciate every day in Los Angeles. Syracuse is America’s snowiest campus and getting out of bed can be hard when it literally freezing out. Here I find I can happily jump out of bed to be greeted by far more mild temperatures and sunshine.

I think the traffic is probably the biggest thing I underestimated when moving here. I still find it crazy how long it can take me to drive just a few miles, even outside of traditional rush hour.  Since moving to Los Angeles I have started to learn how to skateboard and love going for a ride up and down the Strand in the South Bay. It is beautiful to look out at the ocean, and a lot of fun.