How did you hear about the SURF Program?
My research mentor at the University of La Verne, Dr. Jerome Garcia, was a USC School of Pharmacy alumnus, so he has been pushing me to look at USC for pharmacy school for a long time. When I was looking at summer fellowship opportunities, I wanted to stay local so I could still go to my football practice and USC’s SURF Program seemed like a great opportunity to do impactful research at one of the top pharmacy schools in the country.
When did you first get interested in pharmacy and science in general?
Growing up in Norco, a horse town, we always had pets and I grew up wanting to be a veterinarian. My freshman year, I had a really good academic advisor who challenged me by saying, “Maybe you could help people instead of just animals.” After more discussion, she put me in touch with Dr. Garcia and together, we worked on cancer research, more specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma research. Just seeing the background of drug development was really interesting to me. I didn’t know how to pursue drug development as a career, and he suggested pharmacy school. On the commercial side, you see all these new drugs coming out and it’s cool but they’re usually extremely expensive. My goal is to be on the forefront of making more affordable drugs to help the consumers.
What’s a typical day for you like at USC?
This summer, I worked on alcohol research in Dr. Daryl Davies’ lab alongside six other researchers. More specifically, our research team is aiming to develop novel treatments for patients with alcohol use disorder. I usually get to the lab around 9 a.m. and set up our electrophysiology rigs. After that, I go into various molecular biology experiments that my graduate student mentor assigns me, which mainly deals with synthesizing of the DNA or the RNA for the injections that we use for our research.
The SURF Program pairs you with a graduate student mentor and a faculty mentor. What have you learned from each of them?
My graduate student mentor, Larry Rodriguez, a PhD candidate in the Department of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has taught me that we’re always successful in science because something always comes out — as in there’s always a result — but it’s not always what we want. I see him coming in early and staying late, so it’s also been motivating to see just how hard he works and how much he actually cares about the research.
My faculty mentor Dr. Daryl Davies has given me a lot of good advice about pharmacy school in general. He has had an open office policy from the beginning of this program, so I try to visit his office often for my big science (and graduate school) questions.
How has the SURF program impacted you? What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in joining the SURF program?
If you get the opportunity, take it. No matter where you go to undergrad, it’s a great opportunity to be working within an actual, functioning pharmacy school and to make valuable connections. It might sound cheesy, but when you’re here, you’re really working on cutting-edge, impactful research.
What are your career goals?
I’m currently applying to pharmacy school. After talking to Dr. Daryl Davies about all the different fields within pharmacy that I could pursue, I’m still exploring my options at this point. I’m most likely going to pursue my PharmD degree first, but I’m also looking at USC Mann’s MS in Management of Drug Development program. All I know is that I want to continue to be involved in research somehow.
Learn more about USC Mann Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Program here.