23rd Annual UTHSCSA Pharmacology Dr. Matt Rowan Memorial Graduate Student Symposium - October 28th, 2016


Grad Student SymposiumEach fall, the graduate students in the Department of Pharmacology organize their annual graduate student symposium, which includes two poster sessions, several slide presentations, a luncheon and the keynote speaker's address. This year's symposium was held at the La Quinta Inn and Suites Medical Center (I-10E frontage road between Medical and Callaghan) in San Antonio, Texas. The event was organized by the Graduate Student Symposium Committee, whose members this year consisted of: Corena Shaffer, Chris Tschumi and Chaired by Elizabeth Fucich.


Sadly, this year, we mourned the loss of one of our graduate students and post doctoral fellows taken in a hot air balloon tragedy this past summer, Dr. Matt Rowan. Dr. Rowan contributed endlessly to the support of his mentor's lab, Dr. William Clarke, as a graduate student. He continued that support and contribution as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Nathan Jeske's lab, where he assisted and educated others on the pharmacological principles and protocols he learned as a graduate student, protocols that are still run in the lab to this day. Teresa Chavera, lab manager for Dr. Clarke, commented about Matt while a graduate student in the lab as: 'Working with Matt was like hanging out with your little brother every day. He annoyed me, he inspired me, he made me laugh until I cried, he got me in trouble and he (sometimes) got me out of trouble. He was incredibly intelligent, sarcastic, sensitive and most of all respectful. Matt was a special human being, with a bright future ahead of him. He was taken too soon and we are all the poorer for it.' So many of his former students and colleagues share similar feelings that the Department of Pharmacology has decided to rename the graduate student symposium in his now be know as the Dr. Matt Rowan Memorial Graduate Student Syposium.


Grad Student SymposiumThe Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, David Weiss, Ph.D.(L) and the Interim IBMS Discipline Leader Robert Brenner, Ph.D.(R) (pictured), kicked off the symposium with opening comments before adjourning the symposium attendees for the first of two poster sesions.

After the first round of poster presentations and judging, it was time for the Alumnus and student presentations. This years Graduate Student Alumnus was Captain Elaine Por, Ph.D., who is currently a Research Biochemist at the Ocular Trauma division at the United States Army Institute of Surgical Research (JBSA-Ft. Sam Houston). Her talk was titled: 'From Academia to Army'. The graduate student presentation followed, this year given by pharmacology graduate student Fernando Moura. Fernando is conducting his resarch in the lab of Pharmacology Associate Professor, Lance McMahon, Ph.D. where his primary interests are understanding the mechanism of action that mediate the discriminative stimulus effects of nicotine as well as studying compounds that could possibly be developed into novel pharmacotherapies for tobacco cessation. He is particularly interested in distinguishing nicotinic receptor subtypes that function in nicotine addiction. His presentation was titled: 'The Diverging Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Pharmacologies of Nicotine and Varenicline'.


Grad Student Symposium
Graduate Student Alumni Captain Elaine Por, Ph.D. Presenting


Grad Student Symposium
Pharmacology Graduate Student Fernando Moura Presenting


There was a break for lunch before the second poster session began in the afternoon. Poster presentations were judged by three groups of 'roving' judges...two groups for Graduate Student Posters and one group for the Postdoctoral Fellow and Undergraduate Posters. The judges in the Graduate Student Group 1 this year were: Bruce A. Littlefield, Ph.D., the Keynote Speaker and Pharmacology Assistant Professor/Research Milena Girotti, Ph.D.. The judges in the Graduate Student Group 2 this year were: Pharmacology Alumni Captian Elaine Por, Ph.D. and David Maguire, Ph.D., Pharmacology Instructor/Research. The judges in the Postdoctoral Fellow and Undergraduate group included: Pharmacology Professor Susan Mooberry, Ph.D., Pharmacology Professor and CBN Director David Morilak, Ph.D. and Assistant Professor Jason O'Connor, Ph.D.. Each poster presenter is given approximately ten minutes to present their research data to the judges. The judges then follow-up with a brief question and answer period before moving on to the next presenter for judging. There are two categories of competition: the 'Student' category and the 'Postdoctoral/Undergrad' category. Winners receive a certificate and cash award. This year's Student Category winners were Elizabeth Fucich, Roma Kaul and Breeanne Soteros. The Postdoctoral Category winner was Brenda Gannon, Ph.D. - Congratulations Winners! (Winners Pictured Below) The certifcates and awards were presented by the Department of Pharmacology Chairman, Alan, Frazer, Ph.D.. The symposium's two poster sessions had over forty graduate students and postdocs presenting abstracts that highlighted their current research.


Grad Student Symposium
Poster Presentation Winners - (L-R) Gannon, Fucich, Kaul and Soteros


The symposium closes with remarks from both the Graduate Student Symposium Committee members and Pharmacology Chaiman, Dr. Frazer, before concluding with the Keynote's Student Symposium Address. This year's keynote speaker was Bruce Littlefield, Ph.D., who serves as Distinguished Scientist and Head of Translational Medicine in the Global Oncology Medical Affairs division of Eisai, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Tokyo. His Graduate Student Symposium address was titled 'My Accidental Career: Natural Products, Microtubules Cancer Drug Discovery and Other Cool Stuff That Was Never Part of My Plan'.


Grad Student Symposium
Dr. Littlefield Presenting 'My Accidental Career: Natural Products, Microtubules Cancer Drug Discovery and Other Cool Stuff That Was Never Part of My Plan'


Planning has already begun for the next symposium, the 24th Annual Graduate Student Symposium - check the News and Events 'Upcoming Events' section, in a couple months, for an entry with details about the next symposium...hope to see you there!