OXFORD, Miss. – Created to honor the achievements of a longtime University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy professor and administrator, the inaugural Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award was presented this spring to Amanda Waters, who graduated in May with a Ph.D. in pharmacognosy.
Waters, a native of Altus, Oklahoma, received the honor from the Department of Biomolecular Sciences at its graduate student award ceremony. The award, which consists of a plaque and $500, honors Charles D. Hufford, professor of pharmacognosy and the school’s associate dean for research and graduate programs.
“I cannot express what an honor it is to be chosen for this inaugural award,” Waters said. “Dr. Hufford’s career has been exceptional and I have been privileged to interact with him. His advice and support during my graduate studies have been invaluable to me. As a scientist, teacher and administrator, he is a wonderful role model for young researchers.”
Recipients of the Hufford Award must give the highest scoring oral presentation at the annual Mississippi Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy Meeting. Judges of this symposium are medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy faculty members from regional schools and colleges of pharmacy.
“Amanda delivered the best oral presentation at the meeting,” said Stephen Cutler, chair of the UM biomolecular sciences department. “In addition, she is an outstanding student who is engaged in many activities within the department, school, university and the discipline of pharmacognosy.”
Cutler created the award after realizing there was a gap in graduate student recognition.
“While reviewing the emphasis areas of our department, I noted there were graduate student awards in the areas of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology but not one for pharmacognosy,” Cutler said. “I felt we should offer an annual award to the most meritorious graduate student in pharmacognosy. I am thrilled that the award recognizes the distinguished accomplishments of Dr. Hufford in developing our pharmacognosy program.”
Joining the school as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972, Hufford routinely worked with graduate students and said they were a big part of his early success.
“Certainly it’s an honor to have this award named after me, particularly because it’s a graduate student award,” Hufford said. “In my early days, I spent a lot of time with graduate students, and I enjoyed that time. It was rewarding to work with them for four, five or six years and get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing the joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”
In addition to his duties as associate dean, Hufford serves as a teaching assistant for pharmacognosy courses. In this role, he has grown to know Waters well.
“Amanda is clearly a very good student and one of the best we’ve ever had in the program,” he said. “She has won several awards already and has been recognized outside of the school for her accomplishments.”
In mid-August, Waters plans to move to Frederick, Maryland, to begin a postdoctoral position with the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Waters, who worked under pharmacognosy professor Mark Hamann, credits her time at Ole Miss with allowing her to learn more about natural products research.
“Looking back over the last five years, it has been an amazing learning experience in which I have been able to grow as a scientist and a person,” she said.
Hufford has some simple advice for recipients of the award, and all graduate students in general.
“There’s no substitute for hard work when you want to be successful,” he said. “You can’t go out and expect people to respect you and think you’re good unless you work hard. When you do that, the recognition will come. I know Amanda will do that – there’s no question in my mind. It’s the secret to receiving really good opportunities in life.”