Student Success Helps Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery Program Flourish

Course work and research prepares graduates for industry jobs or doctoral education

Graduate students Anggrida Saragih (left), Gauri Shadambikar and Anh Vo work with state-of-the-art laboratory equipment in the Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest/UM School of Pharmacy

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery is making a strong commitment to students’ futures. Whether a student goes into the pharmaceutical job market or wants to further his or her education, students of the master’s program are prepared when graduation arrives.

The success of the program is evident in its numbers, as the department had its largest graduating class of 17 students hooded at the 2018 Commencement ceremony.

“At Ole Miss, I had the opportunity to work with best in the field of pharmaceutical research,” said Gauri Shadambikar, one of seven incoming Ph.D. students to the Ole Miss program this fall. “I could interact with people on a global level and meet representatives from the pharmaceutical industry. Overall, the research environment is very nurturing and it helps you be independent and productive.”

The pharmaceutical industry has a need for scientists and engineers with formulation development, regulatory affairs and manufacturing expertise. To prepare for these jobs, students work directly in the labs with more senior graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, gaining experience in advanced pharmaceutical technologies such as hot melt extrusion and nanotechnology.

Students also participate in the school’s Hands-On Course in Tablet Technology and are encouraged to present a poster at the annual meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

“We really want to get our students involved and prepared for challenging positions in academia, government and industry,” said Mike Repka, chair of the department and director of the Pii Center for Pharmaceutical Technology. “What they are involved in beyond the classroom with the tablet course and conferences will help them network with UM alumni and friends, as well as seek future job opportunities.”

With the knowledge gained from the program, students are competitive in the job market or for acceptance into doctoral programs. Recent graduate Sagar Sawant said the coursework made him think critically and understand the importance of his hard work, lessons he will use while working in the pharmaceutical industry.

“I expected the program to give me a practical understanding of formulation development,” Sawant said. “I wanted to get global exposure of how the pharmaceutical industry works and certainly got it.”

The addition of a non-thesis industrial pharmacy master’s degree track this fall will continue the success of the program by providing opportunities for students who wish to obtain broader, applied skills in formulation development, regulatory affairs and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

The new program will provide more team-based assignments to mimic industry jobs, said Walt Chambliss, interim associate vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs and professor of pharmaceutics.

“These students will complete small practical projects that will enhance their problem-solving skills and expose them to the type of research they will be conducting when they obtain a position in the pharmaceutical industry,” Chambliss said.

Along with the new program, the department will look for ways to expand its continued success. A collaboration with an external advisory committee consisting of scientists and engineers will help provide an overall direction. Their industry expertise will allow some members to lecture in courses and help identify potential internships opportunities in their companies.

The department’s commitment is helping students find opportunities that reflect their interests and goals. It’s also helping students grow personally through education and research, a quality 2018 graduate Rahul Lalge saw in the program.

“The program required both theoretical understanding of formulation development accompanied by quality research work, which turned out to be a great learning experience,” said Lagle, who enters the University of Minnesota’s doctoral program this fall. “It was a lot of hard work, but looking back, I realize that pushing my boundaries definitely helped me to acquire the skill set that will help me in my future career.”