Monday, August 29, 2011

Speed of Sound

Do you ever feel like your life is moving at the speed of sound?  Well, the last two weeks or so has been just that for me.  My summer was definitely fun but also took patient.  Now, everything seems to be happening at once.  This is not a bad thing because I function at my best when my plate is full!  Call me crazy but seeing my calendar look like two rainbows got busy on top of it just adds to whatever motivation I have at that time.

With that said, here a few new items of mine for you to ponder upon…

The NQAD instrument
Last week was culmination of a few weeks working with a Sales Rep for a new instrument in our lab.  The NQAD for HPLC (Nano Quantity Analyte Detector for High Performance Liquid Chromatography) will hopefully allow our lab group to measure micro and nano quanitities within our projects.  Well, I arranged for the rep to come give a presentation and assist with the installation of this new instrument.  The overall installation process was almost a complete failure. The hardware works fine, but the software needed to actually gather data has been a real pain in my butt to say the least.  It has been a week since the rep was here and it is still a work in progress.  But, I learned a lot about research through the process.  I really appreciated that the sales rep, who is an analytical chemist not an actual sales person, took the time to know me and offer advice for a young graduate student.  I learned that as long as you have a passion for what you are doing, the rest will fall into place regardless of where you think it may or may not be going.  Not to mention I got a free lunch out of it (thanks again)!

Last Monday marked the beginning of yet another school year here at Purdue University.  Here are my observations.  The freshman look so young that I keep thinking there might be a middle school field trip on campus.  Parking on campus remains to be a complete disaster.  And I find myself laughing at people as they walk around campus (chasing busses, being in the wrong classroom, yelling at Robbie Hummel, etc).  Even though those things seem to be all negative, I really do enjoy that everyone is back on campus because of the closeness of Purdue (see this link if you need to know what I am talking about). 

Since the school year has started that means call-outs and club meetings have begun again.  I am a part of the student chapter of AAPS (American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists) here at Purdue.  This year I have been “elected” as the President Elect.  Essentially we have a President, Vice President, and President Elect and each year the Vice moves up to President, and the Elect moves up to Vice.  I believe that setup is used for consistency within the club.  Anyway, my one outlined role in the club right now is to make sure the bulletin board is up to date and looks good.  And I thought I had finished with bulletin boards after my Res Life days!?

Counter as of Friday (8/26/11)
Lastly, the Purdue starting QB, Rob Henry, tore his ACL at practice this week.  I just want it to be known that I have not torn my ACL yet but I will be taking extra precautions as I train for the Tough Mudder Competition schedule for November.  That being said, anyone associated with Purdue should immediately begin wearing knee braces on both legs to be safe!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Fragments (8/26/11)

I apologize but I have been extremely busy the last two weeks.  However, I did find the following link that has 21 Scientific Research projects that will begin this fall.  It is a pretty good summary of the current state of research throughout the world.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Behind the Bench - Jeremy Daniel

In our first part of the ongoing series "Behind the Bench," we have a interview with Jeremy Daniel.  He is currently a Pharm D. Candidate at Purdue University.  The "Behind the Bench" series will highlight young professionals on the cusp of their careers, in order to provide a broader scope of pharmaceuticals and science to this site.  Enjoy!

Behind the Bench 

Dance moves are an elective in Pharmacy
School, I believe!
Name: Jeremy Daniel
Hometown:  Currently live in Jeffersonville, but I consider myself from Terre Haute, IN
Education: Bachelor's of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences (Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology specialization), Purdue University, 2010.  Doctor of Pharmacy, Purdue University, 2012.

Q1: Why inspired you to enter into the field of pharmacy?
I always loved chemistry in high school.  I enjoyed the problem solving that goes along with it and the various types of experiments that I was able to do.  Up until the last few months of high school, I wanted to major in chemistry in college.  However, after talking to my neighbor changed my viewpoint.  In Terre Haute, my neighbor was a pharmacist for Walgreens.  He found out that I wanted to go into something science related, so he started talking to me.  He convinced me I had good communication skills, always wanted to help people, and would be perfect as a pharmacist.  He told me about all the chemistry he had to take, so I was kind of sold.  Plus, he used to work for Budweiser as one of the QA people, and he had a pharmacy degree…so that was pretty legit.

Q2: What is your grandest aspiration for your career?
My goal is to one day be a psychiatric clinical pharmacist.  I look at most of our professors at Purdue and see how amazing they are in their areas of practice.  I am glad I got the opportunity to go to Purdue where some of the leading people in various pharmacy fields practice.  My favorite professor throughout my curriculum is Dr. Carol Ott, a psychiatric pharmacist with Wishard Health Services.  She writes book chapters for national publications, sits on the Board of Directors or other panels for national organizations, and has essentially paved the way for psych pharmacy practice at Wishard, both in the inpatient setting and in her outpatient clinic.  My goal is to one day be this great.  I feel this is the way I can make the biggest difference in my profession while still directly caring for patients and continuing to practice (rather than just sitting behind a desk in some office with a window).

Q3: What are your specific interests in pharmaceuticals?
As far as trends in pharmaceuticals, the drive towards more specific medicine is fascinating.  What I mean by this can best be summed up with modern cancer medications.  For instance, in the treatment of colorectal cancer, panitumumab (Vectibix®) and cetuximab (Erbitux®) are two drugs commonly used.  The response rates to these medications are great (as far as chemotherapy is concerned).  However, if a patient has a mutation in a GTPase called KRas, these drugs are virtually ineffective with an efficacy rate of less than 5%.  This signals the clinician that a different therapy is in order.  Likewise, there are other drugs that require the patient to express a certain receptor (if the patient has the receptor, over 80% efficacy; no receptor, less than 10% efficacy).  This trend towards drugs that are highly effective if patients present a certain way compared to putting one drug out for the masses makes me very optimistic in our ability to treat patients in the future.  This is definitely an interest of mine.

A trend that I absolutely loathe is the development of drugs that serve virtually no purpose in practice.  These “me too” drugs simply complicate patient treatment decisions, increase medical cost by increasing hospital formularies and retail pharmacy stock, and pass a large cost on to the consumer because of a very effective drug rep that convinced their doctor to prescribe the new brand name version over the generic version that has been out for 5 years.  I believe drug companies should focus on clinically meaningful (this is a very important point), novel treatments for either existing conditions or new conditions.  Unfortunately, this also adds cost due to the orphan status of most of those drugs, and I do understand how difficult this is from my BSPS background, but that is a discussion for a different day and another post…

Q4: What is the next step in your professional journey?
The next immediate step is completing my rotations and graduating pharmacy school.  My plan after that (at least right now) is to complete two years of residency and specialize in psychiatric clinical pharmacy.  However, all of this could change if I discover another area I am passionate about, but for the moment, this is what I have in mind.

Q5: Favorite thing about being in pharmacy?
My favorite thing about being in pharmacy is the difference I get to make in my patients’ lives.  In my community rotation, I saved a patient $2800 on his prescription for Zyvox by getting him on a patient assistance program from the manufacturer.  During this rotation in the hospital, I counsel at least 2 patients daily about Coumadin, which takes a lot of knowledge and attention to detail on the part of the patient to effectively manage their therapy.  A patient told me today that he appreciated me stopping by and talking to him because he had been on the drug for 2 months and no one counseled him on it.  He just changed his diet to try to eat better and ended up in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism.  If someone would have talked to him about the food interactions with Coumadin, this probably would not have happened.  This difference is very important to me, and it is what makes pharmacy so great.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Fragments (8/12/11)

Friday is here again and I have been busy enough that there hasn't been a Fragments for a few weeks.  That doesn't mean that I don't have links.  If anything this edition may be the largest yet!

Before we get into the fragments, Monday will begin the "new" Behind the Bench series featuring other young people in science.  First up will be a few people in pharmacy and will expand from there.  So Jeremy Daniel you're up for Monday.

-Artificial organs are nothing new but that field changes everyday it seems. Two new advances in artificial lungs are quite intriguing.  First, scientists have create the first artificial lung that breathes regular air instead of pure oxygen.  Now people on artificial lungs aren't chained to oxygen tanks.  In related news, read this article about "made-to-order" lungs.  Similarly, scientists are making artificial spinal discs out of biological materials, which would be a better alternative than fusing the discs or metal/plastic discs that degrade and are subject to attack by the host's immune system.

-A few weeks ago I caught a article about the Large Hardon Collider and how close it is to finding the elusive Higgs Boson particle. That would be a major step forward for physics and chemistry (for those of you unfamiliar with the Higgs Boson here's the wiki article to catch you up).

-Work with Microsoft Excel? Check out these cheat sheets. Ctrl Shortcuts, Function Shortcuts, and Misc. Shortcuts. Also, here is your 2011 Excel World Champion.  Yep there is a competition for Excel, Word, and Powerpoint now!

-NC State scientists are experimenting with new memory devices that work like a memristor. They would have the consistency of jell-o and even be implanted into the body!  Creepy.

-In medicine news...another new drug has proven it can prevent HIV infection to a certain extent.  More exciting than that is the prospect of a new therapy that can be used against a broad spectrum of viruses.  Much like antibiotics can kill multiple bacteria, this new therapy attacks a process all viruses have in common. This lack of specificity also may prevent a virus from mutating to avoid destruction.  Lastly, if you ever wondered what I studied as an undergrad student in Industrial Pharmacy, this article describes what's in Viagra. Learning the what, how, and why of these ingredients is a lot of what I studied.

-The Web at 20...take a trip drop memory lane (I'm thinking of you America Online)!

-If you are like any other normal human being, you probably love girl scout cookies.  Well, one box of girl scout cookies could be worth $15 million dollars in graphene.  Don't believe me, check it out!

I think that's enough for now...enjoy your Friday and weekend!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Quick Thoughts

So I looked at my Outlook calendar this morning, like I do every morning, and realized that it is August 11th! Where the heck did the summer go?  BGR moves in this weekend (for the non-Boilermakers out there that is the Boiler Gold Rush or freshman orientation week here at Purdue) and school starts in about two weeks.  Now, I am not particularly worried about school starting, as I am taking one class and teaching one class but I have kind of enjoyed being on campus with less people.  I mean, I have been here during the summer before but this is first summer I have been able to have any kind of social life during the summer.

Anyway, I have a couple quick thoughts today before a pretty beefy Friday Fragments tomorrow...

I saw Rise of the Planet of Apes last weekend and my review is up over at the  I really enjoyed the movie, but watching with my family I realized that it may not be for everyone.  I also had the opportunity to go see a friend perform Crackers Comedy Club in Broad Ripple last week.  If you enjoy stand up comedy I recommend going to Crackers on open mic night.  You will laugh with the funny comedians and laugh at the bad ones.

The weather has finally broken into a pleasant streak here in Indiana but that still hasn't prevented one of my biggest pet peevs in the lab...sandals!  Now let me be clear, everyone in my lab always wears proper protection (and sometimes we all look like a sci-fi film because we all wear lab coats, gloves, glasses, everything).  But I consistently see students from other labs (mainly MCMP labs) wearing flip-flips and shorts carrying around petri-dishes, test tubes, and other lab equipment. I remember kids getting kicked out of Ms. Hale's AP Chem class in high school for wearing sandals and yet these people risk injury in order to be fashionable for summer.  So buck up, put on your jeans and tennis shoes like everybody and help me down off this soap box.

Ok that's enough for now.  Last thing, I signed up for twitter (please leave your derogatory comments at home) so look me up @Pharmjack29!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big School, Little City, Great College Town

So yesterday I made what has become a pretty regular trip to the Subway across the street from campus.  Considering it is only 5 minutes from the pharmacy building I have been there quite a few times for lunch this summer.  Anyway, I enjoy this Subway for many reasons.  First, it has two lines and an upstairs dining area, fancy!  Second, since it is across from Mackey Arena and the sports training facilities I see many Purdue athletes and coaches.

But yesterday I was in line behind a new student who was here to tour campus with her mother and I believe aunt.  Yes I was creepin’ into their conversation a little bit but I didn’t throw myself into their talk nor did I stare or make it obvious that I was creepin’, minus the time I laughed at them making fun of the cheerleaders in front of us ordering just “lettuce.”  Anyway, they were discussing a bunch of things about campus because I think the aunt met them for lunch and they were catching her up on the morning.  They talked about extra-curricular activities and BGR (Boiler Gold Rush, the freshman orientation program).  But what sparked my enthusiasm to write this post was their perspective on how big the campus is here.  They couldn’t get over how large the campus was and how confusing the streets were.

[Side note – The streets here are pretty confusing and I believe that the first Purdue engineers designed the campus streets a type of IQ test to keep stupid people from attending Purdue, but whatever.]

Purdue Mall on campus.
Anyway, I have always thought Purdue is great because that is all that is here.  West Lafayette is Purdue and vice versa.  Everything here revolves around the college life; even the Wal-Mart close to campus has a completely different feel to it than most Wal-Marts.  So when I hear someone talking about how big it is I immediately think, it could be so much worse.  I have visited IU and Wisconsin a couple of times and those campuses and cities are so much larger than Purdue, not to mention I have heard stories about Ohio St and how it takes 30 minutes to get from one end of campus to the other, by car!

Now I could talk about how much I love Purdue and all it has to offer has both a school and a community but, in my true scientific nature, I have decided to collect some data to analyze and test my hypothesis that, “Purdue is a large school with a small school feel, comparatively.”  That gives Purdue a unique experience that is hard to find, with both vast opportunities and small town charm.  I could go on and on about Purdue and West Lafayette but I will focus on how it compares to the rest of the B1G TEN.

First let’s look at the size of the schools…

Stupid Indiana, messing up my graph!
This first graph compares the student population size (blue line) to the “listed size” of the campus.  Now if you aren’t familiar with the B1G TEN, here is a crash course.  All 12 Universities are large public universities (minus Northwestern) which are very prestigious academically.  They all are a part of the Association of American Universities which is devoted to academics and research (Nebraska isn’t yet but they are new to the B1G Ten and will hopefully be striving for that honor).  Outside of Northwestern, all of the schools have large student bodies (Northwestern is about half undergrads, half graduate students) and have large financial support for both research and athletics.  Things that stand out in this graph…

1. Ohio State has by far the largest campus size while Wisconsin and Northwestern surprise because that are both in larger cities (Madison and Evanston/Chicago).
2. OSU is the only school to have a campus listed has over 10 square miles.
3. Nebraska is not as big as I thought in both population and campus size.

Now let’s compare the school population to the size of the city that the school calls home…

Well, somewhat similar.  Again ordered by school population size here are the things that stuck out to me…

1. Columbus, OH is by far the largest city. 
2. Since NW calls Evanston home that city is fairly small since it is essentially a small suburb of Chicago.
3. Wisconsin and Nebraska both shot up the chart along with Minnesota, but no real surprises as those are all major cities (Madison, Lincoln, and Minneapolis respectively).
4. Purdue and PSU  are in tiny towns comparatively.  Actually, Penn State is listed as being in University Park which is at 1.5 square miles.  However, their listed campus size is 8.5 square miles.  Uh?  Evidently their city limits are smaller than their campus limits, not to mention that 1.5 square miles is practically nothing. So the size of Penn State’s city will be the larger of the two (8.5 square miles) for this “research.”

Ok, well we have established that OSU is huge, Northwestern is small, and everyone else usually falls in the middle somewhere.  Now let’s look at one more graph before making a decision on whether or not Purdue has a large or small “feel.”

The line is the amount of students per square mile of city since the students usually live in and around the campus, not just on campus.  I sorted it from most to least students.  The bars represent the amount of the city that the campus actually takes up.  Penn State is leveled off at 1.0 because it’s campus is supposedly larger than the city it is in.  My thoughts…

1. Purdue, PSU, and MSU are head and shoulders above everyone else in both cases.  These schools are in college towns and that is essentially all that is there.  Also, taking into account the amount of students these campuses/cities are relatively small compared to other schools of this size (IU, Illinois, Mich, Minn)
2. Again, Columbus is huge and even though they have lots of students they still barely crack 250 students per square mile (remember student numbers are in thousands)
3. Nebraska is befuddling to me but I think it must feel huge because it is the only thing in Nebraska.  Too mean?
4. Northwestern is located in a small suburb so it probably feels much smaller than most schools here because it has half the students and a tiny campus (0.4).

Overall, I think it is easy to tell that Purdue is actually not the “large” in comparison to other schools in the Midwest.  MSU and PSU are similar institutions and have similar feels in that they are located in cities that are essentially just the University.  I feel Purdue has a small feel to it once you live here for about 6 months and become accustomed to the college town life.  I love that Purdue has nearly 40,000 students and yet we all within 10 minutes from each other around town.   So parents, the next time you find yourself lost at Purdue just think what those poor kids who happen to go to Wisconsin, Ohio State, or heaven forbid IU feel like?

-  I understand that this data has been subjectively looked at and I have done this whole analysis in about 3 hours of time. 
-All data was collected from, which everyone knows is the most credible source in the world.
- Yes, West Lafayette is close to Lafayette, but under that logic you would have to include Chicago for NW, St Paul for Minnesota, Urbana for Illinois, about 8 small towns for PSU.
- My goal here was not to belittle any University.  You must find the correct fit for you and the part of that fit is whether you want the city experience (like Madison, WI, Chicago, IL, or Columbus, OH) or you want college town (West Lafayette, IN, University Park, PA, or East Lansing, MI).  And for those of you who don’t know what you want there are plenty of in between schools.  Also, the B1G TEN is the home to some fo the largest public schools in the country, so there are many other schools which reside in “college towns” as well.  I just wanted to point out the relatively, Purdue is small compared to other schools with this amount of students and prestige.
- Lastly, this does not take into account the population of these cities, nor does it account for where exactly people live.  Obviously OSU has a higher student density than 260 students per square mile because nobody is going to live on the other side of town from the main campus buildings.  The point here is to emphasize how large the actual cities are in comparison to how large the school is.  For example, for West Lafayette to “feel” as big as Columbus, it would need to have about 1500 students.  There are 2254 students registered for the Freshman Chemistry class, CHM 115, this fall (about 450 students per lecture class).

Thoughts anyone, I’d love to hear what everyone else thinks too!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bush League Update!

Here is a great example of what a "Bush League" move is...

Erick Aybar of the Angels tried to bunt for a hit in the 8th inning against Justin Verlander just to try and break up his no-hitter.  Some may look at it as just trying to get anything going, but to me that is pretty close to Bush League and Verlander agreed.

"So you're gonna be a pharmacist?"

Last summer I was sitting in the lobby of McCutcheon waiting to help check in middle school students for a summer camp.  As per usual, the parents of the students will come up and ask all kinds of questions but occasionally one of them will genuinely just want to talk with you.  One mother in particular was asking me about my college career and thus began another rousing game I like to call; “So you’re gonna be a pharmacist?”

You see, the first question people ask you when you’re in college, or when you have just graduated college, is what did you study?  I politely answer Pharmaceutical Sciences.  The reply is always the same, “So you’re gonna be a pharmacist?”  Watching their faces when I politely chuckle and say no is quite funny.  Now, I explain to whoever asks that Pharmaceutical Sciences is the study of drugs and their effects on the body.  Again I’m asked, “So you’re not gonna be a pharmacist?”  Now at Purdue there are two specializations; Industrial and Physical Pharmacy (IPPH) and Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology (MCMP).  My specialization was in IPPH and the best way to explain it in under 20 seconds is as follows;

IPPH – Drugs outside the body (formulation, manufacturing, stability, etc.)
MCMP – Drugs inside the body (pharmacodynamics, toxicology, biology pathways, etc.)

Now my graduate degree will be in Pharmaceutics with an emphasis on Physical Pharmacy.  Basically, it applies physics and chemistry to pharmaceuticals. Overall, what I am going to school for is in the field of pharmacy, just focusing on the discovery and development of medicines (more science, less patient consultation).

Next I get asked two questions automatically (order varies but the questions do not). “So what do you want to do with that degree?” and “So you’re gonna make lots of money?”  The first of which is a reasonable question of which I will explain for those you are actually wondering the same thing since you probably thought that I was going to be a pharmacist.

I aspire to work in the pharmaceutical industry for a company (large or small) working on Research and Development projects for novel drugs.  Eventually, I see myself ending up teaching but I most definitely want some industry experience, plus I want to live somewhere outside the Midwest at some point in my life, and outside of Eli Lilly (Indianapolis) and Abbott (Chicago) most companies do not have large research facilities in the Midwest.

Now that second question makes me cringe.  First, it just feels morally wrong to discuss that with complete strangers.  Second, I am certainly not in this for the money.  Granted I will make good living, but I got into research because it both interested me and allowed me to “change the world.”  Honestly, I would love to work on a project to help aid cancer or cure HIV but at the very least if I can discover one thing that helps improve one person’s quality of life, then it was all worth it.  

Lastly, I get the standard “You must be really smart” comment which is sincere from most people, but sometimes comes off as being a backhanded compliment.  Yes, you have to be smart to work in this field, but a lot of that comes from the passion and interest in the subject material.

Now back to the lady in the lobby.  After explaining all this to her I got asked the most genuine question ever, “Can you cure diabetes for me?”  She then explained that she was just diagnosed with Type II diabetes and that she was scared.  Now, I reassured her that the medicine out there currently along with diet and exercise can make Type II diabetes very livable.  She thanked me for the conversation and went to see her son in his room.  But looking back I really wanted to tell that mother that I could cure diabetes.  If I do become a scientist and have the money/influence to start my own independent project, I will have to consider diabetes as a major priority, based on that conversation alone.  Unfortunately, I believe someone might beat me to it but I will always remember the way she asked in such an authentic way that made me feel that she actually believed I could change the world!

So no, I am NOT gonna be a pharmacist.  But I do want to help people and I will continue to aspire to change the world.  And every person should believe they can change the world…because you can!