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First PhD for Pharmacy

From left, Dr. Husam Younes, Mohamed Mahmoud and Dr. Moshen Daneshtalab.

By Jenn Deon

In late April, Mohamed Mahmoud (commonly known as Shaker) defended his PhD thesis, New Biodegradable Elastomers for Therapeutic Protein Delivery, for his examination committee and co-supervisors, making him the first graduate student to receive a PhD from the School of Pharmacy at convocation next week.

A citizen of Egypt, Mr. Mahmoud has been conducting his research at Memorial University since 2007, which involved working on a new drug delivery system capable of providing a more constant and sustained delivery of treatment for cancer.

Another interesting aspect of Mr. Mahmoud's work is that most of it was accomplished under the management of a supervisor who lived and worked overseas.

Dr. Husam Younes, now an adjunct professor with the School of Pharmacy at Memorial University and founding chair of the pharmaceutical sciences department at the College of Pharmacy at Qatar University, was offered his position in Doha, Qatar, during Mr. Mahmoud's first year, and the decision was made that he would continue to supervise remotely.

"Shaker demonstrated early on that he would be an independent and strong student," said Dr. Younes. "This encouraged me to have the confidence to take the offer in Qatar, especially knowing that Dr. Mohsen would be here."

Dr. Mohsen Daneshtalab, the associate director of graduate studies and research at the School of Pharmacy, agreed to help facilitate the arrangement and act as Mr. Mahmoud's co-supervisor.

Dr. Younes gives high credit to the role of technology in making the arrangement work over the last four years.

"Despite the six-and-a-half hour time difference, we would have weekly meeting on Skype, and even journal clubs," said Dr. Younes. "Whatever a normal supervisor would do, that is what we did over the last four years, thanks to technology. We knew that this would be a time consuming and stressful mission to make work. But this was minor compared to our determination to make it work from day one."