Pharm student tops
Michael Hefferan, a graduate student in medicine supervised by Dr. Christopher Loomis, recently placed first in a pharmacology research competition sponsored by Merck Frosst Canada. The award comes with a plaque and $1,000.
Mr. Hefferan is pleased with his success, but said he didn't expect to come first after hearing the high quality of presentations made by the other 11 participants. The graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the competition were selected by Merck Frosst based on abstracts sent to the company earlier in the fall. The actual contest took place Oct. 25, 2002 when selected participants were flown to Montreal to make their presentations.
The Pharmacology Research Day was started last year by Merck Frosst to promote awareness of industrial occupations and opportunities in pharmacology. "There's really a shortfall in pharmacologists working with whole animal research and most pharmaceutical companies have a recruitment push on to attract people," explained Mr. Hefferan, whose winning presentation focused on neural chemicals in the spinal cord called prostaglandins.
"Dr. Loomis' lab studies the spinal pharmacology of pain mechanisms, and my particular project over the last five years has been on prostaglandin pharmacology, looking to see if these neural chemicals are involved in the development of neuropathic pain following injury. We are looking at ways to prevent the pain from manifesting itself, because once developed, it is often resistant to traditional analgesic treatments."
Mr. Hefferan grew up in Grand Falls-Windsor, and did an undergraduate degree in engineering chemistry at Queen's University. Deciding eventually that he did not want to make a career in the engineering field, he came to Memorial pursuing life sciences and completed an undergraduate year in biochemistry. He then became interested in graduate programs in medicine, met Dr. Loomis, and decided to pursue a doctorate. He is planning to graduate this year, and has already accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Diego.