Four minutes of focus

Mar 10th, 2017

Heidi Wicks

Four minutes of focus

Snap up a nugget of some of the exciting research being conducted by School of Pharmacy graduate students as they practice their academic, presentation and research communication skills at Snappy Synopsis: Pharmacy Graduate Research in a Nutshell, taking place on March 16.

Using props, (amateur) actors and slides, nine graduate students will get creative in their quest to present their work in street language.

The event will give each contestant just four minutes to illustrate how their work will make a difference to any Tom, Dick or Harriet.

Dr. John Weber, associate dean of graduate studies and research, said the event is intended to promote the diverse research in the School, and hopefully recruit new graduate students.

“Our graduate program has grown in the last three years by about 30 per cent and our goal is to continue to expand,” he said. 

Meet the players!

Laila Albanna
“Breaking down the barriers to HIV testing”

Traditional testing has identified many HIV cases and helped get patients on board with early treatment that would almost guarantee they live long, healthy lives! Yet for some, traditional testing methods may not be accessible or convenient due to privacy concerns, stigma, or simply the lack of a testing site within proximity. Rapid HIV testing in community pharmacies is a new APPROACH that is being piloted for six months in pharmacies in Newfoundland. Testing will be offered for free and test results will be provided within minutes during a simple one visit to the pharmacy. This research will focus on collecting feedback about perceived barriers to HIV testing from individuals at risk for HIV infection in an attempt to find ways to make testing more feasible and convenient for high risk individuals who are avoiding being tested.

Killol Chokshi
“The name is Stroke, Hemorrhagic Stroke: Unravelling what lies beneath”

Arteries in the brain lose their functioning capacity during development of the hemorrhagic stroke. This mysterious loss in function might be due to the changes occurring at a much deeper cellular level. These changes may hold an important clue to the mystery of development of stroke.

Kathryn Dalton
“What does ‘one size fits all’ actually mean?”

The term one size fits all is commonly used in clothing stores and we all know that is never the case. Why? because everyone is unique – If it is not hard to understand everyone is different in terms of the way clothes fit – then why is addiction medicine taking a universal approach to treatment? Individuals with addictions are offered similar treatments regardless of age. It is now understood that the period of brain development does not reach completion until early adulthood. The same brain regions involved in addiction are also among the last to develop. This has implications for the treatment in the youth and young adult population. Miss Dalton’s research will help determine the best treatment options for youth and young adults that suffer from addictions.

Jennifer Donnan
“Today’s special: Choosing the best menu item for Type 2 Diabetes”

Deciding among treatments for individuals with Type 2 Diabetes can be as confusing as choosing what to order at a restaurant. The vast amount of drug information available and the sheer number of diabetes medications available in Canada is like deciding whether to go with the bisque or roasted red pepper soup. Decision-making is getting more complex all the time. Information on diabetes medications is often presented without context, making it very difficult to weigh all of the potential harms and benefits. When making a recommendation for drug therapy it is important to consider what the patient prefers and what the trade-offs are as they manage their medications. Ms. Donnan’s research will lead to a greater understanding of decisions patients make regarding medications.

 Erin Kelly
“Blueberries as a Brain Booster”

Who would have thought that adding a few extra blueberries to your diet could potentially reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease (PD). PD causes the buildup of harmful reactive oxygen species in the brain which can damage and kill brain tissue. News articles and health magazines praise blueberries for their high levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants may offer protection and intervention from neurological disorders by managing reactive oxygen species, reducing the inflammatory response, and providing protection in the brain from further degeneration. Ms. Kelly’s research focuses on potentially using blueberries as an alternative and natural treatment for PD and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

Zahed Khatooni
“Novels: they aren’t just for reading”

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among men and women worldwide, so novel treatments are vital in the search for a cure. One common feature of cancer cells is their uncontrolled proliferation/division. The proliferation of cancer cells as well as finding a way to control them is a subject of thousands of studies all around the world, there are many discoveries, achievement, and failures, however, still there are many gaps. Can we really treat cancer or not? For human cells, the main process by which cancer cell division is achieved is rather similar. There are several proteins that facilitate the event such as microtubule. What microtubule does and why they are considered very important? They promote isolation of genetic materials during the proliferation of cancer cells. As a result, the role of this protein (microtubule) in the multiplication of cancer cells is vital. I am working with this protein to understand its structure in more details and aimed to evaluate the role of a novel anti-cancer drug on the structure and function of this protein.

Matthew Lamont
“How much does binge drinking affect the developing brain?”

The adolescent brain is one that is under constant development and improvement. Heavy long-term use of ethanol, which is simply ‘drinking grade’ alcohol, is well known to cause problems in adults. However, this phenomenon required further study in order to see if this was an issue for adolescents. Our research demonstrates that binge drinking during this important period can cause coordination/balance issues, memory problems, and an increase in risk taking behaviors.

 Caroline Manto-Chagas
“It works, but it tastes awful: unwanted effects of cancer therapy”

One of the first concerns in a cancer patient’s life is chemotherapy, which is well known to cause a variety of long-term side effects. Through pharmaceutical sciences and drug development research, the unpleasant adverse effects caused by drugs, especially anticancer drugs, are now being thoroughly studied with the aim of improvements and changes in the drug molecule to avoid these effects. This research will further investigate how anticancer drug side effects are caused and what can be suggested to escape from them. Hopefully, this study will provide new insights in drug metabolism in chemotherapy, thus proving a better quality of life for patients during cancer treatment.


Abigail Turner
“Pharmacist-assisted death”

Both community and hospital pharmacists play an important role in making medical assistance in dying accessible to practitioners and patients, as they are involved in the dispensing of medications. Whether pharmacists are willing and feel prepared to participate in medical assisted dying and what the public’s opinion and understanding of the role of the pharmacist in medical assisted dying will be explored.

Last year’s winner

Jennifer Donnan was one of two winners from last year’s contest. She said preparing helped her explain her research to a public audience.

“It was an opportunity for me to really focus on the important take-home messages I wanted to convey,” she said.

The top two snappy synopsis’ will each receive a $100 Sobeys gift card. 

Snappy Synopsis takes place on March 16 from 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. in Lecture Theatre B, Health Sciences Centre.


School of Pharmacy

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000