2023 Pharma Award winners

Pharmacology department honors top lab researchers

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On May 23, the Department of Pharmacology presented its annual awards to honor its lab researchers, past and present. Faculty, staff, students and friends attended the awards ceremony and reception in the Pearson Museum to salute those who have excelled in SIU research labs and classes during the most recent school year. “Researchers are the backbone of our labs, the glue that holds everything together,” said Shelley Tischkau, PhD, chair of the departments of pharmacology and medical microbiology, immunology and cell biology, in her introduction of the award recipients.

Dr. Satu Somani was one of the three original faculty members of the SIU School of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and a dedicated scientist/educator. He loved teaching, often asking for more time to teach additional material he felt was important to the student’s medical education. Dr. Somani passed in 2002, and a fund was established in his honor to provide an annual monetary award to an outstanding student of medical pharmacology. The medical students who achieved the top 10 scores on the Year 2 pharmacology exam compete for the award by writing a report that critically evaluates a prescription drug ad. Kassidy Sheedy is the 2023 award recipient. She analyzed a television commercial released in May 2022 for Plan B One-Step, an over-the-counter contraception product. The review committee commended her thorough analysis and narrative on a subject now receiving greater scrutiny since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

In 1996, the Barbara L. Armour Memorial Award was created to commemorate an outstanding senior researcher in Dr. Donald Caspary’s laboratory. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to SIU School of Medicine research efforts by employees who serve in research positions. It was renamed in 2019 to add the name of Marcus Randall, who passed away unexpectedly after a distinguished 30-year career, mostly in the lab of Dr. Carl Faingold. This year’s recipient is Roseline Ewa.
Roseline is a Springfield native working in Dr. Ben Richardson’s laboratory, advancing his group’s studies of neurophysiology and neuroanatomy. She coordinates ongoing projects, provides technical expertise to keep the work on track, while also regularly training new lab staff and students and working on her own independent project for publication. In his nomination, Dr. Richardson said, “Having known Marc Randall, I can say that Roseline also embodies many of his traits — she is always going the extra mile to be helpful, encouraging, willing to do the challenging and mundane lab work, and constantly working to support the lab and its other members the best she can.”
The Department of Pharmacology honors a student each year with the Hemal Vakharia Memorial Award. It is presented in memory of Hemal Vakharia, a summer high school student who died in an automobile accident in 1992. The award recognizes the contributions of outstanding high school, undergraduate and graduate students to research efforts at the School of Medicine. The 2023 recipient is Jesika Colomer-Saucedo, a graduate student in Dr. Julio Copello’s lab in the Department of Pharmacology.
Jesika grew up in a blue-collar Hispanic neighborhood in the San Joaquin Valley, and is the first college graduate in her family, obtaining a degree in biomedical engineering from the University of California-Merced. Since August 2017, she has been a graduate assistant in the Copello lab, successfully advancing various relatively complex research projects that require mastering a variety of methods. She is a frequent participant in departmental seminars and community outreach programs, including organizing presentations during “Brain Awareness Week” for local 8-9th graders. Jesika is currently working on manuscripts for publication as well as her proposal to prepare for her doctoral defense in the fall. 

Each recipients’ name has been inscribed on the respective award plaques that hang on the wall of honor outside the departmental office.

View photos from the event on Zenfolio. Pictured at top, left to right: Kassidy Sheedy, Roseline Ewa and Jesika Saucedo.

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