UNMC adds new cohort of Purdue Pharma Scholars

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | July 23, 2018

Image with caption: From left, Purdue Pharma Scholars Swagat Sharma, Eliezer Lichter and Danielle Frodyma

From left, Purdue Pharma Scholars Swagat Sharma, Eliezer Lichter and Danielle Frodyma

The third cohort of Purdue Scholars has been added to the roster of UNMC graduate students conducting neuroscience, pharmaceutical science or pain research as part of a larger, ongoing partnership between UNMC and Purdue Pharma L.P.

Meanwhile, the program's inaugural cohort has produced an impressive list of accomplishments during its yearlong Purdue Scholars stint.

The Purdue Scholars program provides funding for a one-year graduate assistantship for each UNMC Graduate Studies student selected, as well as an additional scholarship of up to $10,000, half paid immediately and the rest paid when the student successfully competes for a national fellowship award (federal or national society funding).

The scholars have access to research facilities at Purdue Pharma during the year with travel expenses paid by Purdue Pharma. Scholars will present their research at upcoming Purdue-UNMC Neuroscience Research Conferences held annually on UNMC's Omaha campus. Purdue Pharma research personnel also will visit with the scholars on the UNMC campus at least once a year.

The new UNMC Purdue Scholars are:

  • Danielle Frodyma, a third-year Ph.D. student in cancer research. A mentee of Robert Lewis, Ph.D., Eppley Institute, she studies therapeutic targeting of vulnerabilities and restoring the circadian rhythm in colorectal cancer. She has contributed to multiple publications and is a UNMC cancer biology training grant predoctoral fellow.
  • Eliezer Lichter, a second-year Ph.D. student in Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences. A mentee of Rebecca Deegan, Ph.D., biochemistry and molecular biology, he studies the role of reactive oxygen species in peripheral artery disease.
  • Swagat Sharma, a second-year Ph.D. student in pharmaceutical sciences. A mentee of Corey Hopkins, Ph.D., College of Pharmacy, he studies design, synthesis and characterization of potent positive allosteric modulators of Mrgx1 with improved pharmacokinetics as a novel therapy of chronic pain. He will serve the upcoming 2018-19 academic year as UNMC Graduate Student Association president.

Lichter credited current Purdue Scholar Dannah Miller with impressing upon him the benefits of the program and encouraging him to apply.

UNMC's first class produced notable results in its year as Purdue Scholars:

  • Jamie Gehringer, a mentee of Max Kurz, Ph.D., Munroe-Meyer Institute, applied for funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and contributed to seven publications.
  • Justin Grassmeyer, a mentee of Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D., ophthalmology and visual sciences, successfully earned NIH funding from the National Eye Institute, contributed to two publications, and made two national or international oral presentations.
  • Lee Sleightholm, a mentee of David Oupicky, Ph.D., College of Pharmacy, successfully earned NIH funding from the National Cancer Institute, contributed to six publications and a national poster presentation. He made one regional and four national/international oral presentations. He has held leadership positions in campus and student government entities.


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Alan Fogel
July 26, 2018 at 11:06 AM

wow, this is nice. Congrats to Lichter, sounds like a well-deserved accomplishment! keep it up

July 23, 2018 at 1:13 PM

Congratulations everyone!