After earning a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences at UGA in the summer of 2018, Wided Najahi-Missaoui joined the faculty as a lecturer. In November 2019, she was awarded the first College of Pharmacy Outstanding New Alumnus Award. However, she is no stranger to graduate degrees or awards, having previously earned a master’s degree in Pharmaceutics from the University of Iowa in 2012 and a Master of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UGA in 2003. In addition, Wided holds a Pharm.D. degree from the College of Pharmacy in Monastir, Tunisia and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacists equivalency certificate.
Her notable awards include the highly competitive Achievement Rewards for College Scientists in 2014, 2015 and 2016. And she was the first recipient of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) Women in Pharma Scholarship in 2017.
Wided brings an unusual breadth of scholarship and experience to her work at the College of Pharmacy, where she excels as a teacher as well as a laboratory scientist with expertise in developing drug delivery systems for targeted cancer therapies.
She is deeply engaged with her students, continuing to ask for feedback in an atmosphere of innovation and passion for excellence. She actively mentors students, providing support and guidance as they navigate the complexities of university study in the context of their own lives.
In talking with Wided, it’s clear that the real reward for her dedication lies in the difference she makes in the lives of her students. As one PBS graduate student recommender wrote, Wided’s “excellence in her field, passion for teaching and mentoring, and representation of the College of Pharmacy makes her an ideal candidate for the 2019 Outstanding New Alumnus Award.”
We talked with Wided about her experience at UGA and the College of Pharmacy:
What are some highlights of your career at UGA so far?
There are quite a few, but these lasting memories stand out:
- Within my first year of being on the faculty at the College of Pharmacy, I was awarded the outstanding new alumnus award. What made this award extra special is that the nomination came from one of our graduate students who was familiar with my work.
- My first Master of Science (MS) degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology that I received in 2003. I am very proud of the work I did in my research in Dr. Harry Dailey’s lab, where I discovered how much I really enjoy research. I joined Dr. Dailey’s lab one year after I came to the United States in August 2000. I spent two years working on my project there in a very encouraging environment. My hard work paid off and we were able to publish my work in the prestigious American Society of Hematology Blood
- Of course, another highlight is the completion of my Ph.D. degree in Dr. Brian Cummings’ laboratory, where I conducted research on drug delivery using nanoparticle liposomes and again was able to publish part of my work in another highly respected journal, Blood.
- During my graduate school years, I was awarded the prestigious ARCS scholarship for three years and the first International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) Women in Pharma scholarship.
How does your research inspire your teaching and vice versa?
The main role of academics at universities is to teach and do research. However, these are not separate tasks; they are connected and complement one another.
The undergraduate and graduate years are a turning point in shaping future scientists. Teaching strategies that motivate and engage students have been shown to improve students’ learning. I use the same motivation and engagement that I have as a researcher in my teaching style especially for laboratory-based courses where I focus on achieving hands-on learning for the students in the same way I mentor students in the research laboratory. There is no doubt how much enthusiasm researchers have in their laboratories, and I believe that carrying that same level of enthusiasm to the classroom will improve student engagement, learning and progress. An enthusiastic researcher will produce an enthusiastic teacher and vice versa.
Teaching inspires me and allows me to share and connect my findings to the relevant courses and even give students opportunities to participate in my research work for their undergraduate studies. I feel privileged to be able to teach and do research and use them both to inspire students.
Describe your ideal student.
An ideal student is hardworking, curious and asks questions, always motivated to learn and excel in the course, involved in extracurricular activities and shows leadership abilities. I have been teaching for almost a year, and I am very pleased to say that I have met many College of Pharmacy students who have these characteristics.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
The sky is the limit in terms of how much they can achieve and how further they can go with their education and career goals. I often share my experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student in my classes to inspire my students to always be ambitious, to never doubt their abilities, to ask for help when they need it, to not only love what they do but be passionate about what they do and NEVER GIVE UP OR QUIT. I have a passion for teaching. I do my very best to show that in my classes, and I hope I can inspire my students to be passionate about what they do.
Beyond the UGA campus, I enjoy . . .
Spending time with my husband and our two boys either hanging out at home or exploring the world. I enjoy traveling and visiting new places in the US and internationally and I enjoy doing that with my family. We had a great experience last summer when we visited several countries in Europe, Africa, and America. I am looking forward to our next adventure! I do also enjoy cooking and watching HGTV when I have time.
One College of Pharmacy experience I will always remember is . . .
My participation in the ARCS scholarship celebration ceremonies for three consecutive years. This is a very prestigious scholarship and only 10 to 12 graduate students at UGA are chosen to receive this award. The celebration ceremony is usually held in Atlanta, and when you are a graduate student who is introduced to the audience by President Morehead–I would say that is an experience I will always remember. It was a great honor to be announced as an ARCS scholar.