PBS Graduates Prepped for the Future

Six students from CoP’s Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences Department were awarded graduate degrees during UGA’s Graduate Commencement Ceremony this Friday morning at Stegeman Coliseum.

Leah Helton, Ameya Limaye, Menbere Wendimu, and Lingling Xu received their Doctorate in Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, while Terry Nguyen and Tobin Paez received their Master’s Degree in the same discipline.

“We are all very proud of these students, who have worked hard and creatively to earn their advanced degrees in pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences,” said Dr. Shelley Hooks, PBS Interim Department Head and Associate Vice President in the Office of the Vice President of Research. “Whether they choose a career in academia, private industry, or elsewhere – or pursue additional coursework and education – I am confident they each will make significant contributions to the future of innovative drug discovery and research.”

The graduates provided a brief summary of their PBS highlights and their plans for the future.


Doctorate of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Leah Helton

Dissertation: “Allosteric Inhibition of LRRK2-mediated Parkinson’s Disease with Constrained Peptides”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Eileen Kennedy

Future Plans: In March, began work as a Research Scientist III in the in vitro Discovery Biology team at Athira Pharma, which is based in Bothell, Washington. Career goals are to develop therapeutics for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Passionate about project ideation, early-stage drug development, and wearing different hats within a company, which was the draw to early-stage biotech.

Person of Influence: Julie Simmons, coordinator of the PBS graduate program. “I’d like to thank Julie for her constant support and presence throughout the duration of my time in the College of Pharmacy. I always felt safe and heard when talking to her.”

Quote About Leah: “Leah has a genuine love for discovery. She was a strong and supportive influence for her peers and, quite simply, a joy to be around. I look forward to seeing her blossom in her chosen career.” –Julie Simmons

Ameya Limaye

Dissertation: “All-Hydrocarbon Stapled Peptides as Intracellular Protein-Protein Interaction Disruptors”

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Eileen Kennedy

Future Plans: Will work as a research scientist at SyntheX in San Francisco, focusing on the development of novel therapeutics that modulate intracellular protein-protein interactions, specifically peptide therapeutics development. Career aspiration is to contribute toward the development of the next generation of drugs that target cancer and neurodegeneration.

Persons of Influence: “Dr. Eileen Kennedy has set a high standard as a supervisor and an academic mentor. Conducting research under her guidance has been an absolute learning experience. In addition, I was able to work as a teaching assistant for Dr. Singh Rekhi, Dr. Deborah Elder, and Dr. Wided Missaoui, all of whom were excellent supervisors.”

Quote About Ameya: “Ameya has taken the lab in several exciting new directions and is constantly generating lots of great ideas. He has an extremely bright future ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing all that he accomplishes as he moves forward in his career. -Dr. Eileen Kennedy

Menbere Wendimu

Dissertation: “Anti-inflammatory and Neuroprotective mechanism of Regulator of G Protein Signaling 10 (RGS10) in microglia. “

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Shelley Hooks

Future Plans: Will pursue post-doctoral research in translational neuroscience. Long-term career goal is to lead an interdisciplinary drug development research team and collaborate with researchers in home country of Ethiopia, providing opportunities for aspiring scientists to pursue careers in biomedical research.

Person of Influence: Dr. Shelley Hooks. “I enjoyed my research experience working with my supportive advisor, Dr. Hooks.”

Favorite CoP Memory: “All of the fun late-night work sessions with my friends from different labs.”

Quote About Menbere: “Menbi has been an amazing student and has become an exceptional scientist. We will miss her in the lab, but I am excited to see how her future and career develop; she is no doubt destined for great things! -Dr. Shelley Hooks

Lingling Xu

Dissertation: “The functions of fibroblasts and fibroblast-derived laminins on intracerebral hemorrhage”

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Yao Yao (former faculty member)

Future Plans:  To be a scientist. Will continue to do research and be trained as a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University. Future aspirations include becoming an advisor in an institute or research scientist in pharmaceutical companies.

Person of Influence:  Dr. Yao. “He is an awesome scientist and a very responsible, supportive, and productive person. I learned a lot from him as a scientist, and he was always willing to spend numerous hours to develop me professionally.”

Favorite CoP Memory: “I’ve made lots of memories in the College of Pharmacy during my five-year Ph.D. study. For example, in my second year, I worked as a teaching assistant for “Essentials of Pharmacy Practice.” In the beginning, I was not confident communicating with students in English. But with the support and help of Dr. Deborah Elder and other kind teaching assistants, my confidence grew, and I began to enjoy teaching a lot more. I think it is really inspiring that whenever anyone goes to the administrative office to see departmental personnel, such as Julie Simmons and Amanda Long (former employee), they are always very supportive and helpful, so you will not feel alone and helpless.”

Quote About Lingling: “When I first met Lingling, she was enthusiastic about being a teaching assistant but shy and unsure if she could effectively carryout the duties related to her assignment. She was hesitant to interact and communicate with students. Laboratory prep sessions helped deepen her know of pharmaceutics and compounding skills, allowing her to gain the confidence she needed to be an effective TA in the compounding section of the Essentials of Pharmacy Practice. It was a pleasure working with Lingling, and I wish her success as she continues her training at Emory University.”  -Dr. Deborah Elder


Masters of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences

Terry Nguyen

Thesis: “Synthesis of histone peptides through solid phase chemistry”

Faculty Advisor: Dr. George Zheng
Future Plans: Will continue education in Dr. Zheng’s lab in the PhD program.
Persons of Influence: “My favorite mentor is, of course, Dr. Zheng! Special mentions for my committee members, Dr. Michael Bartlett and Dr. Mandi Murph, as well as my undergraduate professors, Dr. Wided Missaoui and Dr. Singh Rekhi.”

Quote About Terry: “Terry is an outstanding student with great aptitude and responsibility. He is a smart and well-rounded young man. I am sure he will be very successful in his future endeavors.” -Dr. George Zheng

 Tobin Paez

Thesis: “Deconvoluting The Roles of Individual Drugs in Combination Therapies”

Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Eugene Douglass

Future Plans: Moving to Knoxville, Tennessee to attend medical school at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Persons of Influence: Dr. Eugene Douglass. “I really enjoyed working in Dr. Douglass’s lab, and I appreciate everything he has done to help me attain my goals of becoming a physician-scientist. A special shout out to Julie Simmons! Without her help and guidance, I never would have joined the Douglass lab.”

Quote About Tobin: “Tobin has been an excellent founding member of our research laboratory. As a scientist with practical experience in the clinic, he really hit the ground running and ultimately laid the foundation for the clinical wing of our research.  We will do our best to be good stewards to the seeds he’s sown here at UGA and are excited to see what he will do as a future physician scientist!” -Dr. Eugene Douglass

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