UBC PhD student receives the first James E. Axelson Outstanding Graduate Scholar Award

UBC Pharm Sci PhD student, Yuejian Liu, has been named recipient of the 2016–2017 James E. Axelson Outstanding Graduate Scholar Award.

Liu, who is supervised by Drs. Abby Collier and Michael Coughtrie, joined the Faculty in September 2016, after completing a BSc (First-Class Honours) in cell biology at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.

The James E. Axelson Outstanding Graduate Scholar Award was established by UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences alum and pharmaceutical scientist, Dr. Swamy Yeleswaram, in honour of his doctoral research supervisor, Professor Emeritus James Axelson. This prestigious award is part of the Outstanding Graduate Scholar Training Program (OGSTP). The program aims to support exceptional new graduate students who have demonstrated their commitment to scholarship and leadership.

We spoke with Liu to learn more about her research and how Dr. Yeleswaram's generous support will impact her future.

Tell us about your area of research focus.

YL: My research project focuses on post-translational modifications and structure/function relationships of UDP-Glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs). This is important because we know that some children, such as those receiving cancer drug treatments, cannot metabolize drugs because the UGTs aren't active. This may result in an adverse drug reaction (ADR) which can lead to severe toxicity, serious complications and possible death. My research will examine which modifications are important in regulating the functions of UGTs in order to prevent the ADR.

What are you most excited about in your PhD program, working under the supervision of Drs. Collier and Coughtrie?

YL: I spent many hours searching for the right PhD program to apply to. It was while reading the research description and many of Dr. Coughtrie's papers that I realized I should apply to UBC Pharm Sci. Shortly after, I learned that Dr. Coughtrie isn't taking graduate students but discovered that Dr. Collier is and doing similar research. I was so happy to be accepted into the program with them both as my supervisors! I'm looking forward to futher exploring the field of UGT's under their supervision.

How did you feel when you learned you had been named the recipient of the James E. Axelson Outstanding Graduate Scholar Award?

YL: I was very excited! Receiving this award has made me feel more confident in my skills and abilities and more enthusiastic about my PhD project. I hope to pass on the mentoring and guidance I have received in the program to future students. Once I'm settled in here I also hope to help out with the Pharmacy Graduate Student Society. Learning about Dr. Yeleswaram and the significant role Dr. Axelson's mentorship had in his career has opened my eyes to the importance of supervisors and mentors in a graduate student's career.

How will receiving this award help you achieve your goals?

YL: With this award comes motivation, responsibility, and encouragement to work hard in my studies. It is recognition of what I have achieved so far and what my supervisors (and I) believe I'm capable of achieving. I am honoured and humbled to have received this award.

Born in Chennai, India, Dr. Swamy Yeleswaram graduated from the Faculty in 1992 with a PhD in pharmacokinetics and biopharmaceutics. He is currently based in the United States, where he serves as Vice President of Drug Metabolism, Pharmacokinetics, and Clinical Pharmacology at Incyte Corporation.

Image: Justin Lee Ohata, UBC Pharm Sci.