Tuesday, September 24, 2019

When Beth Young graduated from Augustana College in Illinois with degrees in chemistry and math, she didn’t foresee a future in pharmacy. But a series of life events and personal encounters eventually led her to the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy, where she is pursuing her doctorate degree.

Fresh out of college, Young wasn’t ready to jump back into academia.

“Instead of continuing right away with graduate school, I decided to get a job and increase my experience in a lab environment,” said Young. “I spent a year working as an analyst at Monsanto in Muscatine and then just under a year at IDT (Integrated DNA Technologies, Inc.)  as an organic chemist. During this time, I became very ill with an autoimmune disease and thyroid cancer.”

Beth Young goggles
During her treatment, Young visited often with her primary pharmacist and discovered that the study of pharmacy science would be a good fit with her background in math and chemistry. With an eye toward staying in the Midwest so she could continue seeing her medical team for follow-ups, Young applied to the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy. She’s glad she did.

“One thing I really like about the UI is the connections,” said Young. “Even though the campus is large, you can still find someone to help you. I make a lot of trips to the Chemistry Building to run detailed analyses using their instruments; it’s nice to know that we can all work together and collaborate. Some days it feels like a small liberal arts college rather than one of the Big 10 schools.”

Young started her PharmD program in 2016, and one of her first courses was with Dale Eric Wurster, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics. Young enjoyed the course, which focused on surface phenomena, and so she was excited when, in the summer of 2017, she had the opportunity to collaborate on a research project with Guohua An, an assistant professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. It involved the validation/quantification of the drugs Cefepime, Meropenem, Peperacillin and Tazobactam, and resulted in two articles in the Journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. The research experience led Young to switch career paths again.

Beth Young
Beth Young

I definitely feel that life can bring us surprises, some good and some bad, but my time at the UI has been nothing but positive and beneficial.

“Over that summer, I became more and more aware that I preferred working in a laboratory and decided it was in my best interest to switch programs,” said Young. “With the help of Dr. Wurster and Dr. An, I entered the PhD program, which I absolutely love, and I have no regrets.”

Now in her third year of doctoral studies, Young conducts research in physical pharmacy, where she works with solid-state materials to find new methods of formulation and preformulation development. “I specialize in crystal engineering and the design and synthesis of molecular solid-state structures with desired physical and chemical properties,” she explained.

Young hopes to finish her PhD work in 2021 and says she could pursue work as a formulation scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. However, she also sees a future in academia, where she would like to teach chemistry or pharmacy, or perhaps both.

“I definitely feel that life can bring us surprises, some good and some bad, but my time at the UI has been nothing but positive and beneficial,” said Young, who lives in Coralville with her husband, Garrett Young, and their two dogs, Oliver and Tinkerbell. “I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to work with such outstanding scientists and that I get to do work that I am truly passionate about.”