Two Ph.D. candidates from the College of Pharmacy have been named as Breakthrough Graduate Scholars by the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of South Carolina.
Sarah Davis and Xiaomo ‘Shawn’ Xiong were chosen as exceptional graduate students who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and have made considerable contributions to research and scholarly activities in their field. The award raises awareness of the importance of commitment to research and scholarship during and beyond graduate study.
Davis, a doctoral candidate in the department of Drug Discovery & Biomedical Sciences with Professor Jun Zhu, is using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry to measure dopamine in the brain in real time as she studies how HIV-1 viral proteins in conjunction with methamphetamine can influence dopamine signaling in the brain. Her work has already earned her an F31 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse through the National Institutes of Health. She will also have her first paper published as a highlighted trainee author in the February issue of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
“Prior to joining Dr. Zhu’s lab, when I thought about neurodegenerative diseases, I did not know how much the HIV community is impacted by neurocognitive deficits,” she says. “There is so much more we can do to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV.”
Xiong, who studies under Associate Professor Kevin Lu in Clinical Pharmacy & Outcomes Sciences, serves as president of the USC International Society Pharmacoeconomics and Outcome Research (SPOR) student chapter. He has published 16 journal articles, made 18 presentations at international conferences, received five awards, and completed eight journal reviews.
Xiong, who was recognized as the Outstanding Student of the Year for 2021-2022, is honored to be named a Breakthrough Graduate Scholar.
“It comes with a great responsibility to continue working hard and striving for excellence in my studies and research,” he says. “It also gives me the opportunity to network and connect with other scholars, which is an invaluable experience that will help me grow both personally and professionally.”
“These students are performing outstanding research and scholarship,” says Doug Pittman, director of graduate studies. “It is terrific that a student studying in Clinical Outcomes and a student studying in the DDBS department are representing the College of Pharmacy. These recognitions will make an incredible difference as Sarah and Shawn continue building their careers and highlights the high-level research being performed in our college.”