Health and Medicine

New minor explores drug science

Undergraduates majoring in STEM learn about research applications and career paths from pharmacy school faculty.

Exterior image of Beard Hall during the day.

Thirteen Carolina students with majors in STEM-related fields make up the first cohort of the new undergraduate minor in pharmaceutical sciences at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

The minor is designed to acquaint students with core areas of pharmaceutical science in preparation for advanced study in the health sciences, an advanced degree in the health care professions or a career in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries.

One student enrolled in the new minor is Steven Nuzzolo, a junior from the Philadelphia area with a double major in neuroscience and chemistry. Nuzzolo is involved in student government, serving as deputy student body treasurer. As a member of the Office of Undergraduate Research’s advisory board, he is forming a chemical and pharmaceutical sciences committee to connect undergraduate students to research initiatives. Nuzzolo is also part of the North Carolina Fellows program, a student leadership organization.

In his studies, Nuzzolo always knew he leaned more toward the sciences than humanities. As he explored topics in neuroscience and chemistry, he wanted to learn more about drug delivery.

“My interest in pharmaceutical sciences stems from my passion for combining neuroscience and chemistry. I realized that you could combine aspects of chemistry and use it for drug delivery,” he said. “Drug delivery has a lot of large-scale applications and innovation opportunities — taking chemistry and applying it to real-world solutions.”

His interest led Nuzzolo to reach out to Kristy Ainslie, Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor and chair of the pharmacoengineering and molecular pharmaceutics division, for undergraduate research in her lab. The experience made such an impact on him that he knew adding the pharmaceutical sciences minor was the best decision for his future career. He plans to pursue a doctoral program in the pharmaceutical sciences, immunology or chemistry.

“Working in Dr. Ainslie’s lab made me realize that adding an academic component, or a curricula component, to my research would really supplement it,” he said. “One of the biggest draws for me to apply for the minor was the world-class faculty and being exposed to and collaborating with all of the school’s divisions.”

The minor takes advantage of existing faculty expertise and courses at the pharmacy school. It will help students like Nuzzolo build fundamental technical language and knowledge in the pharmaceutical sciences, as well as help raise awareness about potential applications and career paths among undergraduates from different majors.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be commencing on this shared journey with our inaugural cohort of students in the minor in pharmaceutical sciences program,” said Scott Singleton, program director for the minor and associate professor in the chemical biology and medicinal chemistry division. “This is a momentous opportunity as Steven and his peers are poised to make significant contributions to the world of pharmaceutical research and patient care.”

Applications will reopen in August 2024 for the minor in pharmaceutical sciences.