Maryanna Lanning is a current student in the Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSC) PhD Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro (UNCG), Maryanna received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in biochemistry. Since joining the PSC PhD Program, she has served as vice president and president of the School’s Pharmacy Graduate Student Association (PGSA) and as the sitting student on the Graduate Steering Committee. She also recently joined the Chemical-Biology Interface Program, a collaboration between the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).
What are your personal research interests?
As a graduate research assistant in the laboratory of my mentor, Dr. Steven Fletcher, my research focuses on synthesizing small molecules known as synthetic alpha-helix mimetics to disrupt cancerous protein-protein interactions (PPI). My current research looks at the Mcl-1 protein, which prevents cell death. Additional research being conducted in our laboratory focuses on proto-oncogenic proteins, including Bcl-xL, c-myc, and bromo-domain inhibitors. If we are able to inhibit different PPIs, we could develop new treatments towards cancer.
What inspired your interest in the field of pharmaceutical sciences?
I became interested in the field of pharmaceutical sciences after working as an intern in the medicinal chemistry group of a biotechnology company. The researchers in that group encouraged me to pursue my interest in drug discovery and obtain a graduate degree. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I had the opportunity to work at the Cleveland Clinic, where I researched transplant immunology. Through my work with that institution, I became very interested in how drugs affect a particular disease state, and decided to pursue my graduate degree in pharmaceutical sciences.
What interested you most about the PSC PhD Program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?
I wanted to enroll in a graduate program that would allow me to blend my two research interests in chemistry and biology, and found that the PSC PhD Program at the School of Pharmacy embodied everything for which I was searching. After my interview, I saw that no other programs came close to what the School of Pharmacy had to offer. The faculty and students made me feel like I belonged immediately, and I knew that my transition to the program would be an easy one. The research conducted here is outstanding, and I was confident that I would not have a problem finding a lab that suited my existing research skills.
How would you describe your experience since being admitted to the program?
Since being admitted to the PSC PhD Program, my experience has been nothing short of amazing. The faculty members are very supportive, and encourage students to exceed their personal expectations. We are also encouraged to collaborate with other faculty and students, and to make use of the outstanding facilities offered at the School. Our Mass Spectrometry Center is just one of the state-of-the-art facilities to which we have access. It contains more than a dozen instruments that aid us in a variety of research projects. We also have an exceptional Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) facility. All of these facilities offer opportunities for students to learn how to use the instruments for their research. Students also participate in a wide range of activities outside of the classroom, including a monthly social hosted by our department.
What are your thoughts about the coursework offered through the program?
The classes offered through the PSC PhD Program cover a broad spectrum of topics within pharmaceutical sciences. They provide a great opportunity for students to learn more about areas outside of their personal fields of research and better understand how all of those fields of study fit together. Students also have the ability to tailor the classes that they take outside of the core curriculum such that they focus on their particular area of interest.
What is your advice to prospective students who might be considering whether or not to apply to this program?
I strongly recommend that prospective students consider applying to the PSC PhD Program. This program is very unique, and our faculty and students are always available to address any questions or concerns that you might have. The School of Pharmacy also offers a great environment in which students can learn and conduct research. Choosing to apply to this program is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.