Spotlight on PhD graduate Eric Samuels

Spotlight on PhD graduate Eric Samuels

This academic year, five of our PhD students defended their dissertations and are moving to the next stage of their careers post-UCI. Each individual’s journey through graduate school is different, so we asked our students to reflect on their time here and how it has prepared them for life after grad school.

Eric Samuels from the Poulos Lab shares how his time at UCI has helped him grow professionally and personally, how much his life has changed over the past five years.

Why did you choose UCI’s PhD program?

I chose the UCI Pharmacological Sciences PhD Program at UCI because the interdisciplinary environment and flexible research options suited my diverse background well.

What is your research about?

My dissertation research involved the design of CYP3A4 inhibitors as pharmacoenhancers. Cytochrome P450 3A4 is an enzyme in the liver and intestines that metabolizes over half of clinically used drugs for excretion. So one could image that they would not want to stop this important enzyme. However, if you carefully control inhibition, you can “enhance” the therapeutic efficiency of drugs that would otherwise be rapidly metabolized.  Essentially, you’re boosting the drugs effects without increasing the dose. This can aid not only with lowering dosage, but can also help minimize any side effects – especially with drugs that are toxic like some cancer drugs. It can also help reduce costs since you need less of the drug to have the same effect. For the project, there were two immediate goals: first, to further understand the mechanism of CYP3A4 inhibition, which is very important in the pharmaceutical field, and second, to rationally design more suitable, less complex inhibitors as pharmacoenhancers.

What will you do now that you have graduated?

I am starting a year-long USC postdoctoral fellowship in small molecule product development at Allergan.

How has your time here at UCI helped you grow professionally/personally?

My time at UCI was fairly unique, as I was fortunate enough to explore a variety of clinically relevant projects. I feel a PhD program is where you learn how to think like a scientist.  It really depends on your advisor, but Tom Poulos allowed me a lot of independence to explore my field (medicinal chemistry), and ultimately gave me the the opportunity to learn, research, and grow as scientist, which I am so grateful for.     

What is most memorable about your time here at UCI?

Besides my wedding during my first year, and the birth of my son in my 3rd year, I would say finding my home in Tom’s lab, and being able to work on rational drug design. With Dr. Irina Sevrioukova, the principal scientist on the CYP3A4 project, we were able to design several highly potent CYP3A4 inhibitors, currently under two patents.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Don’t lose sight of your dream, and always keep an open mind.