Graduate Student Spotlight: Anjali Dixit, PhD Candidate

UC Irvine’s PhD in pharmacological sciences program provides a unique opportunity for those interested in any scientific discipline represented by the pharmaceutical sciences faculty to have a year of broad, interdisciplinary training and extensive lab rotations followed by focused doctoral research in the pharmaceutical sciences research group of their choice.

Students can choose from one of three tracks within the program: pharmaceutical sciences, pharmacology or medicinal chemistry.

Fourth-year PhD student, Anjali Dixit, shares her experience at UCI and her research interest in a cheminformatics approach to drug discovery.

Q: What year are you in your program, and who is your academic advisor?

I am a fourth-year student in the UCI PhD in pharmacological sciences program co-advised by Dr. Brian Paegel and Dr. David Mobley.

Q: What research are you working on? 

My research is focused on a cheminformatics-driven approach to drug discovery, utilizing DNA-encoded library technology to produce novel chemical matter for challenging targets.

Q: What is your research’s significance? 

Undruggable proteins make up over 85% of pathogenic targets – these proteins have remained inaccessible partly due to limitations of available chemical space. Techniques such as informatics-based structure-activity relationship studies and library modeling could aid in the development of novel chemical matter for alternative targeting approaches. Moreover, it can enable a broad exploration of chemical space that will inspire new drug-like territories.

Q: What is your favorite part of your research lab? 

My research lab is extremely interdisciplinary, and I love being able to interact with individuals who have various backgrounds every day. I look forward to learning something new everyday!

Q: How has your experience in your PhD program at UCI contributed to your growth? 

Because of UCI’s unique location and connections, I have had the opportunity to work with industry collaborators and learn about their research strategies. Additionally, the diversity of UCI’s graduate student population has enriched my learning experience both inside and outside of the lab, and I have made friendships that will become lasting professional connections.

Q: What do you plan to do after earning your PhD?

I am interested in staying in the drug discovery space and would like to explore an informatics-based position. I’d like to investigate methods such as modeling or predictive analyses to tie the qualities of hit compounds identified during early drug discovery efforts with those of their final clinical candidates to design better starting materials for screening.

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