Sana Qayum

Sana Qayum.

Sana Qayum, a trainee in the master’s program in pharmacology and toxicology, appreciates the opportunity to work in the Jacobs School’s advanced labs and colaborate with others.

Sana Qayum, a trainee in the master’s program in pharmacology and toxicology, is a Fulbright Scholar who is originally from Pakistan, but has resided in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the past 12 years.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from RAK Medical and Health Sciences University, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and was the gold medalist of her batch.

What motivated you to study abroad?

Carrying out research work has always been my passion. Even in my undergraduate work, I enjoyed lab work and performed research work on the Ebola virus. However, after graduating, I worked in the pharma sector in Pakistan for a while and forgot about my passion for research work. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that I finally appreciated the fact that medical science professionals were literally fighting for the survival of the human race and that I was not doing justice with my abilities by working in a non-research job. 

That is when I decided to pursue a research-based master’s degree in pharmacology. Fulbright is one of the most prestigious scholarships, and my husband — who himself is a Commonwealth Scholarship (United Kingdom) recipient — motivated me a lot to apply for the Fulbright program. Despite having a 1-year-old child, I was fortunate that I had the family support and good academic credentials which helped me get selected for this scholarship. This is how my dream to study abroad was realized.

What attracted you to the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences for your master’s program studies?

My decision to attend UB was mainly because of its high quality pharmacology and toxicology program. I was attracted to this program because of its advanced labs and the quality and diversity of research, which gives an individual the opportunity to choose specific areas of interest to work on. Also, UB’s affiliation with the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the quantum of cancer research going on in the UB labs was another motivating factor.

In layman’s terms, can you briefly describe the main areas of your research?

The main areas of my research are nanoformulation, neurotherapeutics, and the blood-brain barrier (BBB). For my thesis project, I am working on developing a novel mPEG-PLGA nanoparticle-based-CBD nanoformulation that would be efficacious in treating chronic, neuropathic pain. Our lab is examining the effect of Cannabidiol (CBD), which is a drug of abuse, encapsulated in a nanoparticle and its key drug transporters at the BBB, how the CBD nanoformulation affects the BBB permeability, and the pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) properties of these drugs.

What are the potential public health benefits of your research?

Neuropathic pain has a high prevalence rate of around 10 percent in the U.S. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported that 20 million Americans have some type of peripheral neuropathy. Neuropathic pain is usually referred to as a ‘pins and needles’ feeling, which is a very sharp pain that affects the quality of life of an individual. Chronic pain is often very difficult to treat and can be very disabling. CBD nanoformulation could provide a ray of hope for patients experiencing chronic neuropathic pain.

What is it like to work with your mentor, Supriya D. Mahajan, PhD?

As a person, Dr. Mahajan is very humble, easy to talk with and very experienced. She’s a great mentor to me, always available for help, and she has great experience and knowledge in her research areas. She always motivates me to aim high, learn new techniques and appreciate the work I do in the lab. Her mentorship has played a significant role in the research work I am carrying out and with her timely guidance, I have been able to keep up with my research schedule. 

What are your career goals and how has your time at the Jacobs School prepared you?

My career goal is to become an excellent researcher/scientist and carry out research that can contribute to the field of pharmacology. In order to achieve this goal, I am aiming to complete my master’s degree with flying colors and enroll in a doctoral program. The Jacobs School has given me the platform to hone my skills and improve my knowledge to become a better researcher. Participating in various conferences has given me public experience, which has made me a confident lady. The advanced labs have given me the opportunity to learn new techniques, work with some great minds, and learn from the best.