November 11, 2009
Vivienne Zhang ’08C entered St. John’s University, she already knew
she wanted to pursue a career in the sciences. But it wasn’t until
she finished a unique 10-week industry/academic “studentship” that
she knew she wanted to go to dental school.
The “studentships” — paid student summer research grants — were
forged in 2006 by Diana Bartelt, Ph.D., Director of the Institute
for Biotechnology at St. John’s during her sabbatical at OSI Pharmaceuticals. “OSI approached
me requesting that the University identify two outstanding students
in the sciences to be recipients of these full-time, paid summer
grants, which OSI referred to as studentships,” Dr. Bartelt
The studentships were designed as well to give ”promising St.
John’s science students an opportunity to work closely with both
their St. John’s faculty mentors and OSI chemists on pharmaceutical
research projects of importance,” said Dr. Bartelt.
“These coveted opportunities enabled our students to
participate in scientific research with the potential to improve
world health and make a difference,” she observed. “Paid student
research grant collaborations point the direction for future
industry-St. John’s relationships in the sciences,” Dr. Bartelt
said. “I am actively searching for more such relationships.”
During the past three years, St. John’s partnership with OSI has
reaped tremendous academic and professional rewards for the
students involved. In addition to Vivienne, two St. John’s graduate
students — Fang Guo and Jay Patel — who also took part in this
unique collaboration have realized outstanding career
St. John’s is in the forefront in forming mutually beneficial
partnerships providing students with first-hand experience
contributing to their future leadership success.
A Route to Dental
“I gained “a real sense of accomplishment and confidence from my
summer research project exploring ways to more effectively use
chemicals containing anti-cancer properties,” said Vivienne. The
position also helped her obtain critical laboratory research
“The most valuable part of the experience,” she said, “was being
able to work closely with my mentor, Victor Cesare, Ph.D.,
Professor of Chemistry at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences. “Dr. Cesare is always there for me when I need personal
or professional guidance,” she said.
Dr. Cesare selected Vivienne for the OSI studentship when she was
only a sophomore chemistry major at St. John’s College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences. “I was impressed by the quality of her work,” he
said. From her vantage point today as a first year student in the
NYU College of Dentistry, Vivienne credits her studentship with
giving her an edge in fulfilling her career objectives.
“Having pharmaceutically sponsored lab experience definitely helped
me gain admission to NYU,” she stated. “It is also making my first
year in dental school much easier because I came prepared to
operate independently in the lab and dentistry is highly
After Vivienne completed her studentship, OSI decided to continue
funding the research for another year. Dr. Cesare then selected
Fang Guo, a second-year master’s student in chemistry at St. John’s
College, who took the project to fruition.
The experience paid off handsomely for Fang as well. Now in her
first year of a doctoral program in chemistry at Rutgers
University–Newark, Fang noted, “my work with OSI helped set me
apart from other applicants to Rutgers. It made me stand out,” she
“It also gave me vital laboratory research to put on my resume —
adding to my credentials for advanced graduate study,” she
said. In addition, she said, “being involved in this project
confirmed my decision to go on for a doctorate in chemistry and
whetted my desire to teach at a university.”
A Distinguished Resume
Jay Patel, a first-year student in the doctoral program in
Medicinal Chemistry at the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health
Professions, marvels that the collective work done by him, his
Vijaya Korlipara, Ph.D. and the chemists at OSI was published
in the September 2009 issue of Tetrahedron Letters.
“The honor of being published in such a well- recognized and highly
regarded journal will go a long way toward helping Jay achieve his
career goal of becoming a research scientist with a leading
pharmaceutical company,” said Dr. Korlipara, Professor of
Pharmaceutical Sciences at St. John’s College of Pharmacy and
Allied Health Professions.
OSI was so impressed with Jay’s work that it decided to extend his
research grant for another year while he worked on his master’s
thesis. In his thesis, he got the chance to demonstrate
applications for the new synthesizing methodology he developed
during the initial part of the project. Zhe-Sheng Chen, Ph.D., also
on the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions faculty,
subsequently joined the project. working alongside Jay and Dr.
Summing up, Jay stated, “Along with being published in a leading
professional journal, completing my master’s, having a poster
presentation of my research presented at the National American
Chemical Society’s 2007 conference, I also got into St. John’s
doctoral program in Medicinal Chemistry.”
What’s impressive, he said, is that “ I accomplished all this while
also getting invaluable industry exposure and experience.”
“This has truly been a mutually beneficial collaboration,” Dr.
“These collaborative interactions with industry not only enrich our
students’ education while allowing them to work closely with our
faculty, but also lead to fulltime employment and outstanding
academic and other leadership placements,” said Dr. Bartelt.
“I am thrilled that the studentships were so fruitful, and I am
hopeful that I can generate more collaborations with industry.”