Jessica Placido ‘07GP

A St. John’s University graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a specialization in Toxicology has been awarded the prestigious J. Edgar Hoover Foundation Scientific Scholarship. This annual award is given to only one student in the U.S. from an elite pool of applicants.

St. John’s University is one of only 12 institutions nationwide that qualified to nominate someone for this prestigious award.

The student, Jessica Placido ‘07GP, plans to use the scholarship award to purchase research equipment that will benefit her doctoral research at St. John’s, while strengthening the analytical performance of her laboratory within the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

“I am delighted that Jessica has been awarded this scholarship,” said S. William Zito, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Dr. Zito is Jessica’s mentor and has known the 28-year-old since 2005, when her master’s degree research led her to his lab. “Jessica is an intelligent, creative, diligent and enthusiastic researcher and is a pleasure to have in the laboratory. She really is a great asset to our research group.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Fairfield University, Jessica considered going to medical or dental school. However, her passion for science and law enforcement led her to pursue both her master’s and doctoral degrees at St. John’s. Her specific interest in toxicology stems from a summer internship in the Westchester County Medical Examiner’s Office. “My ultimate goal is to be a civilian scientist with the FBI or the DEA,” said the resident of nearby Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.

On campus and in the field, Jessica is always busy. When not involved in her research, she serves as a teaching fellow in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, a position she has held since 2007. She is also an officer in the Graduate Student Association, a student leader in the Society of Toxicology and is a member of the Rho Chi Pharmaceutical Sciences Honor Society.

Jessica’s doctoral thesis focuses on controlled substances and drugs of abuse, an area that is quickly gaining the attention of the toxicology community. “In recent years, there has been a serious increase in the amount of prescription drugs that are being abused with alcohol at the same time – especially with adolescents and young adults,” she said, explaining her interest in the subject.

In doing her research, Jessica has gone to her mentor Dr. Zito for both inspiration and assistance. “He is a phenomenal medicinal chemist. He knows so much about drug structures and properties and how certain drugs react with other drugs — all of which is essential to my project,” said Jessica. “He’s been a wonderful mentor and has really helped me reach my goals.”