Cigdem Sahin, Hanie Yousefi, Valerie Facca

From left: Cigdem Sahin, PharmSci PhD student and AAPS U of T chapter chair, Hanie Yousefi, AAPS U of T chapter chair elect and PharmSci PhD student, and Valerie Facca, past AAPS U of T chapter chair and PharmSci PhD student

U of T student chapter of AAPS receives award after productive year of virtual programs

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) student chapter at U of T’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy has received one of the three student chapter awards from the association, recognizing outstanding service and outreach.

The chapter’s leadership says the award is particularly meaningful after a year of modifying their usual events to happen virtually.

“Our team did a great job, and it was a very productive year. This is awesome news for our chapter, and the team’s great work was rewarded by getting this award,” said Cigdem Sahin, the chair of the AAPS U of T student chapter and a fifth-year pharmaceutical sciences PhD student.

“Being named the AAPS Student Chapter of the Year not only highlights the impact of the work our members did, but also what we are capable of achieving when we work together.”

The chapter will receive $1,000 for future programming, along with recognition during the AAPS student chapter meeting at the 2021 AAPS PharmSci 360 on October 17 in Philadelphia.

“It’s a well-deserved award for the chapter and a testimony of all the great work that’s been done,” added Hanie Yousefi, chair-elect and a fourth-year pharmaceutical sciences PhD student. “It will help our members be even more motivated than before to deliver great services to the students.”

The AAPS is a professional organization for pharmaceutical scientists in academia, industry and governments, and it has chapters at universities around the world to help students build connections and access professional development opportunities.

U of T AAPS Student Chapter group photo

The U of T AAPS chapter, which was established in 2004, includes pharmaceutical science graduate students that represent many disciplines within the field. With Professors Ping Lee and Reina Bendayan as faculty advisors, the 17 executive members organize educational and professional development events, including talks from visiting scientists, workshops for students to present their own work and learn from other students, and networking events with industry representatives or alumni.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the chapter’s events to shift online, the members stayed active and engaged, organizing their own events and partnering with other organizations at U of T.

“Our members have been really creative over the last year with developing a lot of new opportunities,” said Valerie Facca, the past chair of the chapter and a third-year pharmaceutical sciences PhD student. “Our members were really excited, they came up with great ideas for events and they came to all of these events. We were really lucky to have such an active community.”

Yousefi agrees. “It’s not always a given to have a close-knit community of people who help each other and raise each other up,” she said. “I think that’s really special for our AAPS chapter.”

The chapter partners with the Pharmaceutical Sciences Graduate Students Association to host an alumni career seminar series for students to learn about different careers in industry and academia.

They also have a longstanding partnership with U of T’s Let’s Talk Science to host an event for high school students to learn more about pharmaceutical sciences. While this signature event is typically held in person, they undertook the challenge of connecting with high school students virtually, arranging for speakers from industry and even preparing experiments and sending the materials in advance so that students could complete the activity safely at home.

Despite the challenges, the event was well attended.

“You can see what you are capable of achieving as an individual, as well as when we work together and collaborate with other people,” said Sahin. “Collaborative work is key in this chapter.”

Facca said that the opportunity to collaborate and connect with faculty and students from other disciplines is one of the most enjoyable aspects of participating in the chapter.

“I love being able to connect both with students from across the faculty but also with our incredible alumni from pharmaceutical sciences,” she said. “It opens you up to different careers and specialities within the pharmaceutical sciences that you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see.”

By: Eileen Hoftyzer

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