Chemistry strudents on dialogue in Europe
Chemistry and Chemical Biology students on Dialogue in Europe stop for a photo at the summit at Bergstation, Eggishorn (Fiescheralp, Switzwerland).

by Matthew Pavlovich

Thirty students from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology traveled to Europe to participate in the department’s inaugural “Northeastern University Chemistry, Drug Discovery, and Development Dialogue” course in July and August of 2015. The course, which is part of Northeastern’s larger Dialogue of Civilizations program, was led by Graham Jones, Professor and Chair of the department, joined by Professors Roman Manetsch and George O’Doherty. Called NU-CD4 for short, the course focused on the drug development process and gave the students the opportunity both to visit world-leading institutions in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing and to conduct a research project focusing on identifying problems with existing drugs and developing novel remedies for those problems.

The course’s first destination was Dublin, Ireland, where the students spent three weeks at University College Dublin learning more about organic chemistry, metabolism, and pharmaceutical synthesis; visiting Ireland’s National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s pharmaceutical production plant; and preparing posters to present their research projects. The students also had ample opportunities to travel across Ireland, making weekend trips to Cork and the Blarney Stone, Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway, and Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.

Professor O’Doherty, who accompanied the course during its stay in Ireland, said he enjoyed the experience and appreciated that the students had a “firsthand opportunity to see both Ireland and the pharmaceutical industry.” He had high esteem for the students in the course, adding, “I remember how impressed the chemistry professors at UCD were with the knowledge and confidence our students showed when interacting with them.”

CCB Dialogue student Maochi Li displays her research poster.
CCB Dialogue student Maochi Li displays her research poster.

From Dublin, NU-CD4 moved on to the UK and ultimately to Switzerland. In the UK, the students focused on global health and infectious diseases, and they had the opportunity to learn from both clinicians and academics at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of Liverpool, and Imperial College, London. The students also visited a Novartis production facility in Liverpool that manufactures the influenza vaccine. Finally, the group traveled to Basel, Switzerland, where they were joined by Professor Manetsch (who received his PhD from the University of Basel) and visited the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and the headquarters of Lonza, a Swiss corporation known for manufacturing antibody drugs.

After 36 days abroad, the course ended, and most of the students headed back to Boston, with some remaining in Europe for a bit more time abroad. Charlie Hoyt, one of the course’s teaching assistants, remarked that “[b]eing in Europe is an awesome opportunity to explore, and for those who have never traveled alone, a chance to gain maturity that can’t be found anyway else.” His recorded his thoughts and photographs from the experience in his blog. Students research conducted on the Dialogue was recently featured in a poster session, and will be presented at the 2016 National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego, CA.

According to Northeastern’s Global Experience Office website, the Dialogue of Civilizations programs “allow Northeastern faculty to share experiential learning with an intimate group of students beyond the Boston campus” and focus on providing students with global perspectives that build on their classroom studies at Northeastern. More than fifty different Dialogues exist in fields as diverse as “Ethnography and Social Networks in Sevilla and Barcelona” and “Field Study of Volcanic and Glacial Processes” in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the department plans to follow the success of the first offering of NU-CD4 with another Dialogue next summer.