Starting as a pre-pharmacy student, Kyra Gong ’20, PharmD was involved with research under the guidance of William K. Chan, PharmD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry. During her time in Dr. Chan’s lab, she studied the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and its binding interactions. “Dr. Chan guided me throughout the project by showing me various techniques to analyze the receptor, including isothermal titration calorimetry and thermal shift assay,” she said. She also collaborated with pre-pharmacy and doctor of pharmacy students to create poster presentations that represented the team’s findings.

Dr. Chan has been studying AHR protein levels for over 25 years. In 2019, Dr. Chan received a $382,000 National Institutes of Health R15 grant for the proposal “Investigating the molecular mechanisms in controlling the aryl hydrocarbon receptor protein levels.” Dr. Gong admires Dr. Chan’s dedication to inspiring his students in the field of research. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to learn from and work alongside Dr. Chan,” she said.

The research on AHR has the potential for broader application as the receptor is involved in cancer, autoimmune diseases, lung diseases and diabetes. “A greater understanding of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor will influence the direction of drug development for impactful diseases such as cancer,” Dr. Gong said.

Actively engaging with research had a profound impact on her professional development as a pharmacist. “Research helped me understand and analyze information in a very different way than didactic learning,” she said. “Instead of always having a correct answer in front of me, I have been trained to think creatively and critically in order to figure out a solution.”

In July, Dr. Gong started a PGY1 residency at Kaiser Permanente in the Diablo Service Area. Inspired by her research experience, she hopes to become an ambulatory care pharmacist at an oncology clinic.

By Anne Marie H. Bergthold
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