Melinda von Borstel is getting well-prepared in college so she’ll be ready for whatever curves life throws her way.

Melinda von Borstel is setting a foundation for a solid health care career
Melinda von Borstel is setting a foundation for a solid health care career

Melinda von Borstel is a presidential scholar and University Honors College graduate in nutrition and food management and in international studies, a community volunteer–and a future pharmacist.

Melinda has been preparing herself carefully for her career and her life. She chose nutrition and food management because it provided a good base for a health care career.

She also minored in Spanish, knowing how the country’s demographics are changing. She felt she lacked fluency in Spanish, so she spent several months in Chile, then went on an exchange to Spain. And she took several courses that focused on gerontology, in recognition of our aging population.

That doesn’t even take into consideration the three summers she worked as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Theresa Filtz, an assistant professor of pharmacy at OSU, for which Melinda received an Undergraduate Research Innovation Scholarship Creativity (URISC) award.

And she’s experienced at working with people in the community. She has earned numerous scholarships for academic excellence and for her volunteer work, which includes teaching Sunday School, working for Habitat for Humanity, staffing soup kitchens, reading to grade school kids, cleaning Oregon beaches and highways, and helping out at food drives.

Her long-term goal is to work as a pharmacist, where she can use her language and people skills, as well as her preparation. “The profession is changing from being a pill counter to working with people in a consultative way,” von Borstel said. “And I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

Joe Hendricks, dean of the University Honors College, puts it into perspective when he says: “If she is going to be a pharmacist, then that is the pharmacy I want to go to in the future.”

College of Pharmacy website

University Honors College website

A little creative thinking, a planning committee, and a pair of talented students turned routine repainting in the College of Pharmacy into a work of art.

Students work on the mural in the College of Pharmacy
Students work on the mural in the College of Pharmacy

When OSU Facilities Services painter Charles Vail and his manager, Joe Majeski, were discussing the need for an interior repainting for the Pharmacy Building, they wondered if they could achieve their department’s mission: “to wow” with something as routine as that.

“When we got to the west entrance, we noticed a beautiful frame with nothing in it,” Vail says. “That led to a ‘what if’ and ‘why not’ discussion of the possibility of murals.” Majeski gave the go-ahead and the idea was off and running.

Vail located an art student, Emidio Lopez and contacted the art department where he found another student, Kim Smith, interested in working on the project. A committee, led by pharmacy professor Lee Strandberg, developed a plan for the murals to depict the past and the future of pharmacy.

With the help of Kay Cooke, director of external relations in Pharmacy, things moved rapidly. Miller Paint Company donated the paint, Facilities Services provided the scaffolding, the College of Pharmacy gave Emidio and Kim a stipend, and the art department agreed to give the students project credit for their creative efforts.

“This has truly been a team effort,” says Vail.

The unveiling of the murals took place during the homecoming celebration on October 23.

College of Pharmacy

Department of Art

An OSU research team, led by Pharmacy professor Bill Gerwick, has found algae off the coast of Venezuela that may have potential in treating pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Researcher on undersea exploration
Researcher on undersea exploration

Bill Gerwick, a professor in OSU’s College of Pharmacy, has spent much of the last decade studying marine blue-green algae. In some locales, that same algae is known as “pond scum.” The species known as Lyngbya majuscula, found in a bay near Kalki Beach off the Venezuelan coast, however, is gaining a much more dignified reputation.

Gerwick and his research team recently extracted a compound from the algae that is one of the most powerful neurotoxins they had seen. Dubbed “kalkitoxin,” the compound has the potential to lead to new treatments for pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Gerwick said he believes the compound works by blocking sodium channels, thus preventing nerve cells from firing off their electrical signals. “Kalkitoxin is incredibly potent, which means it likely binds with greater affinity,” Gerwick said. “When that happens, there is a good chance that you can create a pharmaceutical that has greater specificity of drug action. “It is,” he said, “a valuable discovery.”

This isn’t the first time that the OSU researchers have found success in mining drugs from the sea. Several years ago, Gerwick discovered a compound called “Curacin A” in different samples of Lyngbya majusscula that had powerful anti-cancer properties. In fact, Curacin A was remarkably similar to taxol.

Since that early discovery, Gerwick has expanded his research lab and now works with a team of 10 faculty and graduate students as OSU continues to become a leader in the promising field of mining drugs from the sea.

“To think that such promising compounds come from what essentially is pond scum is amazing and ironic,” Gerwick said. “It is a great example of that old saying that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure.”