Alumni Spotlight: Renita Moradian

Meet Renita Moradian, the first student to receive the USC School of Pharmacy’s new bachelor of science degree in pharmacology and drug development. She talks about her path to pharmacy, what drew her to the new major and what’s next for her in her career.

What attracted you to the field of pharmacy?

My path to the field of pharmacy was not straightforward. My dad knew everything about the human body and there were always medical books scattered around the house. Having that as part of my upbringing sparked an early curiosity about how the human body works. When I started at the University of Southern California, I was keen on a medical career. One summer, I began shadowing physicians at a local children’s hospital and was excited about the possibility of enhancing patient experiences. The reality of it was quite different. I quickly realized that physicians are often overwhelmed with the number of patients they need to see each day, which compromises the time and attention they can devote to each individual patient interaction.

Around the same time, I heard about the USC Pre-Pharmacy Society from some friends and attended a meeting where I learned that pharmacy is a field that allows you to pursue multiple career opportunities. The idea of combining my love for science with creativity in a biopharmaceutical field is something I am passionate about and looking forward to doing in the future.

Why did you decide to major in pharmacology and drug development?

I switched from a human biology major to the pharmacology and drug development major at the beginning of my senior year at USC. The pharmacology and drug development major is comprised of courses that are academically intriguing and professionally applicable within the current health care and pharmaceutical industry. We take general biology and physiology courses that are mandatory prerequisites to apply for pharmacy school, but having those extra courses on drug development, toxicology, pharmacology and the effects of drugs on the body gives us a leg up over other majors going into pharmacy school. At the end of the day, knowing how drugs interact with the human body is important no matter which route you take in health care.

How have you been spending your summer?

I’m working in two labs this summer. In Dr. Daryl Davies‘ lab, we are partnering with a pharmaceutical startup to test different compounds in hopes of discovering a drug to cure Alzheimer’s disease. In Dr. Martine Culty‘s lab, we’re doing research to understand how painkillers and the environmental toxicants people are exposed to every day affect the development of neonatal germ cells. I’ve been assisting a PhD student this summer, but when I return to Dr. Culty’s lab in the fall, I hope to take on an independent project of my own.

Having received her bachelor’s degree in pharmacology and drug development, Renita Moradian has been working this summer as part of a USC research team hoping to discover a drug to cure Alzheimer’s disease. (Photo by Linda Wang)

Can you share a little about your early life?

My family and I moved to the U.S. from Iran when I was nine years old. I started school here in the middle of fifth grade and they immediately put me in the same classes as the English-speaking students. That turned out to be a blessing because I was forced to learn English quickly and it made the transition easier. My parents wanted my brother and me to have the freedom to pursue whatever we wanted in life. I think that’s the catalyst and hope for any family deciding to immigrate to the U.S.

What is a fun fact about you that not many people know about?

My three biggest hobbies are fitness, nutrition and photography. I used to do boxing in high school and even taught a class for my senior project. I’ve always been interested in photography and hope to have a big camera collection one day.

How does it feel to be the first undergraduate to receive the bachelor of science in pharmacology and drug development?

I truly feel honored. My family has always been incredibly supportive in my journey. Every person I have met in this program has been welcoming, encouraging and most importantly, inspiring. It wasn’t long ago that I was confused about my career aspirations and decided to reach out to Dr. Daryl Davies for his assistance. Through people like him, my counselor Randa Issa and the USC Pre-Pharmacy Society, I have gained an immense amount of knowledge and insight about this field, and I could not be any more thankful. This is as much my accomplishment as theirs, since I would not be here without their guidance.

What are your next steps?

I applied to pharmacy school. Just waiting for decisions to come out now!

Interested in learning more about studying pharmacology and drug development at USC? Learn more about the USC School of Pharmacy’s undergraduate pre-pharmacy programs here.