NAPSA x APSA Symposium

The symposium was in collaboration with the Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association, and was an exciting and informative event, with students having the opportunity to hear from 5 esteemed keynote speakers working nationally and internationally across different areas of pharmacy research and academia including education, drug formulation and delivery, optimum medication use, hospital pharmacy and community pharmacy.

All our speakers started off as pharmacy students and was a fantastic opportunity for NAPSA members to ask questions and explore the vast opportunities a pharmacy degree affords.Our speakers included Tina Brock, Joseph Nicolazzo, Parisa Aslani, Jonathan Penm and Fei Sim who presented on their career pathways from students to the present and on their respective fields of research!

Find the recording of the symposium below! We also had some additional questions for our speakers, and so have included these and their responses.

Additional Questions

Can you tell us more about APSA and what was your motivation for having APSA as your “home organisation”? What are the benefits for students to become involved with APSA?

  • Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association (APSA) represents academic pharmacists with an interest in pharmaceutical science, pharmacy practice and pharmacy and pharmaceutical science education. APSA hosts an annual conference bringing together academic pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists from Australia and New Zealand to allow for the dissemination of their latest research findings and educational advances. APSA is particularly focused on supporting students and early career researchers to showcase their research.

  • APSA is my home organisation as it is an association that fosters interactions between academic staff and students from Pharmacy schools across Australasia. Through APSA, I gain insight into how my academic colleagues are leading the way in pharmacy education and research, and it was through attending APSA as a PhD student that I was able to make key contacts that were of benefit to me when I commenced my role as an academic.

  • The benefits to students by joining APSA include being able to share your research findings in a very friendly environment, making key contacts with academics and students who may become your peers in the future, and networking with like-minded research-oriented students.

Joseph Nicolazzo

We know that you have done lots of research in different parts of the world. How did you get this opportunity to be able to experience so many different countries?

  • I almost always found out about interesting opportunities from networking. I was active in professional organisations (like NAPSA) as a student and I went to as many conferences as I could afford. I would read about the keynote speakers and try to get a chance to speak with them. When I finished my course, I stayed active. Some of the people I met at conferences or contacted about their work because I was interested in it often connected me to nontraditional opportunities. For example, I first met academics from Monash when I lived in the United Kingdom. I was doing some pharmacy work in a virtual world called Second Life and so was Monash. Many years later when a position opened up, I already knew that there were great people working there so I was less afraid to move!

Tina Brock

What is the pathway to studying for a Masters or PhD? What is the benefit for career progression?

  • For a PhD, either an Honours or Masters Degree is needed.

  • Masters or PhD give you additional skills, specifically research skills, which are well-sought after by employers in a range of areas, obviously academia, but also pharmaceutical industry. Having a PhD also opens doors to work internationally.

Parisa Aslani

You mentioned that you worked as a research assistant on the side, how do you apply for a job in research? Do you just approach research companies?

  • I worked for academics that I had previously done projects with e.g. summer research projects or honours. Academics may only have enough money to hire 1 research assistant, so they are very cautious in who they hire and are most likely to hire someone they have worked well with previously. Building up your reputation and network are important for this.

Jonathan Penm

How can you find a balance between ongoing long-term research programs and typical work in a community pharmacy? Is it hard to do both simultaneously?

  • This is a great question! I am sure this is a challenge for many of us pharmacist researchers. The truth is that it does require working long hours. I have learned, and am still learning, that prioritisation and time management is key. I now aim to set aside a specified day of the week to practise as a pharmacist in my pharmacy, as set block of day/time during the week for research and teaching. I am also hoping to build a research team at the moment so we can share our work and improve efficiency. I do find that community pharmacy work and research goes hand-in-hand and they are highly intertwined. I get driven when I see a ‘problem’ or a challenge at my pharmacy, and I would immediately think about how can I use research to methodically and scientifically find a solution for this – and the answer to that is ‘research’. I can then use what I learned from research and put them in practice, which helps to translate research findings into everyday practice. I will feel very bored if I can only do one thing!

Dr Fei Sim

What is most rewarding about academic work?

  • The most rewarding aspect of academic work is standing on stage at graduation day with pride as our students who we've taught along the way commence their professional careers.

Joseph Nicolazzo

  • The best part about academic work for me is that I get to do teaching, research, and service. Each of those contributes to the greater good in different ways, but they all fuel a sense of purpose. When I feel like what I am doing really matters, I tend to work very hard to get better at it. As an academic, you're never truly done with learning. For some people, that may seem overwhelming. For me, it keeps me growing!

Tina Brock

  • Being able to teach, and do research, and to be able to choose the research you are interested in. Also, to be able to educate the future of the profession and future researchers in the field.

Parissa Aslani

  • I thoroughly enjoy both teaching and research as the two key parts of my academic work. I love to interact with all my students. I see them as future leaders of the profession and it makes me happy to be able to contribute to shaping the future of the profession. This drives me forward and keeps me going. For research, as mentioned in my earlier response, I find it rewarding to solve real-life practice problems using sound research methodology, and then use research findings to guide evidence-based practice. Ultimately, in my opinion this is the only way to improve practice.

Dr Fei Sim

NAPSA has a newly developed journal called the Australian Pharmacy Students’ Journal (APSJ). Would you recommend publishing in the new journal?

  • I would strongly encourage students to publish in the Australian Pharmacy Students' Journal (APSJ) as it will give you insight into the academic review process while at the same time, being able to showcase your latest and greatest research findings.

Joseph Nicolazzo

  • I would recommend taking as many opportunities to write and get feedback on your writing as you can! A student journal is a very approachable way to get started. In fact, I just saw a piece in the US pharmacy student journal about getting involved with research that was written by a pharmacy student - When you're in pharmacy school you might think writing assignments are a bit tedious. When you write for publication, you see that following a style guide very strictly, writing multiple drafts and responding to feedback from experts you may not even know is all part of the process of getting to the clearest message you can. Even after all that, not every paper will be accepted! I also recommend reading more if you want to write better. As a pharmacy student, your teachers curate what you read (or what they ask you to read) but in life, you have the opportunity to choose. I once set a goal for myself that I would read at least one paper written by each of my teachers for an entire year. At the end of the year, I knew my teachers much better AND I had some examples of good (and some not-so-good) papers to use as models in my own work.

Tina Brock

  • I would like to see the scope of the journal and what the journal intends to publish, and the goals of the journal. It would be important to use the journal as a way of showcasing research conducted by students.

Parissa Aslani

  • I think this is a fantastic initiative – well done and great job! This is a great step to instill a research culture amongst the profession and pharmacy student cohorts. I would absolutely recommend this to all my students. I think students should aim to submit their work (be it literature review, commentary or research project articles) to this journal. WELL DONE NAPSA!

Dr Fei Sim