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Research driven by grandmother's memory

Kerri Pryce

Kerri Pryce says his grandmother, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, is the inspiration for his decision to pursue a doctorate in pharmacology at UB. Photo: Douglas Levere

By MARCENE ROBINSON

Published August 15, 2013

“I aspire to find and develop medications for Alzheimer’s so others can one day make memories that each person will cherish forever.”
Kerri Pryce, Recipient
SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

The one woman Kerri Pryce dedicates his research to can hardly remember his name.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Pryce’s grandmother is his inspiration to pursue a doctorate in pharmacology at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Through his research, he hopes to develop medication, or even a cure, for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Recently named one of two recipients of the SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) for 2013-14, Pryce is one step closer to helping his grandmother and those with similar conditions.

“When I think of my grandmother, I try not to think about all that she has lost due to Alzheimer's,” says Pryce, who earned his BS in biology from Medgar Evers College. “Instead, I look forward to making more memories, even if to her I’m a different person each time.

“I aspire to find and develop medications for Alzheimer’s so others can one day make memories that each person will cherish forever.”

Through the SUNY fellowship, Pryce will receive a $20,000 stipend and an additional $2,000 to support his professional development. The doctoral diversity fellowship is among a number of initiatives designed by SUNY’s Office of Diversity, Education and Inclusion to increase the number of historically underrepresented students studying at SUNY schools, particularly in STEM fields, which are facing a shortage of students and future professionals.

“An intellectually and culturally diverse community of students, faculty and staff in the STEM disciplines is necessary to achieve excellence in research, technology and health care,” says Margarita L. Dubocovich, senior associate dean for inclusion and cultural enhancement in the UB medical school and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. “Fellowships such as the SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellowship in STEM facilitate the development of a diverse workforce, making our institution thrive toward pre-eminence and allowing students such as Kerri to realize their dreams and make a difference in this ever-changing world.”

Pryce not only broadens the cultural background of students within UB’s pharmacology doctoral program, but also brings with him experiences outside of the classroom.

He was scholar athlete of the Year at Medgar Evers, successfully balancing his academics and time commitment to both the soccer and track and field teams. Moreover, his research on the effects of octopamine on the heart rate of the eastern oyster won second place in the biological sciences division of the 13th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences at the University at Maryland.

And after completing his undergraduate degree in 2011, Pryce spent time as a Medicare operations specialist at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the largest not-for-profit home health care organization in the United States. While there, he helped patients maximize their health insurance plans by communicating with doctors, setting up appointments and monitoring their medications.

“A diverse student body is one of the many ways students become better prepared scientists, educators and leaders in a global world,” says Elizabeth Stone, assistant dean for administrative services in UB’s Graduate School. “The education of our students is broadened by the variety of cultural perspectives, and this variety enhances their ability to identify the changing needs of our society.”

Although Pryce is returning to the classroom, he knows his studies at UB will allow him to continue to help people.

“Pharmacology is a unique science,” he says. “It allows me to do the research I love, but also develop medication and pharmaceutics to help the people I care for.”