Senior Levi Smith was named student employee of the year for his work with a new cancer treatment therapy.
Smith is part of a pilot dual-degree program that combines a doctor of pharmacy and a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences. He works in the research lab with Alexandre Erkine, an associate professor of pharmacy. The ultimate goal for the project is to publish findings and hopefully develop a new treatment for cancer.
Student workers are nominated by their supervisors, and a three-person committee that chooses the top student based on reliability, quality of work, initiative, professionalism and uniqueness of contribution.
Smith’s name will be added to a student affairs plaque in Atherton Union and to a plaque in the Internship and Career Services office.
Smith said he was grateful and surprised, because winning an award was never his goal when he took the job. While he said having a job along with going to class takes time management skills, working hard is not difficult.
“If you have a passion for something, it is easy to go beyond what people think is normal, because for you, it’s just work,” he said.
He said working in the lab has equipped him with the qualifications to apply to graduate school and affected how he approaches tasks.
“It’s taught me about working proactively and aggressively but also thoroughly and diligently,” he said.
Though he was unsure about whether he could take the job over the summer due to finances, Smith said Erkine, his adviser Jason Range, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and his girlfriend encouraged him to take the opportunity.
The experience has impacted him greatly, he said.
“The last year has certainly changed what I’m going to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “I know now that I can spend the rest of my life everyday in a laboratory and be happy.”
Erkine said Smith is one of the few students who has not shied away from the workload of his dual-degree and is committed to his work, even if it means staying over winter break and doing lab work right after final exams.
“He never comes into the lab to just sit around,” Erkine said. “He has very clear goals.”
Smith’s enthusiasm, work ethic and ability to assist his peers should be a model for other students, Erkine said.
“He is willing to help others and go the extra mile, even for others,” Erkine said.
Liz Freedman, the student employment coordinator for Internship and Career Services, said Smith’s recognition is exciting, since the award usually doesn’t go to students in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
Freedman said Smith’s work is important because it has an impact on campus as well as in the community.
“The work he’s done is helping all over, not just around here,” she said.
Freeman said campus employment helps students to not only connect to campus but to also gain valuable experience.
“Not only is it beneficially financially,” Freedman said, “they are building skills that they will use professionally once they leave here.”