Franz Lab

NOVEMBER 9, 2023 — A new undergraduate research experience in pharmaceutical chemistry at UTSA will enable students across the state to gain hands-on training in drug discovery and development before graduation,thanks to a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund.

Led by Doug E. Frantz, who holds the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Distinguished Professorship in Chemistry, the program will offer an immersive learning opportunity to a select group of students from universities across south Texas, beginning in the summer of 2024.

Students will spend 10 weeks at the UTSA Main Campus, working alongside renowned faculty members in state-of-the-art research laboratories. Supported by the Voelcker Fund, participants will receive financial assistance, including stipends and support for living and travel expenses. The funding ensures that students will have the opportunity to fully engage with the program and thrive without financial barriers.

“This immersive program embodies UTSA’s commitment to fostering a culture of research excellence, and it provides the most talented students with world-class experiential learning opportunities led by renowned experts inthe field,” said Karl Miller-Lugo, UTSA vice president of Advancement and Alumni Engagement. “I am deeply grateful for the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund's visionary investment in our students. Their generosity will advance opportunities for success and empower the next generation of pharmaceutical scientists."

During the 10-week program, students will delve into cutting-edge topics in drug discovery and development. Theywill study scientific subjects ranging from basic chemistry to structural biology and will actively contribute to groundbreaking research projects that have the potential to revolutionize medicine.

By immersing themselves in what Frantz describes as “the trials and triumphs of drug development,” students willgain a deep understanding of the multifaceted nature of this critical field. Moreover, the students’ exposure to applied research will provide an eye-opening experience, fostering a genuine understanding of the challenges and benefits of UTSA graduate programs.

“This new opportunity for undergraduates will allow the Department of Chemistry to attract the brightest minds toUTSA early in their research career,” said Audrey Lamb, UTSA professor of chemistry and department chair. “As we push forward with our Tier One research university status, these young minds are key to fostering a dynamic research environment that propels the university to the forefront of scientific exploration.”

Established in 2001, the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund is dedicated to supporting medical research and health care advancements in San Antonio. The fund focuses on providing grants to researchers and organizationsthat strive to improve patient care, enhance medical education and foster breakthroughs in biomedical research.

“The Voelcker Fund seeks to inspire students about the promise and fulfilment of medical research as a career. We are excited to be a part of UTSA Department of Chemistry’s new initiative,” said Banks Smith, trustee of the Voelcker Fund.

For more than a decade, the Voelcker Fund has been supporting UTSA’s focus on research that has the potential to significantly impact patient care, including the work taking place at the UTSA Center for Innovative Drug Discovery. In2020, Voelcker’s support led to the establishment of the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker CIDD Preclinical Pharmacology Core for Accelerated Drug Discovery, which is developing innovative technologies to determine the cardiovascular safety of all new drugs under development.

"The Voelckers' unwavering commitment to nurturing student excellence at UTSA is truly remarkable and evident through their longstanding support, ranging from the establishment of the Center for Innovative Drug Discovery to the generous contributions toward faculty endowments," said Frantz.

"Their profound impact on UTSA, San Antonio and the broader south Texas region are clearly evident in the success stories of countless students who have benefited directly or indirectly from the Voelcker Fund. These individuals have embarked on incredible career paths, securing prestigious positions and admission into top graduate programs across the nation, thanks to support from the Voelcker Fund."