VSU student Shakeyla Willis lands prestigious Pfizer summer internship

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 4, 2018

Contact: Michelle Olgers, Marketing & Communications Dept., 804-524-6964, molgers@vsu.edu 

VSU Student Lands Prestigious Pfizer Summer Internship

Shakeyla Willis, a senior majoring in chemistry at Virginia State University (VSU), has secured a summer internship with Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company. 

“I’m very excited about this opportunity and I’m looking forward to applying what I have learned through my training at VSU in Pfizer’s professional research and development setting,” Willis said.

Since March 2016, Willis has been a student research assistant under the guidance of Associate Professor Dr. Yixiang Xu and Research Specialist Dr. Edward Sismour at the Food Processing and Engineering Laboratory (FPEL) within VSU’s Agriculture Research Station. Willis is part of a team working on a USDA-funded project to design “green” food packaging films using biodegradable polymers and incorporating natural antimicrobial agents and cellulose nanocrystals from agricultural waste. Willis has also learned to use state-of-the-art instrumentation to characterize the functionality and properties of resultant films.  

Under the guidance of Xu and Sismour, Willis has developed the technical and critical-thinking skills pertinent to her summer internship. “The training I have received at VSU has strengthened my academic experience and increased my understanding of nanotechnology and food packaging research,” she said.

“Shakeyla has been an invaluable addition to our research team. She has learned quickly and performed all her responsibilities accurately and efficiently,” said Xu. “We provide our students with comprehensive training to develop their knowledge of research protocols and skills critical to their professional success.”

Xu’s current food packaging and nanocoating research has led to a joint collaboration with Pfizer to develop taste-masking coating polymers. Pfizer awarded FPEL a grant to support the initiative. The training Willis received in the FPEL led to her internship opportunity to work alongside Pfizer scientists for three months during the summer of 2018.

Extension is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. Virginia Cooperative Extension programs and employment are open to all, regardless of age, color, disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, genetic information, veteran status, or any other basis protected by law. An equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

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