Former Pfizer Vice President Supports OSU Undergraduate Research


Monday, October 4, 2021

Media Contact: Harrison Hill | Research Communications Specialist | 405-744-5827 | [email protected]

On October 1, Dr John and Heidi Niblack joined 11 undergraduate researchers on the OSU campus to learn more about their research as part of the Niblack Research Scholars program.

Students are part of the 17th year of the program. Supported by the Niblacks and administered by the Office of the Vice President of Research at OSU, the scholarship offers undergraduates a unique opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research in a variety of fields.

“I think John will agree that the science and depth of experience has increased each year,” said Dr Kenneth Sewell, OSU’s vice president for research.

The scholarship is accompanied by an $ 8,000 scholarship and pairs students with a professor and graduate student research mentor.

“Science is hard to do. You are all like musicians learning to play your instrument. Learning to play the violin at a high level is not easy to do, ”Niblack said at the last in-person event in 2019.“ Once you get past that, you can start to be more creative. You can add your own touch to it and write your own music.

Niblack graduated from OSU in 1960 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and received a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Illinois before becoming vice president of Pfizer Inc.

As a scientist for the international pharmaceutical company, he was responsible for the global research and development division of Pfizer, where he led research on drugs against viral diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

In his opening remarks, Niblack spoke about his work, the actual duration of the research – including the depth of the research behind the new COVID-19 vaccine – and the possibility of failure.

“My doctorate. the thesis was exactly a failure situation, ”he said.

His thesis was meant to be a development on work done by another student; however, this student had rigged data that sent Niblack in the wrong direction.

“It took me 18 months of failure, going to all kinds of experts and doing all kinds of things to finally convince myself that the guy had tampered with his data.”

Niblack had to rotate his project, so he came up with another sub-project involving much of the same research, he said.

“However, I succeeded, so don’t give up,” Niblack said.

After his retirement in 2002, he founded the Niblack Fellowship Program in 2004. The following class began their research projects this summer.

As the current class of Niblack Scholars complete their research and years as undergraduates, they look to the future.

“Most, if not all, of these academics are now seniors and will soon be embarking on the next phase of their professional lives – whether that is pursuing higher education or a professional degree or starting a career. full time, ”Sewell said. “I have no doubt that these growing professionals will have a positive impact not only in their disciplinary fields, but also in their communities, and as they embark on their next phase – in these uncertain and difficult times – they will persevere. “

Learn more about the Niblack Research Scholars program here.


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