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Inner-space Invaders:
A Special Collaboration

by Jeff Worley

"As a junior chemistry major at UK in '86, I needed to do independent research as part of my coursework," Mumper recalls. "I could have done it in the chemistry department, like most chem majors do, but a friend of mine in the College of Pharmacy convinced me to go work there. I did, and Mike became my mentor." Mumper adds, with a smile, that Jay was good enough to allow him to make mistakes "all on my own, which accelerated my learning curve."

Illustration of nanoparticleJay was Mumper's graduate student advisor from 1988 to 1991, and around that time they co-authored six papers. "Russ was a very capable student and a solid researcher from the beginning," Jay says. "One of the first things you learn as a faculty member working with graduate students is that the goal is to make them better than you. I've definitely met that goal with Russ."

Over the years they stayed in touch, keeping each other up to date on their research, while Mumper was working in industry with Burroughs Wellcome and, later, GeneMedicine in Texas. Then in 1999 Mumper returned to UK as one of the first new faculty members hired through the Research Challenge Trust Fund (RCTF) initiative, commonly known as Bucks for Brains.

"In '99 the company I was working for was sold, so this was a good time to look around," Mumper explains. With "substantial help" from Bob Blouin, former associate dean of research and graduate studies in pharmaceutical sciences, Mumper was offered the job of assistant director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Sciences and also a tenure-track position in the College of Pharmacy as RCTF faculty.

Illustration of nanoparticle"This was an ideal position for me," Mumper says. "I knew I'd be able to do research on drug-delivery systems and teach, but also, as assistant director of the center, do a lot of product development, which is exactly what I'd been doing in industry."

When Mumper came back to UK, Jay's lab was working on water and fluorocarbon microemulsions for drug delivery to the lung, and Mumper had recently been working, in industry, on ways to make small particles.

"So Mike and I started talking about this, and I said, 'Have you ever tried making a particle in those microemulsions?' Mike said no. 'What if we took your fluorocarbon microemulsion and tried to make particles within the individual droplets?' We did some experiments and it worked." Mumper says this integration of their research backgrounds and experience is typical of how they collaborate.

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