David Jakeman, professor

A day in the life

David Jakeman, professor

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It’s very much a proactive program. Professors don’t provide students with answers—rather, we encourage them to look up information in texts and primary literature, and discuss what they’ve found.

The importance of lifelong learning

August 2011 marks David Jakeman’s 10th anniversary teaching at Dalhousie University. Dr. Jakeman holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield, UK. He conducts research and teaches Medicinal Chemistry to the undergraduate pharmacy students in the College of Pharmacy.

Medicinal chemistry is integrated alongside pharmacotherapeutics, drug kinetics, biopharmaceutics and critical appraisal skills in the courses. “Students receive cases, which are designed to include drug-related problems,” Dr. Jakeman says. “The cases help students learn about the mechanism of drug action, including their chemistry. Students understand why the drugs work, because of their particular structures, and why a particular drug is an appropriate medication.”

The College of Pharmacy’s problem-based learning (PBL) approach often leads students to moments of enlightenment, which is part of what makes teaching worthwhile to Dr. Jakeman. “And I enjoy the classroom dynamic, helping students understand how drugs work and why,” he says. “The necessity of understanding the chemistry is not immediately apparent to some students, but they appreciate it when it’s explained.”

Being trained as a chemist rather than a pharmacist enables Dr. Jakeman to bring additional insight to the undergraduate program, and his research activities contribute to the pharmaceutical profession.

“I study biological problems, involved in infectious diseases and cancer, using chemistry,” he explains. “If we can intervene in these problems in some way using a chemical entity, then potentially that chemical entity could be the basis for a new drug.”

He’s the principal investigator conducting research on three government-funded projects: “An anti-cancer project, an anti-bacterial project, and a techniques and discovery project to help the others,” he says. “Every summer, a couple of undergraduates gain full-time research experience in our laboratory.”

“At Dal, there’s a better interaction between the clinical and basic science faculties than anywhere else in Canada. This helps build the PBL curriculum, which offers students a better foundation for life,” Dr. Jakeman explains. “It makes students realize the importance of lifelong learning and appreciate that they have to be responsible for themselves. In that sense, it’s very much like a graduate training environment.”