Associate Professor, Dr. Steve Holly, is passionate about helping students learn and be successful.

“In the lab, I like mentoring students one-on-one and teaching them general skills that will translate to many different applications in the future.”

Faculty: Steve Holly

Title(s) and Department(s) you hold at the CPHS: Associate Professor Department of Pharmaceutical & Clinical Sciences, IRB Chair

Degrees and Universities: BS in biochemistry (Clemson) & PhD in molecular cell biology and biochemistry (Washington University) 

Please summarize your personal, career, and academic journey: I have taken a fairly traditional route to becoming an associate professor at Campbell in the Department of Pharmaceutical & Clinical Sciences. I received my undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Clemson University, where I met my wonderful wife, Kelli. Soon after graduation, I moved to St. Louis, MO to pursue a PhD at Washington University. At that time, obtaining a PhD without a Master’s degree was somewhat novel, so I felt like I was doing something special… in addition to saving money. Shameless plug for St. Louis: it is a great city in which to raise a family with many inexpensive and interesting things to do. During my training at Wash U, I really developed a love for science and pursuing objective truths that can be detected, measured and analyzed in a laboratory. I also began to realize the amazing potential of basic scientific knowledge at the molecular level and its countless applications to other fields.

I spent my postdoctoral and junior faculty years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) learning about cell adhesion, integrins, cancer and perhaps most importantly, platelets. It was there that I got my first teaching experience and practical career advice and mentorship. I learned what it took to publish rigorously generated empirical data, how to write scientific manuscripts and grants, how to present research narratives to national and international audiences and how to teach both in the lab and the classroom. It was also at UNC that I decided to study hemostasis and thrombosis for the rest of my life.

What influenced your decision to pursue your career field and/or your current position at CPHS? At UNC, I was promoted from postdoc to junior faculty, but realized that there was no possibility of tenure, which meant no lab of my own and no meaningful leadership opportunities. As a result, I came to Campbell University in 2017 to be independent and pursue all the benefits of academic professorship in a Christian environment. This has been a great decision for me since Campbell has allowed me to teach a variety of students (undergraduate, graduate, pharmacy and medical) and engage in leadership opportunities while simultaneously advancing my research goals.

What is your day to day like in your current position and what do you enjoy most about what you do? I must admit that I do not have a typical day-to-day. My schedule varies with teaching, committee service and activities in the lab, but I enjoy many different things about being a faculty member at Campbell. In the classroom, I really enjoy helping students succeed whether that means seeing the “lightbulb” go on in a student’s head when they understand a concept or whether that means exposing students to new scientific ideas and concepts that they never knew existed. In the lab, I like mentoring students one-on-one and teaching them general skills that will translate to many different applications in the future. I have mentored 18 students in the lab and taught most of them specialized skills like light transmission aggregometry (LTA) as well, which is really cool and gives them a unique research experience that can help their perspective with other methods and impress potential employers. In this mentorship position, you can get to know students well and guide them toward their career goals. One of my proudest moments since coming to Campbell was helping an ambitious, intelligent student with no prior research experience, gain admission to a Tier 1 PhD program.

The culmination of all this instruction is participating in graduation ceremonies in December and May. There you remember the victories and clearly see the demarcation of the students’ academic journey where one “chapter” ends and another one is about to begin. I still keep in touch with many students after graduation and I love hearing from them about their first jobs, the new positions or promotions they are pursuing and how they are positioning themselves for the future. I help as much as I can by writing letters of recommendation and giving advice, so it is very rewarding to continue to be a part of student success even after graduation. In fact, I was even responsible for introducing two students to each other who are now engaged to be married!

Please describe any research endeavors you are currently participating or previously participated in? Or please tell us about research you are most proud of: I am fortunate to have published 20 scientific papers, written eight funded grants (two at Campbell) and spoken at numerous national and international symposiums including a Gordon Conference in Italy and an ISTH Congress in Toronto. This experience has helped me establish four scientific projects ongoing here at Campbell: the first involves a special breed of “knockout” rats that is lacking a particular enzyme that appears to positively regulate platelets; the second is exploring the role of synthetic cannabinoids in platelet function; the third is applying laser diffraction particle size analysis as a novel method to assess platelet aggregation and the fourth is a recent collaboration with another faculty member and two students regarding ghrelin, a human hormone that protects against cardiovascular disease. While the knockout rat project is a continuation of research I started at UNC, the other projects are relatively new and were initiated at Campbell. Importantly, these projects incorporate many types of students and promote a practical, hands-on approach to education. Some of these students have been authors on manuscripts and some have won awards – my first students in the lab shared a best poster award, another student won the Derieux Award for best oral presentation at the North Carolina Academy of Sciences (NCAS) meeting in 2022 and another won the Student Researcher Academic Award at the Research Triangle Park Drug Metabolism Discussion Group in 2022. Therefore, what I am most proud of is being able to create and sustain new scientific projects that align with my areas of expertise while simultaneously improving the academic training of Campbell undergraduate, graduate and pharmacy students.

Additional accomplishments: Related to watching Campbell students grow and learn academically, I also enjoy working with younger students. I have been actively involved in Stem Camps here at Campbell for the past five years that expose high school and middle school youth to various aspects of pharmaceutical and clinical sciences. Some of the interesting topics at Stem Camps have ranged from bioprocessing and working with green fluorescent bacteria to testing formulations like sunblock on UV-sensitive yeast. I have also participated in other outreach events like Discovery Days and recruiting events to area schools. My wife and I homeschool our children, so we have a fondness for educating young to very young students and this attitude seems to carry over to scientific outreach at Campbell.

At the professional level, I have the honor of serving as an NIH grant reviewer for a number of different panels at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). I began contributing to this important peer review process in 2018 and continue this service today. Before COVID-19, these meetings were held in person at the NIH, but since 2020 they have been online and even more challenging.

At Campbell we believe in purposeful lives and meaningful service. What legacy are you leaving in your life, in your chosen field? I think it’s hard to know what your own legacy is or will be, since that is usually determined by past events, but what I would want it to be is a kind of guiding force for students and spirit of collaboration with colleagues. Students should be challenged academically, but they also need to be encouraged and know that exciting outcomes are possible if they take the proper steps. I encourage my students to be curious and never stop learning after graduation since I feel strongly that this will propel them to brighter and more fulfilled futures. With my colleagues, I want to be thought of as a willing collaborator, someone who will assist them in research, teaching and administrative duties. For example, as a relatively new Institutional Review Board (IRB) Chair, I have tried to work with faculty and students to encourage human subjects research (within guidelines) and tried not to be a negative authoritarian voice that simply denies protocols or cancels projects without attempting to provide constructive recommendations.

Reasons Why prospective students should choose Campbell over other Graduate and Professional Schools There are so many reasons students should want to come to Campbell! Probably the best reason is that our graduates get jobs. For the undergraduates, my department offers two excellent degrees that prepare students for scientific careers – Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Science (BSPS) and Bachelor of Science in Clinical Research (BSCR). I teach in the BSPS program and students learn many different HIGHLY MARKETABLE skills including drug formulation, process validation, quantitative analysis, statistics, bioprocessing, pharmacology and biochemistry. In addition, BSPS students participate in internships at local biotech/pharmaceutical companies to get working experience (sometimes money) and valuable networking exposure. Many of our students in internships during their senior year get job offers before or just after graduation! We have an even more exciting story for the graduate students in the Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Science (MSPS) program. Our employment rate for these students is extremely high and they find work in many different international companies like Pfizer, PPD, Sandoz and Takeda to name a few.

Another important reason students come to Campbell is because the faculty care about their success. We strive to make our campus feel like a family with a Christian focus. One small example is that we don’t have office hours; we have an open-door advising policy in which students can visit professors’ offices at any time of the day. Students can talk about grades, exams, coursework or anything else that is on their minds. Our student to faculty ratio is not too high either, so through this open-door policy and teaching in multiple courses, we get to know our students, which helps foster an inclusive family environment.

Lastly, graduate and professional students can pursue nine distinct dual degree options such as PharmD/MBA, PharmD/MSPS, etc. This makes our students more well-rounded and competitive in the marketplace upon graduation.

Additional items you would like to include in your story. As you can probably tell from my answers above, I am passionate about conducting science and teaching science, but I also like to perform in community theater. Since 2020, I have been in four shows at Harnett Regional Theater in Dunn, NC. Oddly enough, I like to play zany characters with accents. The zaniest character was definitely Professor Metz, a German entomologist that I played last year. Probably the most fun I have had in the theater was performing in “Hello, Dolly” last May in which I played the male lead, Horace Vandergelder. One of the great things about this hobby is that almost my entire family is involved and performs in shows with me, which is a fantastic way to spend time together and a real thrill.

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