By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
A lot of names stick with us throughout the years, especially those of our talented high school athletes. Not too many years ago, the name Nick Akins came to the forefront of avid sports followers minds especially within Cross Country and Baseball. Nick is the son of Kenneth (Jr.) and Donna Akins, and is a 2013 graduate of Tucker County High School. Davis & Elkins College granted Akins a scholarship to compete on their collegiate Cross Country team, which provided him the means to obtain a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry. “I was always very interested in chemistry so I could combine my love for chemistry with the medical field and potentially help others through my research,” he said when asked what sparked his interest to enter this field.
Akins recalled, “My advisor, Dr. Oma Morgan and Dr. Floyd Wiseman pushed me towards graduate school,” and thankfully they did. “During my time at D&E I was also accepted for a summer internship where I met Dr. Gary Rankin and Dr. Monica Valentovic who gave me the final push to go to grad school,” he said, “and I chose Dr. Rankin’s alma mater Ole Miss.” Akins ended up at this university as the result of a successful meeting with his advisor, Dr. Hoang V le, as well as their natural product center and his interest in the research being conducted there.
During his graduate studies, Akins has earned a 3.85 grade point average, published a manuscript in the journal Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry entitled “Inhibition of Glycolysis and Glutaminolysis: An Emerging Drug Discovery Approach to Combat Cancer”, and was recently chosen to be inducted into Rho Chi, an academic honor society in pharmacy at Ole Miss.
Akins has been working on his dissertation research on the discovery of opioid receptor ligands for issues associated with the opioid epidemic. “This area is very important to me as West Virginia is one of the most affected (states) by the opioid epidemic, so it is very rewarding,” he confirmed. The purpose of his research, though he couldn’t go into too much detail, is the hopes to develop compounds that act on the opioid receptors that possess advantageous effects, such as antidepressants and pain killers. This could potentially be used to treat drug abuse without the deleterious side effects he explained. He has recently been awarded a grant through his studies and research awarding him the necessary funds to purchase items and materials needed to further his research.
Plans are for Akins to graduate between 2022 and 2023 at which time he will have earned a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a concentration in Medicinal Chemistry. His goals are to continue gaining invaluable experience to later obtain a position as an assistant research professor.