Mark Sharp

Director of technical services
College of Pharmacy

Every day, Mark Sharp walks through Heine Pharmacy Building with the knowledge that his role in the College of Pharmacy helps researchers with important missions, including efforts to cure cancer.

As the College of Pharmacy's director of technical services, Sharp leads technical support efforts, is involved in digitally recording courses, and develops applications for students and faculty. The job keeps him on the leading edge of academic technology and connects him with some of the discipline's top faculty and students.

Mark Sharp

What are some of your primary responsibilities?

I have a wide variety of responsibilities, really. One is that I'm fortunate to be the leader of IT (information technology) in the College of Pharmacy. I work with four team members, and together we do things such as PC support, systems administration, Web application development and more.

I'm also involved in the recording of pharmacy courses, which we publish online for working pharmacists who would like to earn continuing education credits that way. We use a camera to capture the professor's lecture and we capture their PowerPoint presentations. For some nuclear pharmacy courses, we've also done some video editing and created animations.

In the last year, we've recorded about five courses digitally, and work is ongoing to record more. We're actually working on a portal for continuing education in which pharmacists will be able to purchase courses and immediately receive access to course materials.

What are your other responsibilities?

I work on special projects that involve integrating software and video as well as AV support. I also work on Web and mobile applications that will help faculty members and pharmacists, including student pharmacists, do their jobs.

For example, right now I'm working with Matt Murawski, associate professor of pharmacy practice, on an application that will help pharmacists identify patients experiencing ongoing side effects. It's a tablet-based app that will allow patients to answer simple questions about the most common side effects their drugs cause. The pharmacist can then use that information to improve their therapy. Right now, it's being developed as a research tool, but eventually we hope to commercialize it.

Down the line, I also anticipate working with the college's Office of Student Services to create a mobile application that will help Purdue College of Pharmacy students find jobs.

In addition to application development, do you work with other emerging technology?

Yes. That's one of the most fun things about this job — we explore a lot of fringe technology and, as it becomes more commonly used across campus, the same technology is often picked up by ITaP and used campus-wide. So we're constantly on the cutting edge.

For example, one ongoing project that's really exciting involves 3-D printers that two faculty members purchased through a grant. They are Val Watts, professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology, and Chris Rochet, associate professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology.

The idea is that they will print 3-D models of proteins and simple compounds so students can see a large-scale version of things normally only illustrated in two dimensions.

The college also owns a 3-D projector for a similar purpose. Using these tools, students can see how a drug molecule binds to a cell receptor. These are fantastic learning tools that, without this technology, wouldn't otherwise be available.

Beyond working with new technology, what are other rewarding aspects of your job?

I'm very fortunate to be able to work with faculty members who are doing incredible things, such as working to find better treatments for chronic diseases, helping developing countries to manufacture drugs and training tomorrow's health care workers. It makes me proud to think that I can use my skills to help them with this important work.

I've worked in a similar role for the college now for almost 20 years, and I have to say that I couldn't ask for a better job. I get to work with all kinds of cool technology, my colleagues are great, and our college's faculty and staff make a great team. I go to work every day with the feeling that my work truly makes a difference. You can't ask for anything better.