When asked what inspired him to pursue a career in research, Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., associate professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science, lightheartedly admits he was always “one of those guys” who enjoyed math and science from a very young age. As he matured in his pursuit of a deeper understanding of biochemistry, he saw pharmacy as a field that would allow him to combine his passion for chemistry and helping people.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Van Tassell completed his postgraduate residency and fellowship before setting his eyes on VCU.
“VCU really felt like the best fit for me,” Van Tassell said. “The university’s resources and infrastructure were phenomenal, but it was equally important to me that I match well with the people. VCU had the right group of passionate people who were excited and invested in the work they did.”
Van Tassell joined VCU in 2008 as an assistant professor in the VCU School of Pharmacy. He had no way of knowing at that time that in just two years the C. Kenneth and Dianne Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research would develop a KL2 program that would lead him down the path of earning three National Institutes of Health grants (grant numbers: 1R34HL117026, 1R34HL118348 and 1R34HL121402) in addition to a grant from the American Heart Association (grant number 13BGIA16120001).
The VCU CCTR’s KL2 (formerly known as K12) scholar program provides substantial salary support and $25,000 in startup funds for faculty-level clinical and translational scientists near the beginning of their investigative careers. KL2 scholars are initially appointed for two years as the scholar works toward receiving his or her own independent mentored career development award (e.g., NIH K08 or K23) or independent NIH operating grant (e.g., R01).