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Passion for the Cure

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This Corpus Christi girl is an alumna following her passion in Pennsylvania as Vice President of Modeling and Simulation at Merck.

by Donna Parker

"The stage was set for what I'm doing during my Trinity days under the tutelage of my great professors," says Sandy Burrow Allerheiligen, who received a degree in biology from Trinity in 1975.

"Drs. Robert Blystone, Harold Murray and Melvin Frei, all from the department of biology, made the subject come to life for me and encouraged me to discover what I could do with developed math, computer, and science skills," says Sandy, who earned her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin by integrating the three subjects. 

She researched pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to understand what a drug does to the body and vice versa. Now, her focus with Merck is to get the dosage for patients taking into account different patient factors.

"Computers take data now from multiple locations and combine it to look for drug concentrations in blood, using high speed analysis to develop these models showing how a disease progresses in order to determine efficacy," explains Sandy.

She says the best part is being involved with discovering new drugs. In fact, she had been on a team developing a new compound for pancreatic cancer, but couldn't figure out how to safely dose it. The models allowed her to solve the puzzle, and the medication now goes out to thousands of patients - a fact that hit close to home as one of Sandy's friends lived two more years, thanks to the new drug. 

"I work at least a 60-hour week," she says, adding that she is so engaged that her work time flies by.
Sandy says her Trinity professors set the stage for what she is now doing, giving her encouragement and a love for science. The school also provided a good learning environment for her.

"I'm not a traditional learner," says Sandy. "I spent summers wherever my parents were, whether it was Africa or Malaysia and had learned a good bit by experience." 

She also had a little fun along the way and is still in contact with many of her friends. She married her husband, Ted '74, who was a fellow student, and he is now a dentist on faculty at Temple University. Her son is a student at Indiana University in Bloomington. He does lighting and sound design for his theater arts major. 

While a student, she played at Bombay Bicycle Club, the Riverwalk, and was even married in Parker Chapel. She and Dr. Blystone are connected via LinkedIn and Sandy says her Trinity years were an integral part of launching her toward pursing her passion of seeking the cure to help others live longer and healthier lives.

You may email Sandy at SAllerheiligen [at] me.com