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Bo Tokarski ’17 ’20 PhD

Degrees: ’17 master’s degree, ’20 PhD in medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy.

Current Job: Tokarski is a research scientist at Charles River Laboratories, which helps pharmaceutical companies bring drugs to market. His team tests pharmaceuticals to determine their absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) profiles. His role is to work with a company to find out their goals with a product, then coordinate that testing in the lab.

Pandemic life: Tokarski spent the first months of 2020 writing his thesis from his apartment, even defending it to a committee on a Zoom call. After graduating, he and his wife Rebecca moved to Powell so he could make the hour-long drive to Ashland each day to work. Inside the lab, COVID-19 protocols are strict, requiring masking up and distancing along with a myriad of protocols. The pandemic’s shadow looms once he is home because Rebecca facilitates COVID-19 testing at Ohio Health Urgent Care Systems.

How Ohio State prepared him: It showed up in a number of ways, Tokarski said, especially in teaching him to adapt to constant change. He said the university did this fantastically in the early months of the pandemic, switching to virtual environments while making sure students like himself could stay on track for graduating.

It also showed up in Dr. James Fuchs’ lab, where Tokarski studied the development of anti-cancer pharmaceuticals.

“Dr. Fuchs preached adaptability, to adjust and keep moving forward. A lot of what he taught us prepared me to grow into new roles effectively.”

“The culture of Ohio State is really what prepared me for starting a career, even during a pandemic. Specifically, it was my lab mates. They were some of the most brilliant, fun people I’ve ever encountered. We went in as co-workers and came out as lifelong friends. They really became my family.”

Final thought: As a Pittsburgh native, Tokarski has been stunned by what it means to be a Buckeye and the positive feedback he receives.  A chance meeting with alumnus Andy Vick at a dinner even led to his current job.

“I was shocked by the immediate respect you get from having Ohio State on your resume. It’s opened so many doors for me. I didn’t realize how big a community it was and how much people care. It’s been an awesome community to enter into and I’m excited about the next 50-plus years of my life because I get to be a part of it.”

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