Schuller one of the first to study medicinal plant chemistry

By Shalom Baer
University Communications Student Assistant

MINOT, N.D. – Bioinformatics major Zachary Schuller will be adding a second major to his workload this fall. Schuller will be one of the first students to study medicinal plant chemistry at Minot State.

“It’s a track on the chemistry major that’s already here. I think what really got me interested in it is all over the nation you’re seeing this new way of healing peoples’ ailments that come into play, and it’s so big and so new that, with Minot State offering something like that, it was just irresistible not to go into,” Schuller said.

The medicinal plant chemistry major is available to students for the first time this fall. The four-year program is the only one of its kind in the state. Students will study extraction, separation, and analysis of compounds and chemicals from plant material.

“A lot of what I’ll be learning at Minot State is the in-lab work of doing chemical extractions, extracting really important chemicals and making sure that we know what exactly the medication is going to do and really controlling that,” Schuller said.

According to Schuller, the recreational use of cannabis and medical use of cannabis are entirely different things.

“With the medicinal plant chemistry major, the traditional methods of consumption of this plant can be taken out of the equation. What we’re really looking at is chemicals with therapeutic effects and looking at alternative forms of administering those effects while still maintaining the holistic healing affects,” Schuller said. “It’s not just the main chemicals that everybody thinks of, there’s more going on there that we need to do a lot of research into. I would say that the stigma that is behind it is associated with recreational use, and medicinal use is looking at the therapeutic effects, not what it can do for people who want to have fun.”

Schuller plans to pair his bioinformatics knowledge — which involves using computer science as a tool to work with biological data — with medical plant chemistry to become involved in the medicinal cannabis industry.

“Where I think I might go is the industry side of it,” Schuller said. “There are grow operations and industry popping up all over the place that need real scientific training coming in and specialized rigor that will allow people to really make the best use of the new product.”

What draws Schuller to the industry is the potential to help others.

“I’m most excited about providing an alternative to what is already established. A lot of what medicinal cannabis is helping people with is opioid addiction,” Schuller said. “With medical cannabis, you can really provide a safer alternative to things like opioids. I think that’s what I’m really excited for — to bring some people their lives back through providing a safer alternative.”

Medicinal plant chemistry majors at Minot State will also learn the theory, skills, and techniques necessary to work in the hops, botanical supplements, and food science industries.

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/31/19   

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