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Organic Chemistry Students Taught by Dr. Vishakha Shembekar Present Findings

Gators Teach High Schoolers High Costs of Hard Drugs 

by Hayden Bergman


Heart attacks, bronchitis, impaired memory, constipation, liver disease, tooth decay, kidney failure, pancreatitis, brain damage, incontinence, and seizures. These are the consequences. Service Learning Project by Organic Chemistry Students

The preceding action? Abusing street drugs.  

Recently, a group of Gators presented their findings on just that subject to a group of local high school students, all of whom were shocked by the effects, yes, but also excited about the underlying chemistry the UHD students had employed to research them. The presenters were all taking part in a Service-Learning project as part of an Organic Chemistry course taught by Dr. Vishakha Shembekar, a Lecturer in the Natural Sciences Department in the College of Sciences & Technology.  

More than 100 high school students participated in the event, and they had the chance to learn and digest the data and conclusions in a variety of ways—PowerPoint, oral presentation, poster, and brochure—this way, all types of learners were accommodated. 

Dr. Shembekar noted the importance of incorporating impactful Service-Learning experiences such as this into coursework, as it not only helps students but the surrounding community. She made a special mention of Dr. Poonam Gulati, Executive Director, Impact Learning Office, as the student presentations and the event would not have been possible without that office’s support. 

Service Learning Project by Organic Chemistry StudentsAlso of note is the social context in which this Service-Learning project took place. According to an analysis conducted by in 2017 and data obtained from the Texas Education Agency, nearly 50% of the top 30 high schools with the highest percentage of drug-related incidents belong to the Fort Bend Independent School District and Houston Independent School District, and the numbers have surely grown since that time. 

We can hope, then, that the research presented by these Gator students has consequences as well. Positive ones that warn, entertain, and educate local high school students to not abuse drugs, of course, but to also find a field they enjoy and pursue it with scholarly vigor. 



About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit