Wednesday, October 11, 2023

In Joseph Correa’s junior year at West Des Moines Valley High School, his fellow choir members handed out superlatives to all the singers. Correa was tabbed as the one most likely to break a world record.

Joseph Correa
Joseph Correa, Graduate College Iowa Recruitment Fellow in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics (photos by Cale Stelken).

Correa, cooped up in his house in 2020 during the COVID pandemic, set out to break the Guinness World Record for the greatest height to drop a protected egg without breaking it. His design was made from just two pieces of cardboard, some straws, and tape. He dropped the protected egg 30 feet and 3 inches off the Valley West Mall parking garage. The egg survived the fall, beating the previous record of 16 feet.

“I still consider it my greatest accomplishment because there’s not many people who go around and they can say that they broke a Guinness World Record,” Correa says. “I’m one of them now, and it was a really great experience.”

His next great feat could come in the next few years when he adds “doctor” to his credentials. This fall, Correa began his graduate studies at the University of Iowa as a doctoral student in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics. He came to the UI on a Graduate College Recruitment Fellowship after completing his undergraduate studies at the University of Northern Iowa.

“That will also be a very good achievement in my life,” Correa says.

Correa is currently rotating between faculty laboratories to see where he wants to begin his research. He is interested in drug delivery, the different methods someone can use to get a drug into the body, and how different delivery forms will affect the body.

As someone with well-controlled asthma, he has been subjected to many different modes of drug delivery.

“I've seen the different modes of delivery, whether it be pills, capsules, inhalers, nose sprays, allergy shots,” Correa says. “There are just so many ways of doing that. I had infections in my legs as an undergrad and had to take IV antibiotics and put on topical creams. I was just thinking, ‘How can we make this better?’ There are so many drugs and so many ways to deliver them.”

Joseph Correa in the lab
Correa working in a laboratory in the College of Pharmacy Building.

Correa is most interested in studying transdermal drug delivery at the University of Iowa. UI Associate Professor Nicole Brogden has a translational research program focused on topical and transdermal drug delivery.

“(Transdermal drug delivery) wasn't something I even really thought about or considered before starting here and meeting with her,” Correa says. “But it seems like a very practical use for real life applications, such as for chronic diseases where you can put a patch on every couple of days and it'll give you a continual dose of medicine. For acute cases, it will give the person a strong and continual dose of medicine until they can get better treatment in a hospital.”

The Des Moines native believes his trial-and-error experience setting the egg drop world record has prepared him to be a better researcher.

“One of our seminar speakers this year said, ‘If everything works right the first time, that's incredible, but for the most part, in research, things are not going to work as you expect them the very first time,’” Correa says. “You can see why experiments don’t work and look deeper into that, so you don't make the same mistake twice. Then, you can take what you've learned and improve. It's never a failure. It's always a learning opportunity.”