Geoffrey Heinzl is an alumnus of the PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences (PSC) program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy.
Geoffrey completed his PhD under the mentorship of Angela Wilks, PhD, and Fengtian Xue, PhD, designing heme uptake inhibitors for pathogenic bacteria. He successfully defended his dissertation titled "Inhibiting the Iron-regulated Heme Oxygenase (HemO) of Pseudomonas aeruginosa via Competitive and Non-competitive Mechanisms" in Fall 2016, and currently serves as an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow at the Food and Drug Administration.
What interested you most about the PhD in PSC program at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy?
I loved the diversity of our program, which was immediately apparent to me as I started to explore the different research areas during my interview process. I knew that joining the program would mean that, in addition to working in medicinal chemistry, I would also become acquainted with the full spectrum of drug design and development research.
How would you describe your experience in the program?
My experience in the PhD in PSC program has been overwhelmingly positive. My mentors, Drs. Wilks and Xue, were very encouraging of my work. They always knew just when to extend a helping hand. The professors are also very engaged in the department, which makes for a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere.
What are your thoughts about the coursework offered through the program?
The coursework does an excellent job of bringing students together, allowing them to collectively discuss important research. The electives offered through the program also allow students to focus their studies in a particular area of interest to create a more tailored academic experience, giving them the opportunity to master one area without losing the ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment. Working with other students helped me gain broader insight and perspective on a number of research topics.
How do you believe the PhD in PSC program helped prepare you to succeed in your career?
The PhD in PSC program stressed the importance of multidisciplinary science and encouraged students to think about research in the greater contexts of both science of medicine. I applied these principles in my graduate research by learning as many different experimental techniques as possible and using those techniques, when appropriate, to answer both the planned and spontaneous questions that inevitably arise throughout the course of any research project. As a result, I learned to wear the hats of a chemist, biochemist, and bacteriologist interchangeably, and now feel confident that I can tackle any research project that is presented to me.
Reflecting on your time in the PhD in PSC program, what is the most important advice that you would offer to current or prospective students?
When people ask me for advice, I always offer the same advice: ask questions. Communication issues? Ask a question. Not sure about an experiment? Ask someone. Lost on- or off-campus? Ask for directions. We live in the age of information, so take advantage of it.