Lauren Wise with the Advancement Office recently had a conversation with 2019 CU Pharmacy alumnus Stefanos Aivazidis, who spoke on his time at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, pursuing his PhD in Toxicology. Below is the discussion between the two:
Tell me about your student experience at CU.
The good thing in the US with a PhD is you have one year of rotations. I liked my first year, I rotated through labs. It was like shopping – you see small labs, big labs. It’s like self reflection – trying to think what kind of researcher are you. What do you want to go after in your life? These decisions will carve your future and career. Classes and research – I wanted to be a scientist. I like the labs. You learn and then go apply everything.
What inspired you to attend CU?
Since I was really young, I wanted to study abroad. I’m from Greece. I didn’t want to do a Masters. In Europe you do a Masters to get a PhD. When I got my Bachelors, my professor had connections in US, where you can directly go to a PhD. When I was 15, I sent applications to American universities for soccer scholarships. When I saw Colorado, I was in awe – so beautiful and amazing. When I was there, the CU School of Pharmacy is unique with the environment in school and with the students. It’s very collaborative. I really liked that everyone was hanging out together. It’s a smaller school so that helped form relationships. Getting a PhD is a marathon. The School helped me bounce back when you have down moments.
Tell me about your career and why you chose this career path.
I was lucky enough to work with great mentor. I like research – it’s unknown. You produce knowledge that no one else knows. I chose to study biochemistry. I thought I might be a professional athlete. I want to study disease and mechanisms of disease. Now it’s my turn to help and add a tiny effort to this whole thing. We have learned so much in medicine over the years. Diseases are the enemy of life. You are there fighting on the frontier. Everything and everyone is so interconnected.
What is your proudest professional moment.
Meeting James Roede. He was a mentor. I rotated in his lab and when I decided to join, another person left. It was only me and him. We raised $2.1 million for funding. Meeting him and helping the Roede lab get its first grant was a proud moment.
Tell me about your inspiration for wanting to stay connected with CU as an alumnus.
CU has given me everything that I have in the US. I was a kid with a Bachelors degree from Greece. I got my degree and met so many people. Now and forever, it will help me and my family have a great life. The School offered me this PhD position and after that, everything else started. When I got there, that first day of the rest of my life.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like reading papers. Having dinner with my wife, seeing friends, etc.
As an update, Stefanos is now working for the Sanofi Pharmaceutical Company in Boston. He completed his post-doctoral at Northwestern University in Chicago and will now be working on Parkinson’s Disease research.