Jonathan Doorn has received the 2019 College of Pharmacy Award for Teaching Excellence.
Doorn—who holds a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, and master’s degree and doctorate in Toxicology—is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Experimental Therapeutics (PSET) recently promoted to full professor. He has led one of its divisions—of Medicinal and Natural Products Chemistry—for more than four years and been a member of PSET since 2004.
He is fueled professionally by undertaking advanced work in the biomedical sciences—especially in medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and toxicology. He is driven to stay up to date in his fields and to pass along that knowledge to students of all levels.
Doorn is crystal clear on why he does what he does for a living. “By providing high-quality education and training for the next generation of health professionals and scientists, I have an opportunity to improve human health,” he said.
Likely because of that clarity, he receives “overwhelmingly high praise” on student reviews of teachers, said Rob Kerns, PSET department head. Beyond instructing, Doorn has “spent endless hours” in groups implementing a new curriculum, creating content and developing courses, and serving as chair of high-level committees that have a wide-ranging effect on students, Kerns added.
Notably, Doorn co-directs the university’s Oxidative Stress and Metabolism Core of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences Research Center; and is a member of the Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute. His research conducted with graduate students has led to more than 40 peer-reviewed publications. Doorn regularly serves on scientific review committees—such as for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. He has provided numerous invited lectures both nationally and in Europe and Asia. He also serves on several editorial advisory boards for scientific journals, and is an associate editor for the journal NeuroToxicology.
The collegiate Teacher of the Year has been a welcoming face in the college as he has helped do everything from interview potential students, to heading up graduate thesis committees, and everywhere in between. He teaches to undergraduate, graduate, and professional (PharmD) students in the university, including those who belong to other colleges and pull from other disciplines. As he instructs others, he also conducts groundbreaking research in his field.
“Jon, a well-trained toxicologist, has carried out research (on) the toxicity of pesticides (and) investigated their potential role in Parkinson’s disease. His training and research in neurobiology and neurotoxicology fill a critical niche … (while) training numerous graduate students,” said Larry Robertson, director of the UI’s interdisciplinary graduate program in Human Toxicology.
Students who have taken Doorn’s classes or worked in his laboratory say he is inspiring, excellent at teaching to different types of learners—when helpful, through new technology—and that he truly cares about them and their success.
“Dr. Doorn was my first in-person encounter with the University of Iowa, and is a key reason I chose the College of Pharmacy as my new home as I was setting forth in my graduate career,” said Rachel Crawford, who joined his lab early last year. Her nomination letter said Doorn has “a warm and helpful nature”, “exceptional commitment to his students”, and “an integrity to his craft.”
In class, his teaching style “helped solidify knowledge and encompassed different styles of learning,” Crawford said. She added that as an advisor, Doorn “is understanding and patient, but always pushes and inspires my lab partners and me to do our best work.”
When circumstances led to a group of professional students in need of an advisor, Doorn took on the extra load, regularly meeting with them for a few months. “I am so grateful and lucky that Dr. Doorn was the team mentor for our professional discovery project,” said Anne Hwang, one of the PharmD students in the group. “We had a difficult time until Dr. Doorn helped us. … He motivated and encouraged each of us.”
Fellow PSET faculty member Nicole Brogden worked as a student research assistant under Doorn’s guidance for two years while in pharmacy school. “Little did I know that Jon’s support and mentorship would have an invaluable effect in shaping the rest of my career,” she said. Fifteen years after meeting, “I still consider him to be one of my most trusted advisors,” Brogden added.
On two earlier occasions, Doorn was also named Teacher of the Year for individual classes (2010 and 2015) of first-year PharmD students.