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Thomas Horvath Reflects upon His Education and Career in Chemistry

Dr. Thomas HorvathI started my academic career at EMU in 1996 as an undergraduate student in the College of Technology. My intent was to continue my studies in CAD drafting after successfully completing my Associates of Applied Science degree in Mechanical Design Technologies at Ivy Tech State College in Bloomington, IN. While completing general education requirements, I attended the first term in the introductory chemistry sequence (CHEM 121 & 122) that was taught by the late Professor Donald Phillips. I was quickly captivated by the subject material comprised in the curriculum, and thoroughly enjoyed the observation-based inquiry implicit in laboratory experimentation. My decision to switch my major area of study to chemistry was driven by a newfound interest in studying chemical and physical phenomena, and a relentless recruiting campaign by Professor Phillips.

As an undergraduate student in the chemistry department, I was able to perform physical chemistry research in the following areas: Random Sequential Adsorption of molecules onto surfaces (Prof. Ross Nord); investigations in fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy (Prof. Tim Brewer); and modeling of the energies of interaction between gas-phase analytes and stationary phase materials commonly used in GC columns (Profs Heather Holmes and Maria Milletti). I was also able to take advantage of the chemistry department’s internship program to secure a two-year (paid) internship in bioanalytical chemistry within the Pharmacokinetics, Dynamics, and Drug Metabolism (PDM) department at Pfizer’s Global R & D facility in Ann Arbor. In this role, I developed Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry/Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) methods, and performed assessments of new technology that were pertinent the bioanalytical scientists that worked in the PDM department.

After graduating in the summer of 2000, I went on to earn my M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physical Chemistry from the University of Michigan under the tutelage of Professor Raoul Kopelman, where I studied nanotechnology. After completing my Ph.D., I accepted a post-doctoral research position in the laboratory of Donald Mock, MD., Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, where I developed blood and urine based LC-MS/MS assays to assess tissue-level biotin status of humans under various clinical circumstances (e.g. pregnancy, smoking status). This body of work culminated in eight peer-reviewed publications over a two-year time period!

After completing my post-doc, I accepted a position as a Senior Research Scientist in the Methods Development group within the Bioanalytical Services division of Worldwide Clinical Trials located in Austin, Texas. In this challenging role, I developed and validated quantitative LC-MS/MS assays for the determination of pharmaceuticals and their metabolites in biological fluids in accordance with highly regulated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMEA) guidances. These experiences lead me to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, where I am currently working as a Research Scientist in the Proteomics and Metabolomics Core Facility within the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Department.   My role in this position is to develop quantitative LC-MS/MS methods for the targeted analysis of endogenous metabolites in biological fluids and incubated cancer cell lines that are included in the National Cancer Institute (NCI-60) panel.

When I pause to reflect on my career, I consider the time shared with faculty and fellow students in the chemistry department as some of the fondest and most influential of my life. The theoretical and practical training provided by the Chemistry Department faculty was paramount to achieving success in both my academic and industrial pursuits. With the new Mark Jefferson Science Complex, and the department’s focus on education, current students should feel confident in their choice of studying chemistry at Eastern Michigan University.


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The Department of Chemistry is part of the College of Arts & Sciences, 214 Pray-Harrold