Faculty Focus: Andrean Simons-Burnett, PhD

Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2018

What is your hometown?

Nassau, Bahamas

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine?

I became interested in scientific research after reading “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston in 9th grade. This book inspired me to pursue biochemistry as an undergraduate student.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?


How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

I was impressed by the supportive and collaborative atmosphere at the University of Iowa. The University of Iowa also places a high value on translational research which is important to me.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

My career has been shaped by my postdoctoral mentor Dr. Douglas Spitz who supported my career goals through every phase of my career. Dr. Spitz taught me how to deal with adversity and disappointments that can often accompany a career in scientific research. He also allowed me the freedom to develop my own research interests in order to pursue an independent scientific career.

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

My research focuses on improving treatment outcomes for head and neck cancer patients. My hope is that my laboratory’s research will lead to the development of novel and effective therapy regimens and improve overall quality of life. I am also a strong advocate for the training and empowerment of the next generation of scientists. I enjoy providing research training opportunities in my laboratory every summer for undergraduates that are interested in pursuing a scientific career.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

The biggest change for me would be the development of digital technology and the ability for scientists to generate and analyze data on a large scale.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

“Criticism of one’s research can be difficult to accept. Try to listen to the advice behind the criticism, not the actual words and use it to improve your work.”

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University (i.e. population based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/ expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagement off campus, etc.)?

I occasionally participate in career development workshops for young scientists.

What are some of your outside (personal) interests?

Besides spending time with my kids, I play tennis and I’m a volunteer assistant coach for the Iowa City West High Varsity Girls Tennis team.