Prof. George Garcia Named Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor
George Garcia, PhD, Professor and Chair of Medicinal Chemistry and Director, Interdepartmental Program in Medicinal Chemistry, has been named a 2020 Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor. The award recognizes tenured faculty who are outstanding mentors of doctoral students, who support their intellectual, creative, scholarly, and professional growth, and foster a culture of intellectual engagement in which they thrive.
"For one, I couldn't be happier that I chose Prof. Garcia to be my Principle Investigator for my doctoral work,” says Anthony Emanuele, PhD’16. “I truly believe that Prof. Garcia is what a graduate mentor should be. He allows his students to take control of their own projects, but still provides guidance when it is needed. I would not be where I am today without Prof. Garcia's mentorship."
Prof. Garcia earned his BS in Chemistry at California State University, Sacramento, and PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California San Francisco. Afterward, he completed postdoctoral training at Cambridge University. He joined the University of Michigan in 1990 and is now in his ninth year as chair of the Department of Medicinal Chemistry.
When Prof. Garcia joined the University in 1990, he was appointed to the faculty of the Pharmacological Sciences Training Program (PSTP), an NIH-sponsored T32 program that has now been in existence for almost 40 years. In addition to the approximately 150 PSTP trainees he has helped to mentor, Prof. Garcia has served as dissertation chair to nine PSTP trainees (one of whom is in progress) and one trainee on the Chemistry-Biology Interface Training Program. “Prof. Garcia has demonstrated an outstanding and sustained commitment to the PSTP and graduate training/mentoring over three decades,” notes Jim Dalton, PhD, Dean of the College of Pharmacy.
Prior to becoming chair of his department, Prof. Garcia served as Academic Advisor to the 1st year graduate students in Medicinal Chemistry. He has mentored 18 professional pharmacy students in their PharmD Investigations research projects, two of whom won the PharmD research award for their graduating classes in 1998 and 2002.
“Prof. Garcia showed both an active interest in making sure I developed as an independent scientist, allowing me to pursue my scientific interests, something not all principal investigators would do,” notes Max Stefan, PhD’18. “We worked as a team to achieve major accomplishments in the lab. Prof. Garcia also has a great personality which I believe is the foundation of a compassionate, understanding, and supportive mentor.”
As a First Generation college student himself, Prof. Garcia has been a strong advocate for diversity, equality and inclusion since he first came to Michigan. He was a key leader in the NIH-sponsored program, Bridge to the PhD, in the College of Pharmacy in the late 1990s. He served for ten years on the College of Pharmacy Committee on Diversity. He has been a mentor in a minority summer high school research program, summer undergraduate research program and has been a mentor in the College of Pharmacy’s NSF-sponsored Research Experiences for Undergraduates summer program since its inception over ten years ago. Prof. Garcia currently participates in the Rackham First Generation program and the University’s Network to Advance Faculty of Color.
Prof. Garcia current graduate students reflect his commitment to advancing women in STEM fields and supporting underrepresented minorities. Prof. Garcia has been actively involved in the College of Pharmacy Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, most recently visiting and presenting to students at Xavier University in New Orleans with a College outreach team in September 2019. Two months later, he attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Anaheim, CA to help recruit prospective underrepresented minority graduate students.
“One of the unique things about Prof. Garcia and what made him a great mentor was that he didn’t have one single ‘mentoring style,’ explains Nathan Scharf, PhD’17. “He was very adept at identifying and understanding the nuances of professional and interpersonal interactions while working with us as graduate students.”
“Reflecting on it more than 15 years later, it is clearly evident that Prof. Garcia’s approach to graduate student education has been a major influence on who I am as a scientist and person,” adds Jeffrey Kittendorf, PhD’04. “Even today, I can still count on him to provide critical advice and guidance if needed. It is fantastic that he has won the Rackham Distinguished Graduate Mentor award, I don’t think anyone is more deserving.”