Dr. Maryam Foroozesh
Margaret W. Kelly Endowed Professor in Chemistry
Head, Department of Chemistry
Chair, Division of Mathematical & Physical Sciences
Chair, Division of Biological and Public Health Sciences
Xavier University, New Orleans, LA
Dr. Maryam Foroozesh was born in Shiraz, Iran and grew up in Tehran, Iran. After graduating high school and turning 18, she emigrated to the United States of America. In January 1987, she came to Baton Rouge and became a Louisiana State University Tiger. When asked what she appreciated most as a chemistry major, she replied, “I really enjoyed doing research in Dr. Klaus Fischer’s group. I learned a lot and made great friends. Dr. Fischer and his wife Helga (who volunteered as his group manager) were very nurturing. I was originally a premed but doing research piqued my interest in pursuing a research career.” Dr. Fischer, a renowned phytochemist, provided Maryam with training in Natural Product Chemistry.
After graduating in December 1990, Maryam accepted an offer to become a doctoral student in the Department of Chemistry at Tulane University in New Orleans. “Good mentoring by Dr. Fischer [at LSU] made a significant difference in the path I chose. I was also very lucky in that my graduate advisor, Dr. William Alworth, was also a great mentor.” Dr. Alworth, a well-known expert in cytochrome P450 studies, carcinogenesis, and organic synthesis, trained Maryam to become a solid synthetic chemist. She graduated with her doctoral degree in 1994.
For one year, Maryam served as an instructor/co-lab coordinator at LSU before joining Xavier in a tenure-track position in August of 1995. Maryam is now an Endowed Professor of Chemistry, Head of the Department of Chemistry and Chair of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (Departments of Chemistry, Math, Physics and Computer Science, and the Dual Degree Engineering Program). Starting July 1, 2017, she is also serving as the Chair of the Division of Biological and Public Health Sciences (Departments of Biology, Public Health, and Speech Pathology) for a three-year term.
When looking at everything she does, Maryam was asked if she still has time for research and she answered, “For the past couple of years, I have not been teaching due to high administrative load, however, I am still research active. Our group currently consists of me, a junior faculty member, a senior research associate, a technician, and eight undergraduate students. I have served as the research mentor to 85 students since joining Xavier.” The Foroozesh group is involved in the design, syntheses and biological studies of new families of selective inhibitors for a number of P450 enzymes involved in carcinogenesis, as well as ceramide analogs with the potential of causing reversal of chemotherapy resistance and endocrine therapy resistance in breast cancer.
Maryam was asked if she would have done anything different in her career-to-date and she answered, “Not really. I almost chose to go to Georgia Tech instead of Tulane. That would have probably changed my life. I also decided to accept the position at Xavier rather than a postdoc at the NIH. That decision was based on my immigration status at the time. Looking back though, Xavier has been such a great place to work and grow as a scientist and faculty member. I could not wish for a better and more meaningful career path.”
Maryam also left some great advice for current and prospective chemistry majors at LSU, “Always have a plan B. Be open to new opportunities and what life brings your way, but never lose sight of your abilities and potential. As a student at LSU, you have great opportunities to learn and grow. Take advantage of them and plan to give back.”
Dr. Foroozesh working in her chemistry lab.