A Conversation with Professor Patricia Hoyer

Working with the chemical VCD has led to a rewarding and productive career for UA Physiology Professor Dr. Patricia Hoyer. Otherwise known as 4-vinylcyclohexine diepoxide, VCD is an industrial solvent that Dr. Hoyer has used to develop a mouse model to study peri- and postmenopausal conditions. It works by simulating environmental chemicals, and when administered to mice or rats, causes premature ovarian failure. This process is similar to menopause in women, and allows for the study of associated adverse risks like Cardiovascular Disease, Osteoperosis, Alzheimer's Disease, etc.

Dr. Hoyer's work with VCD began over a decade ago through collaboration with Dr. Glenn Sipes, who contacted her and asked her to assist him with this project. Since that time she has diligently established a substantial body of research in this area, and enjoyed much success along the way. From her research to her grant writing and teaching endeavors, Dr. Hoyer certainly has a full-plate. Nonetheless, she invests much of her time in the training and development of doctoral and post-doctoral students. Admittedly, this is something she would not have anticipated early in her career, but is now one of the most enjoyable aspects of her job.

In turn, students appreciate the opportunity to benefit from her expertise and enthusiasm. "Pat is an encouraging mentor and brings a lot of passion to her work, which inspires me to be my best," said Dr. Connie Mark, a post-doctoral student that works on the Ovarian Toxicology study. The funding support she has secured through her VCD-related research has been instrumental in training future scientists. It is with great satisfaction that she has been able to accomplish this. To this end, Dr. Mark reflects that "she [Dr. Hoyer] is a great teacher and this has made my time in her laboratory very rewarding, as well as cultivated my own scientific curiosity."

Dr. Hoyer expects her future work to continue with VCD because she has some clearly defined questions to address in this area. She is a prolific environmental health researcher whose accomplishments are particularly notable given that she began her career when there were fewer women in research science. At that time, women stayed in more technical-type jobs and did not tend to become full professors. She attributes this to the family responsibilities they often faced. Since then, significant inroads have been made in this regard but she still advises students and colleagues to create long-term plans for themselves to better combine their personal and professional goals.

Reflecting on her career, Dr. Hoyer remarks that being a researcher is a "lifelong learning process that never ends." Accordingly, that is what is most fun about this particular career. You are continuously engaged in a variety of activities so "you can't get bored." In terms of lessons learned, she shares that when first starting out, she had to quickly learn how to become both a personnel manager and a manager of budgets. Managing a group of researchers is not something you learn in school, but a vital skill that Dr. Hoyer acquired through first-hand experience. Along these lines, she believes that there is "always room for good people," and while she admits that some get discouraged with difficulties in competing for grant funding, she strongly encourages aspiring scientists to pursue their interests. "It is a very nice lifestyle," she notes, " there are some stressors, but they are not immediate and can usually be anticipated."