Faculty Profile: Dr. Stanislaw F. Wnuk

portraitDr. Stanislaw Wnuk, Interim Chair for the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health since March 2013 was born and raised in Poland. He obtained a Bachelor and Master of Science from the Poznan Technical University, in Poland, and a Doctorate in Philosophy and a Doctor of Science degree from the Adam Mickiewicz University, also in Poland. Dr. Wnuk completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Alberta, in Canada, before joining the University of Agriculture in Poznan, Poland. In 1990, he moved to the United States, taking the position of Research Associate Professor of Chemistry at the Brigham Young University (BYU).

Dr. Wnuk joined FIU in 1997 in the Department of Chemistry and from 2002 to 2008 was the Chair of that Department. His research interests focus on organic chemistry of nucleosides and nucleotides with applications in biochemistry and in anticancer and antiviral medicine. He concentrates on research involving stereochemically defined transformations of nucleic acid components and invention of mechanism-based inhibitors of enzymes vital to cancer cell and/or virus proliferation. Investigation focuses also on application of new fluorination methodologies for synthesis of fluoro modified nucleoside analogues. Another area of research concentrates on developing new procedures for radical-mediated cleavage of carbon-sulfur bond in sulfones and application of the vinyl silanes and germanes in Pd-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions.

Dr. Wnuk was recently appointed as Interim Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH). The focus of this Department is to discover and analyze the links between human health and the environment. The faculty is multidisciplinary and includes physicians, chemists, toxicologists, cancer scientists, and other public health scientists. These diverse researchers share common goals – to discover and analyze the links between human health and exposure to the environmental and occupational stressors with the intent of risk reduction and improvements in public health, as well as the prevention and control of new and emerging environmental health problems.

Q&A with Dr. Wnuk:

You have always been primarily associated with the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. So why Public Health and why now? I was asked to serve as Interim Chair by Dean Ciccazzo and the Provost, most probably because one of the strength of Department of Environmental and Occupational Health is research targeting relationships between environmental diseases and cancer. My research program is similarly based on developing novel anticancer drugs and investigating their mechanism of actions.

What are your three main goals as Interim Chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH)? My main goals are to develop a stronger cohesion among our graduate students in MPH and PHD programs by developing a common seminar program, to strengthen the unique PhD program in EOH which is based on a laboratory research focusing on identifying mechanisms that causes the genetic susceptibilities to environmental diseases, and the third would be to successfully complete the hiring process for the new Chair.

What is your favorite aspect of teaching? Mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. It is very rewarding to shape young peoples’ lives and prepare them to face life’s challenges.

What is your favorite FIU moment so far? Receiving a grant from the Department of Defense which allowed the Chemistry Department to purchase a 600 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance instrument which allowed the rapid development of our graduate program.

Who is the person you admire most and why? Maria Sklodowska-Curie. My High School was named after her. In my junior year I won an annual competition on the life and achievements of Ms. Curie. I admired the fact that she and her husband Pierre and daughter Irene won four Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physics. That is a feat which would be difficult to match.

What is your favorite sport team? Definitely San Franciso 49ers. I also like to watch Tiger Woods playing golf.

Tell us something we do not know about you. I like to read historical and bibliographical books.

What is your favorite outdoor activity? The canoeing trip with my students through the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River.

Author: Cecile Houry

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