Collin Heer
Person Type: 

Name of Graduate Program

Free Radical and Radiation Biology

Undergraduate Institution

Clarke University


Lena, IL

Why did you choose the University of Iowa to pursue your graduate degree?

I chose the University of Iowa because of its collegial atmosphere and emphasis on a collaborative environmental. In addition, Free Radical and Radiation Biology is a unique program that allowed me to research fundamental biochemical questions in cancer and aging.

What type of research are you performing?

I am performing research on fundamental differences in cellular metabolism in cancer versus normal cells in hopes to exploit these differences for therapeutic gain. Specifically, I am focused on studying the electron-carrying molecule NAD+, how its utilization and generation is dysregulated in cancer cells, and how this affects DNA damage repair processes in cancer cells treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

What do you hope to do after you earn your degree?

After I earn by degree, I hope to continue my research on cancer cell metabolism as a post-doctoral researcher with the hopes of eventually establishing my own NIH-funded research laboratory.

What is something that surprised you about the University of Iowa or your graduate program?

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of collaboration between basic science faculty in the Free Radical and Radiation Biology Department and medical doctors in the Department of Radiation Oncology and how these relationships provide students with the potential to translate their project directly to the clinic.

What is your favorite part about being a graduate student?

My favorite part about being a graduate student is having the opportunity to answer big, fundamental questions about Biology every single day in a research community filled with people just as excited about science as I am.

Who is your biggest role model and why?

I especially admire early innovators in the field of cancer metabolism including Otto Warburg, Hans Krebs, Peter Mitchell, and Albert Szent-Gy├Ârgy as well as current innovators such as David Sabitini, David Sinclair, Joshua Rabinowitz and Matthew Vander Heiden. In addition, I admire many of the scientists here at The University of Iowa including my mentor, Douglas Spitz. I admire the emphasis these scientists place on reducing cellular processes in general and cellular metabolism in particular down to first principles in order to understand how and why cancer cell metabolism is different from that of normal cells and how these differences can be exploited therapeutically. As a result, all have made huge contributions to the field and fostered its rapid expansion over the past few decades.

What are some of your personal interests?

Some of my personal interests include music and movies. I will often attend concerts at the various music venues in Iowa City or movies at FilmScene.

A piece of advice for incoming graduate students.

It is a marathon not a sprint. Be patient and diligent in your work and good things will come. Often, the most elegant and informative experiments are also the simplest. Know the literature! Never pass up an opportunity to check up on the latest publications in your research area and beyond.