Dr. Fhaner has been a faculty member at UM-Flint for 7 years. His teaching responsibilities include general and analytical chemistry lectures and labs, including quantitative and instrumental analysis.
He is a member of the AOCS Professional Educator Common Interest Group (PC CIG).
Why did you join AOCS and how long have you been a member?
I joined AOCS after being awarded the Edwin N. Frankel Award for Best Paper in Lipid Oxidation and Quality and being invited to the 2018 AOCS Annual Meeting. I have been a member of AOCS ever since and have continued to find ways to become involved.
How has your involvement with the AOCS influenced your career?
Being a member of AOCS has greatly expanded my professional network. I have had the privilege of meeting colleagues from industry, government labs, and academia and engaging in open conversations about diverse topics from research, to teaching, to work-life balance. By investing my time in AOCS, I have unintentionally found that I am also investing in myself.
Why did you decide to join the PE CIG?
Coming from a more traditional R1 graduate school experience in analytical chemistry there was little intersection with edible oil research and the work being done within my circle of peers. As I entered the world of academia, it was difficult for me to find peers that could act as a mentorship network for my scholarship and teaching. I was thrilled when I learned AOCS had a common interest group dedicated towards professional educators like myself and immediately decided to join and learn more.
What led you to where you are now? Talk about previous jobs, school, other life journey that led you to where you are.
My journey to where I am now feels like it just fell into place when looking back. Initially, my undergraduate studies were centered on criminal justice in order to go into forensic science. After speaking with the head of the forensic science master’s program I realized I needed to enter a natural science. With no previous experience in the subject, I picked chemistry somewhat on a whim. In my final year of undergraduate studies, I was fortunate enough to work in the research lab of Dr. Borhan. Dr. Borhan suggested I apply to the chemistry graduate program. Up until that time, I was only considering forensic science programs. I applied to the chemistry program and was accepted. In graduate school, I studied electrochemical analysis of neurotransmission. As I approached graduation, I applied for a post-doctoral research position at the United States Department of Agriculture.
It was in my post-doctoral work where I was introduced to functional food research, specifically the analysis of omega-3 fatty acids. After leaving my post-doctoral position for my new faculty position, I needed a research area that was feasible at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) where laboratory work happened more sporadically than the previous institutions I worked in. I combined my electrochemical background from graduate school with the antioxidant and omega-3 fatty acids studies I performed in my post-doctoral work to create a research program focused on identifying applications of electrochemical methods to the study of natural antioxidants and edible oils.
What do you love most about your position?
The best part about being a faculty member at a (PUI) is working with students to help them reach their professional goals. Each year I get the bittersweet experience of sending one of my students off to begin the next phase of their career while welcoming in new ones. The ability to be part of their life’s journey is the most rewarding part of my job.
How do you define success?
Everyone will have a different definition of success. I believe that success is the ability to demonstrate flexibility, persistence and self-reflection in the pursuit of a goal.
Who inspires you? Or Who has been the most influential person in your career?
It would be impossible and unfair of my to pick a single person. When I was in my undergraduate studies, Dr. Borhan was the single reason that I pursued a Ph.D. in chemistry. Without him I would have never gone into a chemistry graduate program. The other two individuals are AOCS members, Hong-Sik Hwang and Jill Winkler-Moser. Hong-Sik and Jill have been invaluable mentors, collaborators and friends as I transitioned into my academic career. I firmly believe I would not have been successful without their support.
What’s one thing — either academy/industry-related or not — you learned in the last month?
In the last month (July 1, 2021), I transitioned into the role of department chair for the newly formed Department of Natural Sciences, which contains physics, biology and chemistry. The most impactful thing I have learned is how little I know!
If you could give advice to young AOCS members, what would it be?
Everyone is still learning. The fastest way to impact your own knowledge base is to get involved with your professional society and learn from those around you.
What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?
I played goalie on an in-line roller hockey team in high school, and I was pretty good!
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of work?
I have four children and a wonderful wife. My favorite thing to do outside of work is spending unstructured time with them where everyone can have a voice in what the family does.