As a child growing up in East Germany, near the border with West Germany, Stephan Schmidt learned to live within the restrictions of the communist nation. While he reflects fondly on his childhood, it wasn’t until the Iron Curtain fell at age 11 that he had the freedom to explore the world and expand his education. Schmidt studied at universities in Germany, the Netherlands and the United States on his way to landing his first faculty position at the University of Florida in 2012.
“If someone had told me 35 years ago that I would be a professor in the United States someday, I would have thought you were crazy,” said Schmidt, Ph.D., F.C.P., a professor of pharmaceutics and the Certara Endowed Professor in the UF College of Pharmacy.
In 2012, Schmidt teamed with Lawrence Lesko, Ph.D., a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to establish the Center for Pharmacometrics and Systems Pharmacology at the UF Research and Academic Center in Lake Nona. The center embraces interdisciplinary research approaches in quantitative clinical pharmacology to bring new drug therapies to market and houses one of the world’s first academic training programs in the discipline of drug development and regulatory science.
“We are training students and postdoctoral fellows how to use mathematical modeling to bring new and better drugs to market and improve existing treatments,” said Schmidt, who became center director in 2020. “These are highly sought-after skills in the pharmaceutical industry, as medicines become more expensive.”
In an academic career full of noteworthy accomplishments, Schmidt especially values his mentorship role. He has trained 33 postdoctoral fellows, 15 Ph.D. students and three research assistant professors over the past decade. Many trainees have transitioned into successful careers in academia, the pharmaceutical industry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
As a scientist, Schmidt has published nearly 140 peer-reviewed articles, seven book chapters and is co-editor of two textbooks, including one that is considered a staple in the field of pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics. He ranks among the top 2% of the most influential scientists in his field according to the 2022 Elsevier Data Repository report. Since 2017, he has received more than $10 million in funding as a principal investigator and has been a co-investigator on nearly a dozen grants.
These accomplishments and more have earned Schmidt multiple national and international awards, including recognition as a 2023 UF Research Foundation Professor. The honor is reserved for UF’s most productive and promising faculty members, and Schmidt is one of only 34 faculty across the university to receive the distinction this year.
“I am incredibly humbled to be named a UF Research Foundation Professor and be recognized in this elite circle of professors,” Schmidt said. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have had outstanding mentors in my career and a wife and family who are supportive of my work. They are the unsung heroes behind this award.”
Schmidt credits much of his career success to the late Hartmut Derendorf, Ph.D., a distinguished professor emeritus in the UF College of Pharmacy, who passed away unexpectedly in 2020. Derendorf mentored Schmidt as a summer internship student and later as a Ph.D. student in the mid-2000s. He also appreciates the mentorship he received from Lawrence Lesko, a professor emeritus in the UF College of Pharmacy, and Meindert Danhof, Pharm.D., Ph.D., a professor emeritus of pharmacology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Danhof has been referred to as one of the “founding fathers” of pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic models and was appointed “Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion,” by His Majesty King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands.