The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy had already chosen Kavita Iyer, who was then, like Saathoff, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, to receive the award, which was established in 2000 by Hilda Meth, Ed.D.
Saathoff applied late, but he was permitted an interview. He so impressed Meth, who met with the finalist, that she created a second award that year, though not before putting Saathoff through his paces.
“John had a lot of fire, but he is not a bookworm,” Meth said, an assertion Saathoff, whose research is in Alzheimer’s disease, readily agrees with. The committee set a requirement that he increase his GPA from 3.0 to 3.25.
“I have never been one of those people who sell themselves, I guess,” Saathoff said. “I was a little hesitant to apply for the award; I figured I wouldn’t get it.”
But, buoyed by Meth’s interest in him, Saathoff worked hard and exceeded the GPA goal.
“She wants you to succeed, and she looks out for you,” he said. “It’s a nurturing relationship.”