“What Can You Be With a PhD?”

STEM Career Symposium


Keynote Address - Leveraging One's Knowledge & Skills: From Professional Canvas to Career Arc

Leveraging One's Knowledge & Skills: From Professional Canvas to Career Arc

Understanding key cultural elements within industry is important for making an informed decision to pursue a STEM career. Having a healthy appreciation for industry's organizational value drivers is critical for making that transition, as well as longer term success and growth within a specific discipline in industry. Dr. Sheridan will discuss specific key cultural elements common to industry (using examples based on his experiences in the life sciences), and reference concepts and perspectives for aligning one's knowledge and skills to develop a professional canvas for pursuing both traditional and non-traditional STEM career paths. This presentation will provide an overview of ideas not only beneficial to the day’s panel discussions, but one that can serve a STEM professional throughout their career.

Time: 9:10 - 9:45 am

Location: Roth Auditorium

Speaker: Philip Sheridan, Industry Consultant, COO & Co-Founder, Bio4Front

Philip Sheridan, Photo

Phil Sheridan, Ph.D., is an industry consultant with 20+ years of research management experience in both start-up and established biotech and biopharmaceutical research organizations, having held management and team leader positions at Halozyme Therapeutics, Centocor Inc. (a Johnson & Johnson Company), Arizeke Pharmaceuticals and Chiron Corporation Center for Gene Therapy. He has a diverse knowledge base in biologics drug discovery, molecular and cell biology, protein engineering, gene therapy, alternative biofuels, project management, team leadership, mentoring and teaching. He has also served as an coordinator and instructor for biotechnology courses and programs at San Diego City, Miramar and Southwestern community colleges, and UC San Diego (UCSD) Extension’s campus. Phil co-founded Bio4Front Inc. with the mission to provide mentoring, career development, and customized educational services for professionals transiting into or across the life science industry. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, completed his postdoctoral studies at the The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, professional certificates in Biofuels & Energy Science and the Craft Brewing Program from UCSD Extension Campus, and is nearing completion of a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) with dual concentrations in New Ventures and Supply Chain Management.

Panel 1: R&D in Life Sciences

Time: 10:00 - 11:00 am, Panel

          11:00 - 11:15 am, Networking

Location: Roth Auditorium

Panel Summary: Are you interested in a pharma/biotech career? Wondering what the differences are between industry R&D and academia? Join us for this panel discussion with the panelists working in various areas in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology to learn about their career paths, the benefits and challenges in moving to industry.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Min Zong, Photo

Min Zong received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2012 and began her first postdoc training at the Scripps Research Institute - Florida in virus entry research. Two years ago she joined the Pathology Department of UCSD and has been working on dissecting molecular and cellular mechanisms of liver cancer development.


Steve Kaiser, Photo

Steve Kaiser earned his PhD in Axel Brunger’s lab at Stanford University where he solved structures revealing how the VAP family of ER membrane proteins recruit cytosolic proteins containing FFAT motifs to the ER periphery. Steve did his first postdoc in Ron Kopito’s lab at Stanford where he developed quantitative mass spectrometry methods for measuring ubiquitin pools in cell or tissue lysates. Steve did his second postdoc in Brenda Schulman’s lab at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he solved structures of autophagy-specific E1-E2 ubiquitin-like protein transfer complexes. In 2014 Steve joined Pfizer where he is currently a principal scientist. His work applies x-ray crystallography and a range of biophysical methods toward understanding protein structure, dynamics, function and interactions to enable small molecule drug discovery and structure based drug design.

Ron Swanson, Photo

Ron Swanson is currently Senior Director at The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. Before joining Johnson & Johnson 10 years ago, Dr. Swanson was co-founder and CSO at ActiveSight and established ActiveSight to be a leading structural biology contract research organization. Dr. Swanson was previously Director of Molecular Biology at Syrrx and Director of Genomics and Protein Expression at Diversa. Dr. Swanson attained his BA in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from UCSD, his PhD in Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley with Alex Glazer, and his postdoctoral training in Mel Simon’s lab at Caltech.

Jill Wykosky, Photo

Jill obtained her B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Pittsburgh and PhD in Molecular Medicine from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. During her PhD, she characterized a novel target for brain tumor drug development and discovered a previously unknown function for a soluble ligand in tumor cells. Jill did her post-doctoral training in the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) San Diego Branch, where her work there focused on therapeutic resistance to small molecule inhibitors in brain tumors. Jill is also the founder of the LICR Career Development Series at the Ludwig Institute San Diego. Jill joined in Takeda in 2013 and she is currently Associate Director and Head of GI Biology at Takeda California. She leads a group focused on target identification, validation and drug discovery in the area of gastrointestinal disorders.

Anna Waters, Photo

Dr. Anna Waters is currently Director of R&D Operations at Organovo, a 3D bioprinting company. Anna has held management positions in several well-known biotech companies, including Life Technologies, Beckman Coulter and Millipore and also holds an associate faculty position in the biology/biotech department at MiraCosta College. Anna’s career has spanned many aspects of Biotechnology, from R&D and manufacturing to technical support, product lifecycle management and even IT. Anna received her PhD in Veterinary Microbiology from Texas A&M University in 1992 and did her postdoctoral studies at The Scripps Research Institute.

Stan Jin, Photo

Stan co-founded FronThera US Pharmaceuticals and serves as the Vice President of Chemistry. Prior to Fronthera, he co-founded C2 Pharmaceuticals, a small molecule Drug Discovery company focused on oncology and immunology, and served as the CSO and CEO. Before venturing out on his own, Stan had eight years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry as a medicinal chemist and Project Leader at Takeda San Diego and ICOS. Stan earned his PhD in Chemistry from Texas A&M University in 2002 and did a postdoc at the University of Notre Dame from 2002-2004.

Angela Cone, Photo

Angela earned her BS in cell & molecular biology at Humboldt State University and her PhD from San Diego State University. Her PhD research examined gene regulation during development of the nervous system in marine embryos and took her to the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole each summer where she developed a passion for microscopy. Angela worked on a variety of projects during her postdoc at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR), a microscopy core facility at UCSD. There she gained expertise in neuroinformatics, large scale imaging, antibody characterization, and fluorescent assay design while studying the structural biology of Connexin proteins and their function in the brain. Angela was the recipient of the NIH - NRSA Fellowship during her postdoctoral research from 2009-2012. She is currently Senior Scientist and head of neurobiology at ICB International, an early-phase start-up developing diagnostics and therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases.

Panel 2: R&D in Science & Engineering (Non-Bio)

Time: 10:00 - 11:00 am, Panel

          11:00 - 11:15 am, Networking

Location: Room 1013

Panel Summary: Are you an engineer or scientist in areas outside the biological and health sciences? Interested in the research environment outside academia? Find out about various industry career paths in research and development, and meet and network with panelists at various points in their careers, from the recently graduated to C-level executives and founders.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Pam Bhattacharya, Photo

Pam Bhattacharya received her PhD in Bioengineering from UC San Diego in 2014. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Shankar Subramaniam’s Bioinformatics, Systems Biology, and Systems Medicine lab. Her research work focuses on developing and validating time evolving state space network models of heterogeneous, high dimensional biological data, using a variety of dimensionality reduction techniques, data science, machine learning, and probabilistic learning approaches.


Alexander Schafgans, Photo

Alexander Schafgans, ’05, Ph. D. ’11, is a principal scientist at Cymer/ASML, the global leader in developing light sources used by the semiconductor industry to pattern advanced logic and memory. In his role at Cymer, Schafgans helps lead Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) light source development, advancing the laser produced plasma technology for high-volume industry applications. During his Ph. D. in Physics, Schafgans focused on the infrared and optical properties of correlated electron materials and was selected to receive the Outstanding Graduate Student award upon graduation. He currently serves on the UCSD Alumni Board of Directors and the Undergraduate Scholarship Council.

Natasha Balac, Photo

Natasha received her Master's and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Vanderbilt University with an emphasis in Data Mining from large data sets. Her dissertation focused on creating and applying novel data mining techniques to mobile robots and real time sensor data. She has been with UCSD since 2003. She has also led multiple collaborations across a wide range of organizations in industry, government and academia. She had founded and led the Predictive Analytics Center of Excellence at the Supercomputer Center until 2016. She is currently directing the Data Science Program at Calit2/Qualcomm institute and teaches at the Computer Science Department. Dr. Balac has founded and serves as the President and CEO of Data Insight Discovery, Inc. DID’s charter is enabling businesses to discover actionable insight from vast amounts of data.

Ryan Aguinaldo, Photo

Ryan Aguinaldo is currently with the Northrop Grumman Corporation where he functions as an R&D and systems engineer. His primary responsibilities includes contributions to various aspects of radio and optical communications systems and other mission enabling electronic payloads for fighter, unmanned, and rotary-wing aerial platforms. His previous research focused on optical integrated circuits, nanoscale metal optics, and quantum dot solar cells. Dr. Aguinaldo concurrently received the BS degree in microelectronic engineering, with minors in physics and electrical engineering, and the MS degree in materials science from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He received the MS and PhD degrees in applied physics from the University of California, San Diego.

Lydia Zhang, Photo

Dr. Lydia Zhang has dedicated herself to micro/nano semiconductor devices research and development. She has worked on biological micro sensors and actuators, Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based display, Radio frequency CMOS circuit design/layout, and Heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) process integration. Dr. Zhang worked for Lucent Technologies in China and she is a staff engineer at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc now. In 2008 Dr. Zhang earned her Ph.D. from the Electrical Engineering Department at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; in addition, she is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).


Gunwoo Kim, Photo

Gunwoo Kim is a senior engineer in NanoSD Inc., an innovative start-up company focusing on nano/energy material. He received his PhD degree in Materials Science and Engineering from UCSD in 2016, MS degree from University of Tokyo, and Bachelor’s degree from Tokyo Institute of Technology. Prior to joining UCSD as a PhD student, he had worked at the material development division in Samsung Electro-Mechanics for nano material synthesis and application in electronic devices for over 4 years. His research interest is on polymer-metal composites for energy saving application, and stimuli responsive soft actuator for smart textile.

Panel 3: R&D in Bioengineering & Bioinformatics

Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, and after the panel attendees and panelists will have networking opportunities during the lunch session

Location: Roth Auditorium

Panel Summary: Join us to learn some of the career options available in the Bioengineering and Bioinformatics industries. Panelists will discuss their career paths and offer tips in improving your profile for the industry.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Abhilash Kizhakke Puliyakote, Photo

Abhilash received his Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and his PhD from the University of Iowa, Iowa City in 2016. His research interests are in the application of image processing and image analysis techniques to medical imaging, primarily in the pulmonary domain using CT/MR imaging. He is currently working in the Radiology Imaging Laboratory at the University of California at San Diego as a Postdoctoral Researcher, applying image processing and Machine Learning to MR images to study postural changes in pulmonary perfusion and developing clinically relevant strategies to manage ventilation of patients with ARDS.


Jeff Orr, Photo

Dr. Orr received his BS and PhD in Biochemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington. He completed consecutive postdoctoral fellowships in Biochemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at The Scripps Research Institute, where he transitioned into a Senior Research Scientist role. He next joined Vertex Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, where he has been for the past 16 years. He currently serves as the Senior Director for the Scientific Computing Team. In his role at Vertex, he oversees a team of scientists and computer scientists that develops custom software to enable the discovery research efforts across Vertex’s four research facilities. Example projects the team has worked on include custom electronic lab notebooks for medicinal chemistry and biology, a corporate research database query and data visualization tool, integration of in-house and third-party software for enabling high-throughput screening and imaging technologies, and a suite of software for managing compound management inventory, ordering, and robotic order processing systems.

John Dobak, Photo

John Dobak, MD, has been involved in new medical innovation for 20 years. He has founded multiple companies in areas as diverse as cardiac arrhythmia ablation and neuromodulation to aesthetic medicine. Over the last four years, Dr. Dobak has been the CEO of DermTech and the founder of two other dermatology companies, 10xBio and @Derma.

Karl Olney, Photo

Dr. Olney received his B.S., M.S. and PhD degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California at San Diego focusing on computational mechanics and material development for projects funded by DARPA and the Department of Naval research. During his PhD, he also worked as a Graduate Student Researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory supporting the development of novel material models. After obtaining his PhD. In 2014, Dr. Olney joined Medtronic, where he currently serves as Senior R&D Engineer in the Coronary and structural heart division supporting the development of next generation transcatheter heart valve therapies.

Raj Krishnan, Photo

Dr. Krishan received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles and PhD in Bioengineering at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Krishnan is the founder and CEO of Biological Dynamics, a private molecular diagnostics company in San Diego. Dr. Krishnan developed the technology for his dissertation, pioneering the use of AC Electrokinetics for blood based diagnosis. The company has raised over 30M in funding and is currently pursuing clinical trials for their first product. Dr. Krishnan was named to the Top 30 scientists under 30 by Forbes magazine in 2011.

Panel 4: Teaching

Time: 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, and after the panel attendees and panelists will have networking opportunities during the lunch session

Location: Room 1013

Panel Summary: Do you enjoy working in academia, but find teaching particularly rewarding? This panel will discuss teaching-intensive positions in colleges and universities, and paths from postdoc to teaching professor. 

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Jessica Sowa, Photo

Jessica is an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Dr. Emily Troemel. Her research focuses on characterizing intracellular infection sensing mechanisms using the nematode C. elegans as a model system. Her career ambition is to teach and do research at a primarily undergraduate institution.


Dawn Page, Photo

Dawne Page has spent the past 14 years teaching students from varying degree levels (high school to the graduate level) in the subject areas of biology, genetics, research methodology and immunology. She is currently both a Professor and Chair of Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU). Prior to her career in teaching at PLNU, Dawne received her Honors BS in Biochemistry from PA State University. She then graduated with a PhD in Immunology from the University of California, San Francisco, followed by a postdoctoral position in basic immunology research. Dawne then maintained two part-time positions at UCSD: Associate Project Scientist and Science Academic Coordinator at the Center for Research in Educational Equity Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE). Here, Dawne had the experience of working with local school districts to provide professional development to K-12 teachers in science. Following her experience with CREATE and then as the Directory of SEASAND, in which she collaborated with and improved the science education in local school districts, Dawne began working with PLNU.

Marie McMahon, Photo

Dr. McMahon is originally from Los Angeles and began her educational path at 18 by taking a few classes at Pasadena City College (PCC). She then attended Flinders University in Australia where she completed a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Biochemistry and Physiology. This was followed by a 1 year Honors Degree in Lymphatic Anatomy and Physiology. She was then awarded a full postgraduate scholarship and completed her Ph.D. (in lymphatics) at the Flinders University Medical Center (Australia) in 1997. After finishing her Ph.D., she commenced a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile, Alabama. It was at this time she realized her significant preference for teaching over research! Her aim was to return and teach at a California Community College - this desire was deeply influenced by attending PCC. She taught part-time at several community colleges here in San Diego until obtaining a full-time faculty position at Miramar College in 2003. She served as Biology Dept. Chair from 2007 until 2015, then became the Academic Senate Present for Miramar College (the position she currently holds) - while continuing to teach Human Anatomy every semester.

Steve Weinert, Photo

Steve Weinert was born and raised in Vermont. He came to San Diego in 1988 to go to college at SDSU and to compete in Track and Field. He graduated with a BS in Psychology and was admitted to the SDSU general experimental Psychology program in 1993. He worked in the Center for Behavioral Teratology with Dr. Ed Riley and Dr. Jennifer Thomas until 1997 focusing on brain changes due to pre and post natal alcohol exposure. In 1998 he earned his single subject teaching Credential from Chapman University and started teaching High School science (Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Psychology). He taught part time at Cuyamaca College from 1994 until 2000, when he was hired full time and went on to earn tenure in 2006. He currently teaches all the lower division psychology courses at Cuyamaca College.

Katrina Yamazaki, Photo

Dr. Katrina Yamazaki is an Associate Professor of Biology and a faculty member of California State University Los Angeles since 2011. Dr. Yamazaki is also the Co-Project Director of LSAMP, the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, which helps increase the number or underrepresented minorities graduating with a STEM baccalaureate degree that then go on to pursue a STEM Ph.D. program. Prior to joining Cal State LA, Dr. Yamazaki received her PhD in Molecular Pathology (UCSD) and was an IRACDA post-doctoral fellow (UCSD) working in the Mitochondrial Biology Lab of Dr. Anne Murphy. Dr. Yamazaki is the recipient of multiple research and education grants and awards throughout her career.

Rae Robertson-Anderson, Photo

Dr. Rae Robertson-Anderson is Associate Professor and Chair of the Physics and Biophysics Department at the University of San Diego where she has been a faculty member since 2009. Dr. Anderson received her BS in Physics from Georgetown University in 2003, and her PhD in Physics from UCSD in 2007. She completed her postdoctoral research training in the Molecular Biology department at The Scripps Research Institute. Her PhD and postdoctoral research were funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and NIH postdoctoral training fellowship. Since her initial appointment at USD, she has received several prestigious research and education grants including an NSF CAREER Award and Air Force Young Investigator Award for her soft matter biophysical research and development of the undergraduate Biophysics program at USD.

Sarah Stockwell, Photo

Sarah Stockwell was born in San Diego and received her B.A. in English Literature from Swarthmore College. She spent a year in rural El Salvador teaching math, English, and chemistry, and worked as a computer engineer at Qualcomm Inc. for over six years. In 2002, she began a Ph.D. program at Cornell University, studying population genetics and the evolution of transcriptional regulatory networks with Andy Clark. She completed an IGERT fellowship in nonlinear dynamics, and used those techniques in her dissertation research on mutational robustness in simulated genetic networks. While at Cornell, she also studied evidence-based teaching methods in biology and independently developed and taught a semester-long seminar on evolutionary biology. After receiving her Ph.D, she returned to UCSD to do research in Scott Rifkin's lab, using microfluidics to study memory in the galactose pathway of budding yeast. As an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow, she guest-taught at San Diego State University and San Diego City College. In 2015, she accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution section of Biology at UCSD. She teaches evolution, ecology, and statistics, and is developing a research program studying the effectiveness of new curriculum in those fields.

Panel 5: Clinical & Regulatory Affairs

Time: 1:30 - 2:30 pm, Panel

          2:30 - 2:45 pm, Networking

Location: Roth Auditorium

Panel Summary: Would you like to know the role of clinical and regulatory professionals in the process of medical devices and drugs development? Speakers at this panel will share their stories, discuss the demands, and describe how to obtain valuable training in the field.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Juliati Rahajeng, Photo

Juliati Rahajeng received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Seth Field’s lab at the University of California San Diego. Juliati research focuses on understanding the function of an oncogene in membrane trafficking. She is an active member of the Association for Women in Science San Diego Chapter and San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network.


Joanne McNelis, Photo

Joanne McNelis is a Scientist at Cato Research, an international Clinical Research Organization (CRO) that provides regulatory, clinical and scientific services to support the development of drugs, biologics, devices and diagnostics. At Cato research, Joanne is a participant in the Felllows program, a 12-month in-house training scheme. Prior to transitioning into industry, Joanne received her Ph.D. in Endocrinology from the University of Birmingham, UK, and postdoctoral training in the lab of Prof. Jerrold Olefsky at UCSD. Joanne holds a professional certificate in regulatory affairs from Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS). She is a member of San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network (SDRAN), RAPS and SOCRA.

Allison Komiyama, Photo

Allison Komiyama obtained her BA in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Genetics and Development from University of California, Berkeley in 2003. She worked as a technician in a laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania for one year before being accepted in the Biology program at Stanford University. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from Stanford in 2009 and moved to Washington DC soon after. In DC she became a postdoctoral scientist in the Office of Science and Engineering Labs, as well as a lead reviewer in the Office of Device Evaluation, in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at U.S. FDA in Silver Spring, MD. After her time at FDA, Allison moved back to California and accepted a position as a project manager and regulatory affairs manager at an in vitro diagnostic medical device company. A year later she went on to become a Senior Regulatory Specialist at a medical device consulting company for two years. In May 2014, Allison started AcKnowledge RS, helping medical device companies from all around the world in developing their strategies to get their technology into the US market.

Lily Alvarez-Jaimes, Photo

Lily received her BS in Microbiology in 1998 and PhD in Biology in 2004 from the University of Puerto Rico. She pursued her postdoctoral training in Neuropharmacology at The Scripps Research Institute in 2005 and made a transition into the pharmaceutical industry as a postdoctoral fellow in the Neuroscience Team at Janssen Research and Development in 2009. This latest experience spurred her interest in the regulatory aspects of clinical development. In 2013, she was offered an internship in Quality Assurance/Regulatory Affairs at MedWaves, Inc. and continued working as Quality Assurance Manager for MedWaves, Inc. Lily, simultaneously, worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator at UCSD / Rady Children’s Hospital from 2014 through 2016. She is an active member of the San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network (SDRAN) and have served as Leader and Communications Manager for the US Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC) exam study group that is organized by the SDRAN Education Committee.

Michelle Mazzoni, Photo

Michelle Mazzoni received her Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1984, her PhD in Bioengineering from the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 1989, her Regulatory Affairs for the Biomedical Industry certificate from the UCSD Extension in 2004, and her Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC) from the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS) in 2004 for US regulations, and in 2006 for both Canadian and EU regulations. In 1996, Michelle started her career as a research scientist at Alliance Pharmaceutical Corp. and eventually became Senior Director of Biological Research. In 2003 with the divesture of an Alliance asset to create the company IMCOR Pharmaceuticals, Inc., she was the Senior Director of Biological Research. In 2004 with her new knowledge in regulatory affairs, she joined TargeGen, Inc. as a Director and then moved up to Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs and Drug Development. In 2008, Michelle took the position as the head of regulatory affairs at SGX Pharmaceuticals until the company was acquired by Eli Lilly and Company within months of her joining the company that led to her next position as the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality at Cebix, Inc. in 2009 and held that position until the company ceased operations in 2015. For the past two years, Michelle has been the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality at Dauntless Pharmaceuticals, Inc. where she is responsible for regulatory strategies and operations, quality compliance, and nonclinical development for the company’s expanding pipeline of drugs, and additionally, she does regulatory affairs consulting for small biotech companies.

Evelyn Walenta, Photo

Growing up in Austria, Europe, Evelyn received her BSc in Technical Chemistry, MSc in Biotechnology, Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Technology, Graz, Austria. During her PhD, she spent one year at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), to where she returned for a position as postdoctoral researcher doing preclinical research in the field of diabetes and obesity in 2013. During her postdoctoral training, Evelyn was the Vice Chair of Career Development Programs of the UCSD Postdoctoral Association. In addition, Evelyn obtained a Micro-MBA certificate from Rady School of Management in 2014 and started with the Clinical Trials Design and Management Certificate from UCSD Extension in 2015. Last year, she accepted a position as Clinical Research Associate at QuintilesIMS.

Panel 6: Consulting & Marketing

Time: 1:30 - 2:30 pm, Panel

          2:30 - 2:45 pm, Networking

Location: Room 1013

Panel Summary: In addition to technical and scientific skills the academic career enhances a number of soft skills in project management, problem solving, mentoring, presenting, and even marketing! This panel will give you information about what consulting companies look for when hiring PhDs from academia. Join the discussion to learn how to bring your soft skills forward and efficiently use them in a consulting career.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Jelena Ostojić, Photo

Jelena Ostojić obtained her PhD from the University of Evry Val d'Essonne in France. She worked on the assembly and interactions of OXPHOS complexes in the yeast Saccaharomyces cerevisiae, in the group of Dr. Geneviève Dujardin (I2BC-Paris Saclay, Gif sur Yvette, France). Jelena is currently a post-doc in the lab of Dr. Marc Montminy at the Salk Institute where she is working on the role of CREB/CRTC mediated regulation of gene expression in pigmentation and melanoma.


Tracy Yeo, Photo

Dr. Yeo is the Chair of the SABPA Education and Career Development Committee. She is the Managing Director of the consulting practice at ChinaBio Group, a multinational management consulting firm focusing on China’s life science industry and beyond. She has lead more than 40 consulting projects in China and global development, partnership, and commercialization strategies for leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Kate Hanham, Photo

Dr. Hanham has acted as an advisor to Boards of Directors and served as an interim C level executive. She has held lead responsibilities in critical communications with the FDA and international regulatory agencies. She has consulted for organizations ranging from start-up biotechnology to top ten pharmaceutical companies. She has also provided assessment of technology, product development, clinical and manufacturing operations for financial groups seeking to invest in biotechnology.

Todd Johnson, Photo

Todd D. Johnson is a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group in their Los Angeles office. He earned his Ph.D. from the department of Bioengineering at UCSD. His research in Dr. Karen Christman’s Lab focused on developing and testing naturally derived injectable biomaterials for treating cardiovascular diseases. Todd has developed two new biomaterials derived from human tissues. The first material was designed as a potential treatment for heart failure after a heart attack and the second was for treating peripheral artery disease.

Clifford Woodford, Photo

Clifford Woodford is a life science consultant for L.E.K. Los Angeles. He earned his PhD from the department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSD. Clifford did his graduate research in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Y. Tsien, a 2008 Chemistry Nobel Laureate, where he developed the best-in-class molecular probe for high resolution fluorescence imaging in the brain. He coordinated numerous successful collaborations in academia and industry for the application of the developed probes, including their first use in living mice and mouse brain slices, opening up insights into neurodegenerative disease.

Melanie Nelson, Photo

Melanie Nelson, PhD., is the president of MRN Consulting, Inc., a company that provides consulting services in scientific informatics and project management. Dr. Nelson has an extensive pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry experience in project management, scientific IT, scientific data management, and bioinformatics. She works with companies and academics on long-running projects, short discussions about specific management concerns as well as management training courses and coaching.

Panel 7: Scientific Writing & Communication

Time: 3:00 - 4:00 pm, Panel

          4:00 - 4:15 pm, Networking

Location: Roth Auditorium

Panel Summary: Do you love writing beyond drafting manuscripts? Are you interested in a career that entails communicating complex scientific advancements into a more interesting message catered to a broader audience? Join this panel as our speakers share their stories and learn how to build upon your science writing skills to successfully transition into a career in science communications.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Sudipta Das, Photo

Sudipta Das earned her Ph.D. in Biotechnology from Delhi, India and is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. David Broide’s lab at UC San Diego. Sudipta’s research focusses on understanding the genetics and molecular mechanisms of lung diseases such as asthma. Her postdoctoral work has been recently published in PNAS.


Jessica Yingling, Photo

Jessica Yingling received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from UC San Diego. After achieving her doctorate, Dr. Yingling transitioned to PR and communications in her position as account executive at Porter Novelli Life Sciences. She then went on to become Director of Corporate Communications at Fate Therapeutics, where she built and executed a complete corporate communications plan that established Fate as a pioneering company in stem cell medicines and led to numerous company awards and recognitions. 

Dr. Yingling then founded her own company, Little Dog Communications, to work with the “little dogs” — companies and organizations, both small and big, that are at the leading edge of life science innovation.  These groups are developing tomorrow’s medicines and re-imagining the future of healthcare through research, drug discovery and new technologies.  With biotech, healthcare and non-profit organizations, Jessica helps companies tell their story and reach their audiences through strategic thought leadership and communications programs.

David Brin, Photo

Dr. David Brin is an astrophysicist, inventor, futurist and New York Times bestselling author with books translated into 25 languages. His novels include Earth, Existence, The Postman (filmed in 1997 by Kevin Costner) as well as Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War.  A patent-holding inventor, he frequently speaks about science and future trends at company events, think tanks, public agencies, and has appeared on numerous television shows including Nova, The Universe, and Life After People. With degrees from Caltech and the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Brin serves on advisory panels ranging from astronomy, NASA innovative concepts, nanotech, and SETI to national defense and technological ethics. His non-fiction book “The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?” garnered the prestigious Freedom of Speech Prize from the American Library Association.

DeeAnn Visk, Photo

Dr. DeeAnn Visk, PhD, is a freelance medical writer and editor specializing in pharmacogenetics, high throughput screening, genetics, and cell culture. She has worked on writing and editing scientific peer-reviewed papers, news articles, abstracts, posters, technical notes, and white papers. Working in the field of medical writing since 2013, she is happy to mentor new comers.

In addition to her business, Dr. Visk is active in several local non-profits: she is president of the Association for Women in Science, San Diego chapter (AWIS-SD) and on the Communications Committee for the San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange (SDEE). A member of the Pacific Southwest chapter of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA-PacSW), she enjoys attending their career development events.

Dr. Visk is a proud graduate from the doctoral program of the Division of Biology at UCSD. When not writing or volunteering, Dr. Visk can be found raising her two kids, hiking, and scolding three backyard hens in the San Diego area.

Tiffany Fox, Photo

Tiffany Fox is a Public Information Representative for the Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego, as well as an award-winning public speaker. She has offered research communications training to researchers from various campus departments of UC San Diego across a wide range of disciplines. She writes press releases, web articles, and a research communications newsletter about the world’s most cutting-edge research in the areas of health, energy, environment and cultural heritage. Prior to coming to UC San Diego, Ms. Fox was a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune for 10 years. She is a freelance journalist and has written for local, national and international publications on a multitude of topics spanning science, engineering, technology and the arts. A mother of two, she is also a certified yoga teacher and served in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Heather Buschman, Photo

Heather Buschman earned her Ph.D. in Molecular Pathology at UC San Diego. She also completed a health communications internship in the National Cancer Institute’s press office and spent her first years away from the bench as a science writer at The Scripps Research Institute. She then served as the Scientific Communications Manager at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute for three years.

Dr. Buschman is currently a Senior Communications and Media Relations Manager for UC San Diego Health, where she covers biomedical research in press releases, newsletter articles, magazine pieces, a podcast, and more.

Panel 8: Project Management & Business Strategy

Time: 3:00 - 4:00 pm, Panel

          4:00 - 4:15 pm, Networking

Location: Room 1013

Panel Summary: Are you interested in managing multiple projects to achieve a greater goal? What about formulating and implementing company initiatives? This panel will cover the basics of project and strategy management in an industry setting and give background to what training is important to gain experience in these fields.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Jennifer Yang, Photo

Jennifer received her Ph.D. in Endocrinology and Animal Biosciences at Rutgers University, New Jersey and is currently a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Alexander Kauffman’s lab. She is studying the impact of stress on reproductive neuroendocrinology.


Irene Ch'en, Photo

Irene Ch'en received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Cell biology at UCSD, Revelle College and completed her doctorate in Immunology at UCSD under the direction of Dr. Stephen Hedrick. After completing 2 years of postdoctoral training at USCD, Irene worked at Baxter BioScience in the Technical Services department supporting biologic manufacturing in a cGMP environment. Following Baxter, Irene became a Field Applications Scientist/Associate Product Manager at Aushon BioSystems assisting customers in biomarker testing needs. Irene is currently enjoying her role in program and alliance management at Genoptix Medical Laboratory, a Novartis company, supporting exciting oncology clinical trials with companion diagnostics. In her spare time, Irene enjoys spending time with friends, being active, and baking 1000 cupcakes in a day.

Lewis Vann, Photo

Lewis was awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1997, where he focused on biochemistry and metabolism of nuclear inositol lipids. He then moved to US for his Post-Doctoral research; first at Johns Hopkins University, and then the National Institutes of Health; focusing on inositol and sphingolipid-mediated signal transduction pathways.

In 2010, Lewis transitioned to a customer facing position, and is now Sr. Manager of Business Development for the Jackson Laboratory’s in vivo services division; focusing on therapeutic companies and academic institutions who wish to utilize JAX's humanized mice, or outsource pharmacology projects in the areas oncology, immuno oncology, neurobiology and metabolic disease.

Dragos Craciun, Photo

Dragos Craciun, PMP, is a Certified Scrum Master, with over 17 years of international experience (United States, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Latvia, Poland, Canada) coordinating medium to large-scale projects from initiation through delivery, including scope definition, project objectives, cost/benefit analysis, business case, planning, implementing and closure.

Dragos' specialty is in designing, implementing, testing and delivering Smart Card Payment Solutions (EMV) for Banking/Finance industry. He contributed to the creation of the PM “Toolbox” for GE Capital.

Beatrice Marturano, Photo

Beatrice Marturano, received her doctorate degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of Padova, Italy and has completed the “Clinical Trials” Professional Certificate at the UCSD extension and Project Management Certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

She started her career at the Burnham Institute, La Jolla, studying neurobiology and gene expression and later moved to Italy to work at Glaxo SmithKline in the microbiology department before moving back to San Diego to work at Isis Pharmaceutical and Diversa as Sr Scientist. Finally, Beatrice joined Quintiles in 2005 and started her career in managing clinical trials. As a project manager, mainly in the area of oncology, she manages and coordinates efforts of cross-functional project teams; provide guidance and prioritization of project tasks on the critical path to ensure project milestones are met. She serves as project liaisons with the customer to ensure communication is maintained, expectations are clearly cascaded to the team, and reporting schedules are adhered to.

Jean-Baptiste Passot, Photo

Dr. Jean-Baptiste Passot graduated from University Pierre and Marie Curie with a PhD degree in Computational Neuroscience. His research and efforts aims at bridging the technology gap from neural science research to commercialized robotic products. In 2012, he joined Brain Corporation, a for-profit R&D and product company with a focus in robotics and artificial intelligence. Since 2015, Dr. Passot has been both the project manager and principal scientist leading a team of robotics engineers, computer scientists and software engineers in the research and development of a next generation mobile collaborative robotic navigation system.

Panel 9: Business & Entrepreneurship

Time: 4:30 - 5:30 pm, and after the panel attendees and panelists will have networking opportunities during the evening reception

Location: Roth Auditorium

Panel Summary: Are you fascinated with the idea of promoting businesses growth or establishing your own enterprise with your technical background? Join this panel to learn about the working environment of start-up companies and how to realize your own ideas from local biotech entrepreneurs.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Ying Zhao, Photo

Ying Zhao received her Ph.D in Cell Biology from University of Colorado Boulder and is currently working as a postdoc fellow in Dr. Wang’s lab at UCSD. Her research focuses on epigenetic and genetic regulation in cancer progression.


James Hauske, Photo

Dr. James R. Hauske is the President and Founder of Sensor Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company focused on discovering orally delivered, gut-restricted entities, recognizing gut-expressed molecular targets. He started his career at Pfizer in Groton, Connecticut where he contributed IP, IND’s and mentored incoming scientists for 15 years. After his Pfizer tenure, Dr. Hauske spent 8.5 years helping to build Sepracor, Inc. in Marlboro Massachusetts, as Senior Vice-President of Drug Discovery and Drug Development reporting directly to the CEO. He was a member of the executive management team and also had Board of Director responsibilities. After Jim’s Sepracor experience, he started his first company, PsyCheNomicS, Inc. a company directed toward the discovery of molecules suitable for the treatment of neuropsychological disorders, which later was sold for cash and stock to Novasite, Inc. A portion of the technology of this company was combined with a series of lead structures to form Ampla Pharmaceuticals, Inc., where Jim served as the President and Co-Founder. During his 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Hauske has patented close to 75 patents, which are the basis of formation of a couple companies, such as Prexa Pharmaceuticals. He also has published 50 research articles in a variety of prominent journals.

Ewa Lis, Photo

Ewa is currently Chief Technology Officer of Koliber Biosciences, a biotechnology company developing novel probiotics for consumer health applications. Ewa has a broad skill set spanning multiple areas of biology, chemistry and machine learning. She specializes in microbial metabolic engineering and synthetic biology tool development. Before founding Koliber, Ewa led several projects at Genomatica, a renewable chemicals company. She contributed to key IP in the area of feedstock utilization which lead to improved economics of 1,4-butanediol production. While at Life Technologies, Ewa established an algae program, helped design a state-of-the-art algae manufacturing facility and delivered first to market genetic engineering kits for two strains of algae. Prior to Life Technologies, Ewa led a team of postdoctoral researchers at University of California, San Diego on a Sponsored Research Project from Biolight Harvesting where she discovered and scaled up cyanobacterial strains for fatty acid production. Ewa holds a BA in Chemistry from Cornell University (2002) and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from The Scripps Research Institute (2008).

Giovanna Iaffaldano, Photo

Giovanna is a seasoned professional with extensive experience managing admission and enrollment functions, sales, project management, and implementing programs and marketing initiatives in university settings. Her career in higher education centered around educational student loan financing and products and in enrollment management at the graduate and professional level. Prior to joining Rady School of Management, she was Associate Director at the University of San Diego School of Law for twelve years.

Giovanna holds an MPA in Government Relations and BBA in Sales and Marketing. She recently completed a Peace and Global Education, Graduate degree program at the Univeristy of San Diego.

Jiwu Wang, Photo

Dr. Jiwu Wang received his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Peking University and Ph.D. in molecular biology from USC. He worked in the RNA-related fields in graduate school and as a postdoc at UCSD. After postdoc training he founded Allele Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals in 1999. He built a highly distinguished research team at Allele that has made significant contributions to nano antibodies, fluorescent protein markers, and induced pluripotent stem cells. Allele has developed its own protocols to generate pancreatic beta cells, oligodendrocytes, hepatocytes, cardiomyocytes, etc., and initiated programs aimed at cell therapy trials. Several nano antibody drug candidates against cancer targets are at the in vivo efficacy stage. Dr. Wang also founded non-profit Scintillon Institute and serves as its president. The institute has about 10 faculty memebers working on cytometry, translational research in various disease areas, particularly in neural degenerative diseases.

Panel 10: Intellectual Property, Tech Transfer & Science Policy

Time: 4:30 - 5:30 pm, and after the panel attendees and panelists will have networking opportunities during the evening reception

Location: Room 1013

Panel Summary: As breakthroughs in research and technology arise, expertise in transferring these scientific ideas and innovations to the marketplace and shaping legislation and public policy has become increasingly important. Join this panel at the intersection of science, business, and society to learn about careers involving intellectual property, patent law, technology transfer, and science policy.

Click on names below to see bios and photos.


Stefanie Makowski, Photo

Stefanie Makowski received her Ph.D. in Immunology at Johns Hopkins University, studying antigen receptor signaling in lymphocytes in the lab of Joel Pomerantz. Currently, Stefanie is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Seth Field at UC San Diego, focused on the regulation of membrane trafficking and its role in cancer.


Shannon Muir, Photo

Dr. Shannon Muir is a Senior Program Associate at CCST, where she staffs the Federally Funded Laboratory Affiliates program, supports fundraising efforts, and develops strategies for internal and external CCST projects. Shannon was CCST Science Policy Fellow in 2015, and she served as a consultant for the California Senate Committee on Health, analyzing legislation including electronic cigarettes, internet prescribing, health insurance, and aging and long term care. Prior to her Fellowship, Shannon earned her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from UC San Diego studying pediatric cancer genetics. During her time at UC San Diego, she served as Legislative Liaison for Local & State Affairs for the UC San Diego Graduate Student Association and Chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Committee on the UC Student Association Board of Directors and also represented graduate students on the UC Academic Senate Committee on Research Policy. For her work, she was awarded the UC Student Association’s Advocate of the Year Award in 2012. Shannon holds an MS in Pharmacology from Tulane University School of Medicine and a BS in Psychobiology from UCLA.

Aaron Parker, Photo

Dr. Aaron Parker is an associate in the San Diego office of Morrison & Foerster whose practice focuses on prosecution of U.S. and international patent applications in biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and other life sciences industries. He periodically assists in patent litigation and diligence matters. He works with clients in a number of areas, including antibodies, cell therapy, biologics, small molecules, and stem cells. Aaron received his J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law, where he served as the technology editor for the Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal. He received a B.S. in microbiology and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of California, San Diego, performing doctoral research in the laboratory of Professor Inder M. Verma at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies on the generation of hematopoietic cells from human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. Prior to graduate school, he worked in the intellectual property department of Diversa Corporation and conducted neuroscience research at a privately held biotechnology company.

Skip J. Cynar, Photo

Beginning his 9th year at UC San Diego’s Office of Innovation & Commercialization, Dr. Skip Cynar is a senior licensing officer and manages a portfolio of inventions and copyrights from physics, engineering, chemistry, and medicine. Prior to returning to UCSD, Skip enjoyed a career in publishing, targeting the needs of students, educators, and researchers in science and technology. Skip received a PhD from UCSD and recently has become certified as an Educator for Lean Launchpad, a pedagogy to teach scientists how to turn their discoveries into entrepreneurial, job-producing businesses.

Paul Roben, Photo

Paul Roben, Ph.D., was named Associate Vice Chancellor for Innovation and Commercialization at UC San Diego in June 2015. Working with the Vice Chancellor for Research, AVC Roben has transformed the functions of the Technology Transfer Office, Industry Research Alliances, and Industry Contracting into an integrated organization. He oversees the Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC), with a mission to accelerate the commercialization of UC San Diego innovations and contribute to a sustainable society, by empowering a diverse entrepreneurial culture on campus, and strengthening a dynamic regional innovation ecosystem. Under his leadership, OIC has taken a collaborative approach, working with campus and community partners to launch new initiatives and enhance the existing ecosystem by identifying underserved innovation and entrepreneurship needs. Previously he was Senior Director of Office Technology Development at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, working with multiple academic institutes to develop strategic processes to drive innovation alliances, and help translate their research programs into products for patients and society. He guided the formation of multiple new start-up companies and was responsible for the negotiation of a broad spectrum of technology licenses to industry. As a key member of Ireland’s Innovation Taskforce (2009 to present), he co-authored a national economic-development plan for Ireland, among other achievements. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology, as well as his Ph.D., at Dublin City University in Ireland, and studied as a Postdoctoral Fellow with Dr. Greg Silverman at UC San Diego.

Nishal Mohan, Photo

Dr. Nishal Mohan is the National Community Leader for US Ignite and responsible for implementation of the Smart Gigabit Communities initiative. Nishal joined US Ignite after serving as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of the Assistant Director, Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF). He was responsible for developing and driving national initiatives in Big Data and data science, smart and connected health, smart cities and next generation internet and applications through the NSF US Ignite program. Previously, he served as the Director of biology policy for the Federation of American Scientists and Acting Director of Scientists and Engineers for America Action Fund. He also founded and served on the board of directors as the Executive Director of the international multi-organizational Virtual Biosecurity Center and founded Pandemic Academic, for emerging technology solutions to global infectious diseases. Nishal received his B.S. in biology at CUNY Hunter College and his Ph.D. in molecular biology at Princeton University.