Liz Patton is a MRC Programme Leader Scientist in the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine and Chair of Chemical Genetics at the University of Edinburgh. After completing her PhD in Molecular Genetics at the LTRI with Mike Tyers, Liz moved to Harvard Medical School to work with Len Zon, where she developed some of the first cancer models in zebrafish. Zebrafish followed her to Edinburgh where she now runs a research group focusing on using zebrafish to study melanocyte development and melanoma.
Douglas Hamilton is President and CEO of MetaStat, a personalized medicine company focused on improving survival of patients with aggressive cancer. After graduating with a B.Sc. in Medical Genetics at University of Toronto, Douglas completed his MBA at the Ivey Business School at Western University and has a successful career working in the US venture capital and biopharmaceutical industries. Mr. Hamilton has held positions of increasing responsibility at Pharmacia Biotechnology, Amgen, and Pfizer, in addition founding PolaRx Biopharmaceuticals and Javelin Pharmaceuticals. In this spotlight, Douglas recounts his memories from his time at U of T and offers advice on what makes a strong business leader.
Frédéric Sweeney is the Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategic Financing Lead at bioMérieux, a multinational biotechnology company specializing in diagnostic tools. He is based in Boston. An alumnus of Dan Durocher’s lab at the LTRI, Frédéric now uses his scientific background to scout for new technologies in a rapidly growing technology field. In this spotlight, Frédéric shares his thoughts on his career path and advice on how to translate your scientific training into a successful career in biotech.
Dr. Faiyaz Notta reflects on his experience as a graduate student in John Dick’s lab and how it inspired him to pursue a career in academia. After productive graduate and post-doc studies, he is now running his own lab as an Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) Fellow and Principal Investigator at the Princess Margaret Hospital, studying the mechanism of pancreatic cancer development. Faiyaz shares advice on how to achieve an academic career and how to run a successful research program.
Ramona Sequeira, President, United States Business Unit and a member of the executive team at Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd, shares her memories starting as an undergraduate student in Molecular Genetics and how it inspired her to pursue a career on the business and management side in the pharmaceutical industry. Ramona reflects on the different stages in her career journey, both complex and rewarding. She shares how she used her experiences to build the platform that has enabled her to be a successful leader and mentor, and maintain a healthy outlook in her personal and professional life.
Melanie Szweras is a partner, lawyer and registered Canadian and United States Patent Agent with the intellectual property law firm Bereskin & Parr LLP. Her practice focuses on biotechnology and pharmaceutical patents. Melanie attended the University of Toronto for both her undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees.
Dr. Cheryl Birmingham completed her PhD in John Brummel’s lab and directly started her career in industry through an NSERC-funded industrial post-doc position. She is now the Head of Bacteriology at Sanofi Pasteur. Through her personal experience after working in industry, Cheryl provides sage advice to trainees hoping to break through and land that first position at a company. Cheryl also reminisces about her time as a graduate student in MoGen and all the wonderful friends and connections she made, and the important impact that had on her career trajectory
Dr. Joseph Bondy-Denomy, Faculty Fellow at UCSF, shares his experiences starting as an accounting major to finding out that working in the lab is his true calling to discovering a whole new component of the CRISPR-Cas system, which he named “anti-CRISPRs”, through his work in Alan Davidson’s lab. As a more recent graduate, Joe offers insight and advice to those that are hoping to pursue a career in academia. Instead of dwelling on the competitiveness and lack of funding, Joe emphasizes the importance of having a polished story and figuring out your own niche in order to obtain a faculty position.
Dr. Zhigang He shares his memories from starting as a medical student in China to his graduate studies in Jim Ingles’ lab to finally, becoming a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Zhigang discusses his inspiration and work in inducing axon regeneration in the central nervous system in order to develop better neural repair strategies. He also provides advice to students, such as the importance of keeping an open mind and being receptive to the many opportunities around them.
Dr. Venus Lai, Executive Director at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, reflects on her career path starting with an internship with Johanna Rommens, to her graduate studies with Tony Pawson, to her current position where she leads a team of scientists aimed at increasing the speed at which therapeutics are developed. Venus reminisces about coffee hours at Mount Sinai, imparts advice on how to obtain a job in industry, and recommends that you should always be in pursuit of your dream job.
Towards the end of my career as a grad student in Molecular Genetics, I still wanted to stay in academia and I was considering a post-doc and I was eventually going to look for a faculty position and be a researcher. But I started having second thoughts on what the market was going to look like for academics in the future. While I was searching for positions as a post-doc, I also looked into other options. I didn’t really commit to an alternative career after Molecular Genetics. I did some post-doctoral work at York University, but not with the intention of following up with a faculty position, rather something to keep me busy while I prepared to go to business school. While I was at York University, in addition to doing research I also volunteered for the commercialization and tech transfer office. This gave me an experience, which I could use in my business school interviews as well as with potential employers after business school.
Michael Szego, Clinical Ethicist, Centre for Clinical Ethics reflects on his journey from completing his PhD with Prof. Roderick McInnes to earning a Master of Health Science in Bioethics and launching his career that brings together clinical consultations, policy development, education, and research. Michael highlights eureka moments in his career trajectory, the power of PhD training, and the importance of following your heart in career planning.
Scott Dixon, Assistant Professor of Biology at Stanford University discusses his career trajectory from being drawn to functional genomics research in MoGen to launching his own lab focused on cell death programs in development and disease. Scott highlights his experiences embarking on doctoral research as the first graduate student in Prof. Peter Roy’s lab, and reflects on how to make the most of your training to position yourself for an academic career in research.
Elizabeth Higgins, Founder and CEO of GlycoSolutions Corporation shares her journey from her doctoral work with James Dennis in the Department of Molecular Genetics to realizing her ambitions to become an entrepreneur. Elizabeth highlights key memories from graduate school, and provides sage advice for trainees hoping to pursue careers in biotechnology or as entrepreneurs.
Dr. Andrew Keeping, Supervisor, Development Analytics at ATCO Power Canada Ltd, reflects on his career pathway from completing his PhD with Dr. Rick Collins in Molecular Genetics to joining Boston Consulting Group to leading a business development group. Andrew shares strategies for leveraging skills from graduate school in the private sector, breaking stereotypes, and memories of 2D gels that look like the night sky in Algonquin Park.
Dr. Anthony Vecchiarelli, postdoctoral researcher at the NIH, shares his scientific journey from completing his doctoral work with Dr. Barbara Funnell in the Department of Molecular Genetics to winning the Vivash Award to developing a cell-free system to study spatial organization systems at the NIH. Anthony highlights his favourite memories from MoGen, and his passion for science that would prevail even if he won the lottery.
Dr. Tomas Babak, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology at Queen’s University, discusses his career trajectory from his PhD with Drs. Tim Hughes and Ben Blencowe to his industrial postdoc at Rosetta Inpharmatics to his senior scientist position at Merck, prior to returning to academia. Tomas provides insight on strategies to succeed in industry and keep doors open for academia, and his fascination with developing new technologies to address biological questions including ways in which to exploit high-throughput data sets to understand complex disorders, like schizophrenia and cancer.
Dr. Gillian Wu, former Dean of Pure and Applied Science at York University, discusses her career trajectory from being the first female graduate student in the Department of Medical Biophysics to her doctoral work with Dr. Helios Murialdo in Molecular Genetics to retirement in January 2015. Gillian provides pearls of wisdom pertaining to genetics of the immune system, women in science, choosing a mentor, and strategies for success.
Professor Pamela Stanley, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Chair and Professor of Cell Biology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, discusses her career trajectory from growing up in Australia to performing postdoctoral research with Dr. Lou Siminovitch in the then Department of Medical Genetics, to launching a career as an independent researcher at Einstein. Pamela provides career advice to young scientists and discusses moments of exciting discoveries such as new paradigms of how sugars can affect cell signaling, and how this could ultimately enable development of new strategies to treat human diseases.