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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies
Professional and Career Development Series
Careers Beyond the Bench

November 3, 2016
Drexel University Campus

Careers Beyond the Bench Video
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View September 5, 2014, Event Images

Careers Beyond the Bench, a one-day professional development conference, featured accomplished speakers and panelists discussing non-academic career options for graduate students and postdocs. Attendees learned about careers in private industry, federal government and foundations, as well as training strategies and career planning tools. Morning sessions included seven plenary speakers, followed by a time for questions and answers. Topics of discussion included the future of health care research, how to talk to your advisor about a career shift, the value of a dual degree, career opportunities in biotechnology, drug development and more.

After a brief break for lunch, there were a series of break-out sessions profiling three recent success stories from professionals in the industry, and how-to sessions that included tips from a scientific recruiter.

Careers Beyond the Bench speakers
Speakers and panelists, top row: Toby Freedman, PhD, Executive Recruiter, Synapsis Search Recruiting; Ken Maynard, PhD, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company; Lique Coolen, PhD, University of Mississippi; Sudhir Rao, MS, MBA, Director, R&D Transactions, Takeda Pharmaceuticals; Paul Calvo, PhD, JD, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox; Elinor H. Cantor, PhD, Drexel University College of Medicine.
Bottom row: Christopher Thomas, PhD, NINDS; Gul Serbest, PhD, Incyte Corp; Daphney Jean, PhD, NSF; Christina R. Maxwell, PhD, MTR, Research Director, Drexel Neurosciences Institute; Rae Nishi, PhD, Director of Education, Marine Biological Laboratory; Jillian Scavone, PhD, oncology scientist and medical writer at National Comprehensive Cancer Networks.


Download the Agenda [PDF]

Bossone Research Enterprise Center
3140 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (View Map)


Bossone Center, 1st Floor Lobby
8:30 a.m.  

Welcome and Overview

Mitchell Auditorium, 1st Floor
9 a.m. Elisabeth Van Bockstaele, PhD, dean, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies

Morning Plenary, Career Trajectories

9:10 a.m. Lique Coolen, PhD, University of Mississippi
How to Talk to Your Advisor About a Career Shift: Timing and Best Practices

More about Dr. Coolen

Lique Coolen, PhD, is a professor of physiology, and neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi. Her research focuses on the neurobiology of reward and motivation

Lique also serves as associate dean of postdoctoral studies within the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences at the University of Mississippi.

9:30 a.m. Christopher Thomas, PhD, NINDS
Science: A Constant Rewrite

More about Dr. Thomas

Christopher Thomas, PhD, is a science writer at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he helps educate the public about NIH-funded research. He has a PhD in neuroscience from Oregon Health and Science University. Prior to becoming a writer, Chris spent 20 years in labs investigating a range of subjects. In 2011, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship and policy and communications internships, Chris joined NIH's National Eye Institute as a writer. In 2012, he joined NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Office of Communications and Public Liaison, where he works now.

9:50 a.m. Toby Freedman, PhD, Executive Recruiter, Synapsis Search Recruiting
Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development
Moderated by Jacqueline Schneider, PhD Candidate

More about Dr. Freedman

Toby Freedman, PhD, is an author and founder/president of Synapsis Search. A scientist by training, she transitioned into business as a recruiter, writer and career development expert. Her book Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development (, published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, provides an in-depth and comprehensive overview of the many careers in the life sciences industry. Her book covers over 20 vocational areas ranging from venture capital to marketing and discovery research.

Toby founded her own recruiting firm, Synapsis Search, which is focused on life science R&D and business placements. She previously worked at BioQuest, an executive retained search firm, placing VP and CEO-level executives, and as director of business development at SLIL Biomedical, a startup drug discovery company developing therapeutics for cancer. She earned a PhD in biology/molecular biology from UNC Chapel Hill, a BS from the University of California, and as an NIH fellow, conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard University and at the University of Texas-Austin.

Toby is the program chair for the BioScience Forum, a nonprofit educational forum serving the San Francisco biotechnology community and is also a volunteer for Women in Bio.

10:30 a.m. Question and Answer Session
10:45 a.m. Break
11 a.m. Gul Serbest, PhD, Incyte Corp
Developing Your Career for a Future in Health Care Research
Moderated by Anand Rao, PhD Candidate

More about Dr. Serbest

Gul Serbest, PhD, is a director in clinical development at Incyte Corp, Wilmington, Delaware. During her 12-year career in the pharmaceutical industry, she assumed various roles in clinical development with increasing responsibility at various pharma and biotech companies. Prior to her industrial career, she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD degree from BIOMED at Drexel University.

Both her PhD and postdoc research was focused on neurotrauma, neuronal injuries, recovery and signaling pathways. She also earned an MS in information science at Drexel University, in which she mostly focused on -omic sciences and bioinformatics. Most recently, she has also earned MBA in pharmaceutical management at Temple University Fox Business School. In her current work, she supports immune-oncology focused clinical development in solid tumors.

She lives with her husband and three sons in Philadelphia. She loves to spend time with her family and friends, cooking, baking, biking, and learning to play guitar.

11:20 a.m. Sudhir Rao, MBA, Director, R&D Transactions, Takeda Pharmaceuticals

More about Mr. Rao

Sudhir Rao is currently director of R&D transactions in the Center for External Innovation at Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. in Cambridge, Mass. He has been working in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years, with the first 15 years focusing on inflammation and oncology research and development, leading early discovery and translational studies at UCB Pharma and Merck. His last five years have been focused in business development/R&D transactions at Ironwood Pharma and Takeda, leading execution of a number of deals to meet company strategic objectives. Sudhir has a BA in biochemistry, an MS in epidemiology and an MBA.

11:40 a.m. Ken Maynard, PhD, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company
Best Practices When Preparing for a Career Shift Outside of Academia

More about Dr. Maynard

Kenneth Maynard, PhD, is senior director in the Central Nervous System Therapeutic Area Unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Formerly he was an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital. His doctorate in neurobiology is from University College, London, U.K. Having more than 50 scientific publications, he serves on four international journals' editorial boards. He is a fellow of the American Heart Association, chair of the Professional Development Committee and councilor for the Society for Neuroscience, and serves on the Executive Committee of the International Dose-Response Society and External Scientific Panel of the NIH director's Program on Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training.

12:20 p.m. Question and Answer Session
Behrakis Grand Hall, Creese Student Center
3210 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (View Map)

Lunch and break-out sessions follow at Behrakis Grand Hall, 3210 Chestnut Street - View Map)

12:35 p.m. Lunch - You may pick up your box lunch from 12:35 to 1:30 p.m. in Behrakis Grand Hall Center

Afternoon Break-Out Sessions I & III
Behrakis Grand Hall North: Recent Success Stories

Session A:
1:45 - 3 p.m.


Session B:
3:10 - 4:25 p.m.

  Christina Maxwell, PhD, MTR, Research Director, Drexel Neurosciences Institute
Pursuing a Career Beyond the Bench: My Experience as a Translational Researcher

More about Dr. Maxwell

Christina Maxwell, PhD, MTR, is a clinical neuroscientist with specialized translational research training. Her goal as research director for Drexel Neurosciences Institute (DNI) is to facilitate collaborations between engineering, pharmacology, biology and DNI to encourage translation from lab/bench to beside and back to bench. DNI is unique in that they have a large population of neurosciences patients in an academic setting where they can design and implement clinical trials based on observed unmet needs and pursue specific preclinical questions based on clinical phenomenon.

  Daphney Jean, PhD, NSF
How Being an AAAS Fellow Is Guiding My Career Outside of Academia

More about Dr. Jean

Daphney Jean, PhD, is a recent alumna of the AAAS Science and Technology policy fellowship, where she served her fellowship term in the Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF). As a fellow, Daphney contributed to various initiatives related to both program evaluation and management of the engineering education research programs at NSF. In addition to her fellowship activities, Daphney served as a congressional team member of the Alzheimer's Association, where she advocated for increased funding for both research and care planning resources. Daphney earned her doctorate in neuroscience from Drexel University and a bachelor of science from Stony Brook University.

  Jillian Scavone, PhD, Oncology Scientist and Medical Writer at National Comprehensive Cancer Network
Working as a Medical Writer

More about Dr. Scavone

Jillian Scavone earned a PhD in neuroscience in 2010 from Thomas Jefferson University. Her doctoral work involved clinical and translational research on opioid dependence and withdrawal. She has a BA in psychology with a concentration in neural and behavioral sciences from Haverford College.

Jillian currently works at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a not-for-profit alliance of 27 of the world's leading cancer centers that is devoted to patient care, research and education. At NCCN, her primary responsibility is to work with expert panels to develop the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. She also creates and reviews scientific content for proposals, continuing education materials, and industry permission requests. Prior to joining NCCN, Jillian was a senior research analyst at ECRI Institute, a non-profit health care research organization. At ECRI, she worked to identify and track clinical developments in the areas of oncology and neuroscience. Jillian has also worked as an associate in the Center for Quality at the American College of Physicians, where she was involved in developing and executing quality improvement initiatives, continuing education activities and grant proposals.

In her spare time, Jillian enjoys studying dance, volunteering at animal rescues and spending time with her family and pets.


Afternoon Break-Out Sessions II & IV
Behrakis Grand Hall South: Learn How To

Session B:
1:45 - 3 p.m.


Session A:
3:10 - 4:25 p.m.

  Paul Calvo, PhD, JD, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox
Seeking a Dual Degree: Is It Worth It? Plus, Patent Office Jobs

More about Dr. Calvo

Paul Calvo, PhD, JD, is a director at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C. in Washington, D.C. He advises biopharmaceutical companies ranging in size from startups to industry-leading multinationals on complex legal issues related to the protection and enforcement of their intellectual property. He practices primarily in the fields of immunology and biotherapeutics, with a particular focus on therapeutic antibodies. Paul received his PhD in molecular and cell biology from the Medical College of Pennsylvania - Hahnemann University and his JD from the Catholic University of America.

  Rae Nishi, PhD, Director of Education, Marine Biological Laboratory, MBL
The Importance of Face-to-Face Networking in Making a Career Transition

More about Dr. Nishi

Rae Nishi, PhD, is the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Director of Education at the Marine Biological Laboratory. She has a BS in biological sciences with honors and distinction from Stanford University; a PhD in biology from the University of California, San Diego; and did her postdoctoral training in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.

Her research, which was continuously funded by NIH grants for over 30 years, was in developmental neurobiology and neurodegenerative disease. She has a strong track record in training: 11 predoctoral trainees have earned PhDs in her lab and she has trained over 30 undergraduates. For the past eight years she served as the founding director of the university-wide Neuroscience Graduate Program as well as the director of the Neuroscience, Behavior, and Health Transdisciplinary Research Initiative at the University of Vermont.

Prior to the University of Vermont, where she was from 2001 to 2016, she rose through the faculty ranks at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, from 1986 to 2001. She moved to Woods Hole to assume her current role in January 2016.

  Elinor H. Cantor, PhD, Drexel University College of Medicine
Current Trends for Working With Recruiters, and What Is Possible for a Graduate Student or Postdoc in Working With Recruiters

More about Dr. Cantor

Elinor Cantor, PhD, had a successful career in biopharmaceutical executive search after entering the field in 1990. From 1996 to 2011, she and her partner, Barry N. Jones, PhD, operated CJ Resources, Inc., an executive search firm serving the biopharmaceutical industry. During her career she successfully recruited and placed individuals in positions ranging from R&D scientist to senior management to corporate director.

In addition to her work in executive search, Ellie was a project manager for Life Science Career Alliance from 2009 to 2011, supporting the organization's communications, outreach and knowledge functions.

Now retired from the search business, Ellie is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine, where she serves as a small group facilitator in the Program for Integrated Learning curriculum. Previously she was an adjunct faculty member at Penn State Abington and taught pharmacology to students at Aria Health School of Nursing.

Ellie has a BA in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, a MS in pharmacology from University of the Sciences and a PhD in pharmacology from Drexel University College of Medicine. She received an MBA from Montclair State University.

Behrakis Center Hall


4:30 p.m. Behrakis Center Hall

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