PhD Career Connections: 2012-2013 Seminar Series

connection-logo.jpgVanderbilt PhD Career Connections is a monthly seminar series about career options for PhD scientists. Speakers from a diverse range of exciting scientific careers present their career path and share insights from their professional experiences. The series is run by VUMC PhD students and postdoctoral fellows and sponsored by the BRET Office of Career Development. Advance registration is requested for all seminars. Click on the speaker name to register and view event details and speaker bios.

For more information on the series, to suggest a speaker, or to become a member of the PhD Career Connections Planning Committee, please contact Kate Stuart

2012-2013 PhD Career Connections

Month Topic Speaker

September (9/25/12)

Research Development and Administration Panel Discussion with Dr. Julie Koh, Director of Foundation Relations, Vanderbilt University; Dr. Erica Bowton, BioVU Program Director for the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research; and Dr. Tiffanie Markus, Research Compliance Coordinator for Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute.
October (10/15/12) Technology Transfer and Patent Lawco-sponsored by the Life Science Tennessee Graduate Alliance Panel Discussion with Dr. Mike Villalobos, Manager of Biotech Licensing for the Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Vanderbilt; and Dr. Sean Seymore, Professor of Law, Professor of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University. 
November (12/3/12) Drug Development, co-sponsored by Cancer Biology Dr. Sharon McGonigle, Principal Scientist, Esai Pharmaceuticals
December (12/12/12) Science Journalism, co-sponsored by Biochemistry Student Association Dr. Carmen Drahl, Senior Editor, Science/Technology/Education, Chemical & Engineering News
January (1/30/13) Teaching, co-sponsored by the Postdoc Association and the Chemical Biology Association of Students Panel Discussion with Dr. Cynthia Brame, Assistant Director for Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University; Dr. Caroline Hanson, Assistant Professor of Biology at Columbia State Community College; and Dr. Darlene Panvini, Associate Professor of Biology at Belmont University
February (2/11/13) Medical Communications Panel Discussion with Dr. Nicole Speed, Strategic Consultant with Ethos Health Communications; and Dr. Erin Flynt, Senior Medical Writer with Envision Communications
March (2/26/13) Consulting Dr. Chengyi Lin, Consultant, Bain & Company

April (4/1/13)

The Academic Entrepreneur, co-sponsored by the TechVenture Challenge Panel Discussion with Dr. Bob Galloway, PhD, Biomedical Engineering; and Dr. Jeff Sonsino, OD, Opthamology and Visual Sciences
May (5/29/13) Pharma Industry Dr. Terry Kenakin, professor of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina Medical School


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Research Development and Administration
with panelists

Dr. Julie Koh, Director of Foundation Relations, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Erica Bowton, BioVU Program Director, Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research
Dr. Tiffanie Markus, Research Compliance Coordinator, Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
206 Preston Research Building 

Advance registration requested at

Dr. Julie Koh is the Director of Foundation Relations in the department of Development and Alumni Relations at Vanderbilt University. Her department is responsible for connecting private foundation-sponsored research programs with a principal investigator at Vanderbilt. Julie received her PhD in 2000 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Department of Microbiology. She then worked as a Postdoctoral fellow in the Departments of Cell and Developmental Biology (2001-2005) and Ophthalmology at Vanderbilt (2005-2007). Before taking her current position, she was the Director of Development for Biomedical Research in the Development and Alumni Relations Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from 2007 to 2010.

Dr. Erica Bowton is a Program Manager with VICTR (Vanderbilt Institute of Clinical and Translational Research). She implements and manages large-scale multi-disciplinary programs including BioVU, Vanderbilt’s DNA databank, and Vanderbilt’s PREDICT program which moves genomic information into patient electronic records for decision making in the therapy of multiple drugs. She earned her doctorate in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics in 2009 and has a strong background in neuroscience and genetics. She is responsible for the overall management of programs and projects including distribution of communications, project information, project timelines, milestones, and deliverables as well as ensuring the coordination of essential meetings with various groups such as steering committees, advisory boards, and directors.


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Technology Transfer & Patent Law

with panelists
Dr. Mike Villalobos, Manager of Biotech Licensing, Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Vanderbilt University
Dr. Sean Seymore, Professor of Law and Professor of Chemistry, Vanderbilt University
Monday, October 15, 2012
415 Light Hall


Advance registration requested at


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Drug Development

Dr. Sharon McGonigle, Principal Scientist
Oncology Product Creation Unit, Discovery Biology, Eisai, Inc. 

Monday, December 3, 2012
512 Light Hall
Co-sponsored by the Department of Cancer Biology.
Advance registration requested at

Dr. Sharon McGonigle joined Eisai Inc., in November 2007 as a Senior Scientist.  Eisai is a research-oriented, global pharmaceutical company.  Sharon McGonigle, a Principal Scientist since June 2011, is a member of the Oncology Product Creation Unit (PCU) in the Discovery Biology Department.  The PCU takes full responsibility for conducting the series of processes ranging from the discovery of innovative drug candidates through NDA filing and obtaining approval. Sharon’s role is to lead pre-clinical biology efforts on two programs, one of which is in early discovery and one that is currently in early clinical development. Responsibilities include all aspects of moving the program forward, designing suitable experiments, collating and reviewing all data, collaborating with outside academic labs or CROs as necessary, and communicating all progress to project teams and the oncology unit upper management as required. 

Dr. McGonigle completed her PhD in the field of parasitology in 1996 at Dublin City University, Ireland.  She completed post-doctoral appointments at the Medical University of South Carolina and Cornell University also in the field of parasitology prior to making a move to industry in 2001.  Applying the biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular biology expertise earned in academia, she moved to small start-up biotechnology companies in the Boston area.  At Consensus Pharmaceuticals, her focus was on molecular biology specifically in the area of proteases and GPCRs.  Then, during her almost five year tenure at Surface Logix, she gained her first true drug discovery experience and was involved in research on two drugs which eventually made it to the clinic for cardiovascular disease and for cancer.  These experiences enabled her move to the larger pharmaceutical company Eisai, where she now focuses exclusively on drug discovery for cancer.

PhD Career Connections presents

Telling a Chemist's Story: A Science Writing Primer

 Dr. Carmen Drahl, Senior Editor, Science/Technology/Education,
Chemical & Engineering News

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
512 Light Hall
Co-sponsored by the Biochemistry Student Association; Advance registration requested here.

Science journalism- it's a mainstay on lists of alternative careers. It's not for everyone. But it's a part of the fabric of science that researchers can't afford to ignore. This talk is for the student or postdoc trying to decide on a career direction. But it's also for faculty who want to know which of their students might thrive in writing. And it's for any scientist, whether headed to industry, academia, government, or beyond, who wants to know how to work with science writers and how writers decide what to cover. 

Carmen Drahl grew up in New Jersey, and majored in chemistry at Drew University. She earned her chemistry Ph.D. at Princeton University, where she worked for Erik Sorensen on the total synthesis of abyssomicin C. In her third year of graduate school she began working toward a career in science journalism. She wrote for the Princeton chemistry department, the Princeton University press office, Association of Women in Science magazine, and at her blog, She Blinded Me with Science. Since 2007, she's reported for Chemical & Engineering News magazine, where she is now a Senior Editor. At C&EN she's written about how new medications get their names, how chemistry grad schools stacked up in new rankings, and how an alleged arsenic life form sparked a scientific firestorm. Her work has been featured on SiriusXM's "Doctor Radio", Radio New Zealand's "This Way Up", and elsewhere. Her coverage has been also recognized by MIT's Knight Science Journalism Tracker.


To access the event's handout which included helpful information about science journalism, visit this link

PhD Career Connections presents

phd Career connections


A presentation by and discussion with 

Cynthia Brame, Ph.D. 
Assistant Director, Center for Teaching
Affiliated Faculty, Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University
Caroline Hanson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biology
Columbia State Community College
Darlene Panvini, Ph.D. 
Associate Professor of Biology
Chair of the Department of Biology, Belmont University
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
4:00-5:00 pm
Location: Light Hall, Room 214
Co-sponsored by the Postdoc Association and the Chemical Biology Association of Students. 
Cynthia Brame, Ph.D.

Cynthia Brame currently serves as the new assistant director at the Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching (CFT).  Cynthia previously was an associate professor of biology at Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. Cynthia received her B.S. from Centre College and her Ph.D. in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University.  AtCentenary, Cynthia has taught a variety of courses in the biology program, including cell biology, genetics, and the biology of cancer.

Cynthia approaches her teaching with a spirit of experimentation and innovation.  She helped develop and assess a series of inquiry-based labs for her genetics course, and published this work in the journal CBE—Life Sciences Education.  She has collaborated with colleagues from several disciplines, including philosophy, computer science, and dance, to develop interdisciplinary content to integrate into biology courses.  And she’s been an active member of the Centenary College faculty, having served on committees tasked with revising the college’s core curriculum and the department’s biology major. Cynthia has also mentored over a dozen students in undergraduate research experiences.

Caroline Hanson, Ph.D.

Caroline Hanson is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Columbia State Community College. Caroline formerly was a research fellow at Vanderbilt University. 

Darlene Panvini, Ph.D. 

Darlene Panvini is an associate professor of Biology at Belmont University and currently serves as the Chair of the Department of Biology. She specializes in the areas of environmental science, ecology, botany, and conservation. She received a B.S. in Biology from Gardner-Webb University and a Ph.D. in Biology from Vanderbilt University. 

She held the position of Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University for 12 years; and it was during this time that she focused on university-level teaching pedagogies while developing and coordinatingprofessional development programs for graduate students. She joined the Belmont Biology faculty in 2003. Her teaching interests include case studies and service-learning to enhance student engagement. She spearheaded establishing the Environmental Science program, advises the Environmental Club and gets students involved in field biology outside the classroom.

phd career connections

PhD Career Connections presents

Medical Communications 

Panel discussion with: 
Dr. Nicole Speed, Strategic Consultant, Ethos Health Communicatons
Dr. Erin Flynt, Senior Medical Writer, Envision Communication

Monday, February 11, 2013
Location: Light Hall, Room 512

Advance registration requested.

Nicole Speed
Nicole received her PhD in Pharmacology in 2010 at Vanderbilt.  Following completion of her doctorate, she completed a brief post-doc at the University of Pennsylvania before starting her currently position at ETHOS Health Communications as a Strategic Consultant.  Her work involves advising Pharmaceutical Marketing and Medical teams on strategic brand planning and execution of promotional tactics, including advisory boards, speaker programs, development of branded and unbranded content, and thought leader development. She also is involved in financial planning and revenue goals for her company, as well as overall team management.

Erin Flynt
Erin received her PhD in Cancer Biology in 2007 at Vanderbilt. Following completion of her doctorate, she completed a brief post-doc before leaving Vanderbilt to take a position at Precept Medical Communications as a Scientific Associate. At Precept, she used her knowledge base gained during graduate school to contribute to promotional medical education initiatives in a variety of therapeutic categories including Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, resistant hypertension, and Crohn’s disease. From this position, she was ultimately promoted to the role of Medical Director, taking a larger part in strategic brand planning across multiple accounts. Erin is currently a Senior Medical Writer with Envision Communications which specializes in oncology medical education. Her current role aligns her with Envision’s largest client where she focuses on education and strategic brand planning for 2 multiple myeloma products. Her career in promotional medical education has allowed her to work in multiple therapeutic categories with products ranging from early development through post-launch. 

PhD Career Connections presents

phd career connections


Dr. Chengyi Lin, Consultant
Bain & Co.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Preston Research Building, Room 206
Co-sponsored by the Vanderbilt University Advanced Degree Consulting Club.
Advance registration requested at 
Chengyi Lin is a Consultant in the Chicago office of Bain & Company. He joined Bain in 2011. While at Bain, Chengyi's work spans multiple practice areas and industries. His experience includes corporate spin-off, global expansion, marketing strategy for emerging markets, customer retention, IT strategy, and performance improvement. He has worked with clients in consumer products, healthcare, and industrial goods and services. Chengyi holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Neurosciences from Northwestern University and a B.Sc. in Biosciences and Biotechnology from Tsinghua University.

PhD Career Connections presents

phd career connections

The Academic Entrepreneur

Panel discussion featuring:

Bob Galloway, Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering

Jeff Sonsino, O.D., Ophthalmolagy and Visual Sciences

The panel will include a discussion of how these investigators have balanced roles as academic researchers and as entrepreneurs and provide insight on how students can follow a similar path.

Bring your questions!  

Monday, April 1, 2013
Location: Light Hall, Room 419 A-D
Co-sponsored by the TechVenture Challenge.

PhD Career Connections presents

phd career connections

Big Pharma

Discussion with: 

Dr. Terrence Kenakin
Professor, Department of Pharmacology
University of North Carolina 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Location: Light Hall, Room 214

Terrence Kenakin, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Until August of 2011, Dr. Kenakin was director of research at GlaxoSmithKline Research and Development laboratories at Research Triangle Park, NC, where he optimized drug activity assay systems for the discovery and testing of allosteric molecules mostly for the treatment of diabetes. Before starting the major stint of his drug discovery career at GSK, Dr. Kenakin was an associate scientist at Burroughs-Wellcome in the U.K. which he joined after a post-doctoral fellowship at University College London, U.K. Dr. Kenakin earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology at the University of Alberta Edmonton, Canada. Dr. Kenakin is a member of many editorial boards as well as Co-editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Receptors and Signal Transduction. In addition, he has authored numerous articles and has written eight books on pharmacology, including the popular "A Pharmacology Primer".