PhD Career Connections: 2014-2015 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

2014-2015 PhD Career Connections

Month Topic Speaker
Management Consulting Dr. Laura Terry, PhD, McKinsey & Co.
College Teaching Mark Forsyth, PhD, Associate Professor, The College of William and Mary
Yanice Mendez-Fernandez, Assistant Professor, Trevecca Nazarene University
Nonacademic Postdocs Kelly Basi, PhD, Research Molecular Biologist, United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD)
Nuruddeen Lewis, PhD, Scientist, EMD Serono


Medical Science Liaison  Molly Seale, PhD, Director, Regional Medical Liaisons, Amgen Oncology


Health Outcomes Research Elizabeth Rula, PhD, Executive Director, Principal Investigator, Healthways Center for Health Research


Teaching in the K-12 Classroom
Jennifer Ufnar, PhD, Director, Scientist in the Classroom Partnership Program, Vanderbilt University Department of Teaching and Learning


Data Science 
Tom Lasko, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Biomedical Informatics
Elizabeth Ann Stringer, PhD, Analytics, Axial Healthcare


Working at the FDA  Omari Bandele, PhD, Toxicology Reviewer, FDA, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)


The BRET Office of Career Development presents:

PhD Career Connections: Management Consulting
Friday, September 12
Light Hall 214

featuring Laura Terry, PhD, consultant, McKinsey & Co.

 Reservations kindly requested through Eventbrite.

**There will be two separate small-group workshops with Dr. Terry later that day. You must register and attend the morning PhD Career Connections series to attend the later sessions. Please fill out the following survey to submit your interest in the other small sessions. 


[Laura Terry]  Laura Terry is an Associate with McKinsey & Co., where her recent work has focused on ensuring quality standards and regulatory compliance for medical devices. Prior to joining McKinsey & Co., Laura was a post-doctoral fellow in Molecular Biology at Princeton University with support from the American Cancer Society. In addition to conducting laboratory research in molecular virology, she taught courses on influenza, cell biology, and development at Princeton. She received a Ph.D. in Cell & Developmental Biology from Vanderbilt University. As a graduate student, Laura studied nulceocytoplasmic trafficking with Dr. Susan Wente. Her undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral research has been presented to a range of professional audiences, including the American Society for Microbiology, the American Society for Cell Biology, and the International Herpesvirus Workshop. Laura lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and enjoys distance running, cycling, and traveling. 

PhD Career Connections: College Teaching
Join us as we talk to two professors in different academic settings.

Tuesday, October 14
PRB 206

Mark Forsyth, PhD, Associate Professor, The College of William and Mary
Yanice Méndez-Fernandez, Assistant Professor, Trevecca Nazarene University


Registration kindly requested.

Mark Forsyth, PhD
Mark Forsyth, PhD, is an associate professor of Biology at The College of William & Mary and has been there since 2000.  He was a postdoctoral fellow at VUMC in the Infectious Disease Division from 1995 to 2000 and was a post doc at University of Connecticut from 1991-1995.  His graduate work was with the Pathobiology Department at University of Connecticut and his undergraduate was at the University of Maine, his home!  Forsyth's current research involves bacterial pathogenesis, specifically, the human gastric pathogen, Helicobacter pylori.  

Yanice Méndez-Fernandez
Dr. Méndez was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where she earned a Bachelor degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras.  She obtained a PhD in Biomedical Sciences with a specialization in Immunology from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN.  She spent 5 years as a post-doctoral fellow in the Deparment of Microbiology and Immunology and 3 years as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Vanderbilt University.  She currently teaches at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville and holds an adjunct position in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at Vanderbilt.

PhD Career Connections welcomes back two alumni who completed non-academic postdocs. Learn about their path, experience, and transition into full-time work. 

Kelly Basi, PhD and Nuruddeen Lewis, PhD

PhD Career Connections: Nonacademic Postdocs
Friday, November 7
Light Hall 214

Registration is requested. 

Kelly Basi, PhD
Dr. Kelly Basi attended Miami University of Ohio, earning a bachelor of science degree in biochemistry in 2005. Upon graduation, she entered the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where she joined the laboratory of Dr. Borden Lacy.  Dr. Basi studied the Helicobacter pylori vacuolating toxin and successfully determined the x-ray crystal structure of the receptor binding domain. Upon successfully defending her thesis in August 2010, she was awarded a Ph.D in Microbiology and Immunology.  Dr. Basi accepted a postdoctoral position in the laboratory of Dr. Gary Rockwood at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRCID) at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), MD. During her postdoctoral appointment, Dr. Basi was involved with improving countermeasures to treat cyanide poisoning.  She successfully received funding from the NIH CounterACT program to understand the gene expression of cyanide alone and in combination with antidotes.  She co-authored a book chapter titled “Chronic Cyanide Exposure” which will be published later this year.  In October 2012, Dr. Basi accepted a microbiologist position in the Federal government with the 20th Support Command on APG.  During her appointment, she was involved with developing methods to rapidly detect bacterial toxins in different environmental samples.  In May 2013, she accepted her current position as a research molecular biologist at USAMRICD, where she is currently involved in developing an Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Excretion Center.  Her current duties involve developing methods to understand the metabolism of novel candidate countermeasures for chemical warfare agents.  She has been awarded the Silver Award by the Federal Executive Board for excellence in federal service, and other awards for her contributions to the mission of USAMRICD.


Nuruddeen Lewis, PhD 
Nuruddeen Lewis is a scientist in the Cellular and Translational Immunology group at EMD Serono in Billerica, Massachusetts. He received his B.S. degree from Alabama State University and his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. After graduation, he performed his postdoctoral studies in the pharmaceutical industry at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals in Ridgefield, Connecticut. There, his work focused on autoimmune diseases and the identification and validation of potential drug targets. He now continues his work in drug discovery for autoimmune diseases at EMD Serono by using translational cell-based assays and bioinformatic analyses. Nuruddeen currently lives with his wife and three children in Andover, Massachusetts. You can reach him on LinkedIn.

The BRET Office of Career Development presents 

PhD Career Connections: Medical Science Liaison
Tuesday, December 16
Light Hall 214

Registration kindly requested.

Molly Seale, Director, Regional Medical Liaisons, Amgen Oncology

Join us later that day for a case session with Dr. Seale!

Molly Thoreson Seale is a Director of Regional Medical Liaisons at Amgen. She leads a team of medical liaisons who engage health care professionals on Amgen’s science, clinical trials, and product value. While at Amgen, Molly has been a part of the launch of seven new oncology molecules. She also leads special projects for Amgen Research & Development related to development of oncology therapeutics, congress participation, and product and skills training. Molly previously served as a medical liaison for eight years and has been managing teams for the past five years. She earned her doctorate from Vanderbilt in Cancer Biology where she worked on cell adhesion and signaling pathways. She still lives in Nashville where she and her husband raise 4 young children, support local agriculture, and travel often to support their hobbies of snow skiing and scuba diving.

Join us as Elizabeth Rula, PhD, discusses her role as a Health Outcomes Researcher at January's PhD Career Connections seminar.

PhD Career Connections: Health Outcomes Research
Friday, January 16, 2015
9:15-10:15am **NOTE ADJUSTED TIME
Light Hall 208

Registration is requested.

Elizabeth Rula, Ph.D., is an Executive Director and Principal Investigator at the Healthways Center for Health Research. In this role, she leads a team of interdisciplinary researchers in studies that evaluate the effectiveness of Healthways programs aimed at improving population well-being to reduce health care costs and improve productivity.  Additionally, Dr. Rula leads collaborative research with outside academic experts and key strategic partners to advance Healthways’ capability to improve well-being and to understand the impact of this improvement.

During her tenure at Healthways, Dr. Rula has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, white papers and reports that demonstrate the impact of Healthways existing programs, test innovative new strategies, and evaluate the importance of individual and community well-being on health care costs and productivity.  Her work has been featured in the media including the Wall Street Journal and CBS News and she presents regularly at national forums to advance corporate and policy initiatives around health and well-being improvement.

Prior to her work at Healthways, Dr. Rula earned her doctorate from Vanderbilt University in the field of Pharmacology and researched novel molecular modifications and their impact on neural signaling.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

STEM Teaching in K-12
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Light Hall 214 

featuring Jennifer Ufnar, PhD
Registration is requested.

Jennifer A. Ufnar, PhD, is the current director of the SCP Program at Vanderbilt University within the Department of Teaching and Learning. She holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and has recently joined the Department of Teaching and Learning from a faculty position in Biology at Southern Vermont College.

Dr. Ufnar has over a decade of experience in teaching at the K-16 level and implementing and directing programs in the science education arena. Her research interests center both on the scientific realm studying microbial ecology of archaea within animal systems, and the science education arena focusing on the efficacy of long-term professional development interventions for K-12 teachers.


PhD Career Connections presents: 

Data Science
Tuesday, March 10
Light Hall 214 

Registration requested.

featuring Tom Lasko, PhD, and Elizabeth Ann Stringer, PhD

Thomas A. Lasko, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Informatics
Tom has a PhD in Computer Science from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and an MD from UC San Diego. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Computer Science at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital, and a clinical internship at Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, WI (where he learned about all of the ways in which those bucolic farms will try to kill you if you set foot on them). He spent a few years as a Software Engineer at Google, where he developed the completely data-driven algorithm that powers the diagnosis engine called Google Symptom Search, and investigated methods to spot interesting medical patterns in the mind-bogglingly-massive Google query stream. His current research interest is in the computational aspects of precision, personalized medicine, including the data-driven discovery of unknown or emerging medical phenotypes from EMR data.

Elizabeth Ann Stringer, National Director of Science, Axial Healthcare
Elizabeth Ann Stringer, a Nashville native, graduated from Sewanee in 2003 with a B.S. in Physics and from Vanderbilt in 2010 with a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Her doctoral research focused on mapping somatosensory and pain processing in the healthy human brain with ultra high field fMRI at 7T. During her postdoctoral training at Stanford, she worked on several projects including measuring the neural effects of opioid exposure using MRI in the treatment of various pain syndromes and identifying biomarkers for chronic inflammatory conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and Gulf War illness. 

In 2013, Elizabeth Ann moved back to Nashville and started working for an early-stage startup, Axial Healthcare. Axial is a pain care solutions company, informed by advanced analytics and clinical evidence, and enabled by technology. Elizabeth Ann mines healthcare claims data to identify pain patients at risk for poor medical outcomes and to evaluate the performance of practitioners practicing in the pain space. 

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Working at the FDA
Wednesday, May 5
Light Hall 214 

Registration is requested.

featuring Omari Bandele, PhD

Omari earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Chemistry from Tennessee State University. While attending Tennessee State, he was the recipient of several honors and awards including the Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Scholarship and the Thurgood Marshall/Pfizer Research Initiative Scholarship. As a Thurgood Marshall Scholar, Omari completed two summer internships at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals where he worked in the Analytical Research and Development Department to develop and validate two-dimensional HPLC (2D-HPLC) methods to identify and separate impurities from potential therapeutic compounds.

Following his undergraduate studies, Omari attended Vanderbilt University where he earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry under the tutelage of Dr. Neil Osheroff. His doctoral research involved multiple projects to elucidate the mechanisms by which dietary bioflavonoids enhance the DNA-cleavage activity of human type II topoisomerases. During this time, he published four first-author publications and was the recipient of the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award and several other awards.

After completing his doctoral studies, Omari accepted a post-doctoral fellowship within the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) where he studied the effects of human single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) on p53-DNA interactions in response to DNA damaging agents. This work resulted in four publications, including one first-author publication, and him being a recipient of the NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE). During this time he also wrote several articles for the Environmental Factor, the official newsletter of the NIEHS.

After leaving the NIEHS, Omari accepted an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship within the Division of Toxicology at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). During this time, he introduced methods and analytical technologies to evaluate the performance of novel biomarkers of kidney injury in response to nephrotoxic food-related chemicals (i.e., melamine). This work resulted in two first-author publications. Omari also served as a contributing columnist for Bio Careers, an online career service provider that offers career resources to life science PhDs and MDs.

In 2013, Omari joined CFSAN’s Division of Food Contact Notifications as a toxicology reviewer. As a toxicology reviewer, he is responsible for conducting premarket safety assessments of food contact substances (e.g., coatings, plastics, paper, antimicrobials, and antioxidants) that are used in food containers and packaging to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply.