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2015-17 Archive

2015-2016 Series

PhD Career Connections presents:

Science Advocacy

featuring Gerry Ostheimer, PhD

Wednesday, September 9 11:00am-noon Light Hall 512

Gerard (Gerry) Ostheimer is the Global Lead for Sustainable Bioenergy with the UN Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. Gerry currently works to create the Sustainable Bioenergy High Impact Opportunity (HIO) under the auspices of the UN Sustainable Energy For All Initiative. This group seeks the creation of high functioning Public-Private Partnerships to foster the deployment of solutions to global need for energy access and increasing the use of renewables through the sustainable production and use of bioenergy. Prior to his current work, Gerry served as a USDA FAS Science Advisor who promoted the sustainable production and use of bioenergy for sustainable development. He received his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Oregon. 

PhD Career Connections presents:

Science Careers through Networking

featuring Holly Falk-Krzesinski, PhD

September 24
Light Hall 214


The challenges and complexity of the 21st century society necessitate a scientifically-informed US policy, economy, and global competitiveness.  To accomplish this we need:

  • Top scientists conducting research and disseminating findings broadly and teaching science;
  • Science embedded in leadership in all sectors, government, education, nonprofit, and business; and
  • A scientific-literate public.

A broad range of career options are available to PhD scientists and engineers to support such a strong science society. Dr. Holly Falk-Krzesinski will discuss her personal career journey as a scientist in the pharmaceutical, academic, and publishing sectors and how she leveraged her professional network for career advancement.  She will share insight about how all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can plan for a successful career in science through effective collaboration and networking.  She will also share information about the portfolio of resources Elsevier has developed specifically for early career researchers.  

Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski, PhD, is the Vice President for Strategic Alliances in Global Academic Relations for Elsevier where she is focused on how insight from data and analytics guide strategic planning for the research enterprise. Dr. Falk-Krzesinski’s engagement activities emphasize building new relationships and strategic alliances around important issues for research and research training, such as those related to: research analytics & strategic planning; economic development; early career researcher development; scholarly communication& open access/open data; research & faculty information management; expertise discovery & collaboration; research metrics & impact. Dr. Falk-Krzesinski is also involved in broadly promoting early career researchers and women leaders in STEM, serving on the NIH’s BEST program External Scientific Panel and as Editor-in-Chief for the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) Magazine. She also serves on the Business Steering Group for ORCID.   

Prior to joining Elsevier, Dr. Falk-Krzesinski had been a faculty member in arts & sciences and medicine at Northwestern University where she led initiatives related to research development, grantsmanship, and team science. She facilitated a multitude of trans-institutional collaborative grant programs spanning art history to bioenergy to translational medicine, with a special interest on approaches to evaluating collaboration and interdisciplinary research. Through her leadership with the Annual International Science of Team Science Conference, Dr. Falk-Krzesinski has been instrumental in developing a strong community of practice for team science and interdisciplinary research. She also launched the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) in 2008, serving as the organization's founding president and then chair of membership until 2013, and has developed a number of STEM related career development programs with a special emphasis on early career scientists and women such as the Chicago Collaboration for Women in STEM.

Dr. Falk-Krzesinski is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Chicago with a BS in Biological Sciences and Chemistry. She earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. She has retained a faculty appointment at Northwestern University where she continues to teach grantsmanship courses in the Philanthropy and Nonprofit program.

PhD Career Connections presents:

Entrepreneur & Management Consulting

Leeland Eckstrom, PhD, Managing Director, BioVU Partnerships, McKinsey & Co.

Thursday, October 22
Light Hall 214 

Leeland Ekstrom, PhD is currently the Managing Director of BioVU Partnerships at VUMC.  Leeland is working with the BioVU team to explore new ways to extend this unique database into commercial applications and is building a start-up offering drug rescue and re-purposing services to pharmaceutical companies. Prior to joining VUMC, Leeland was an Associate Principal at McKinsey & Co., working in the firm's Boston, Silicon Valley and Denver offices. During his six and a half years as a management consultant, he focused on a range of commercial (e.g., marketing & sales optimization, go-to-market strategies) and innovation-related topics (e.g., genomics & personalized medicine, R&D productivity, product launch) for pharma, biotech, diagnostics, medical device and health system clients. He led McKinsey's Personalized Medicine initiative, authoring several external publications and supporting other consulting teams around the world on this topic. Before consulting, Leeland completed his PhD in Health Sciences & Technology at MIT, where he studied visual neuroscience in non-human primates using fMRI. His undergraduate degrees in Engineering Physics and the Life Sciences were completed at Queen's University in Canada.  Leeland lives with his wife in Boulder, Colorado, where he enjoys running, skiing, hiking and Boulder's gourmet restaurant scene.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

From Pharma to Philanthropy

featuring Jeremy Richman, PhD

Tuesday, November 17
Light Hall 214


Dr. Jeremy Richman has extensive research experience that spans the range from neuroscience and neuropsychopharmacology, to cardiovascular biology, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, immunology and inflammation, and kidney disease.  He has worked in the drug discovery arena for over two decades and is passionate about helping people live happier and healthier lives.  His hobbies include rock climbing, mountain biking, kung fu, and teaching children how to be healthy and happy.

Dr. Richman earned his Bachelor of Science degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis on chemistry and physics from the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ in 1992.  He worked as a laboratory technician for two years in the lab of Dr. Henry Yamamura, studying the pharmacology of pain modulation and molecular pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease.  In 1994, Dr. Richman was accepted into the graduate program of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Arizona where he earned a Ph.D. studying the distribution and functions of alpha2-adrenaline receptors in the laboratory of Dr. John Regan.

In January of 1998, Dr. Richman continued his research on the sympathetic nervous system in the laboratory of Dr. Lee Limbird at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN.  Here, Dr. Richman focused on the sub-cellular distribution of the alpha2-adrenaline receptors as it pertained to micro-domain and synaptic formation.  In January of 2001, Dr. Richman moved into drug discovery as a neuroscientist at Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc, San Diego, CA with the hope of identifying therapeutic mechanisms to prevent schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.  His drug discovery interests broadened over the next decade, leading projects in atherosclerosis and thrombosis, and eventually diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.  In January of 2011, Dr. Richman took on a drug discovery leadership role at Boehringer Ingelheim in Danbury, CT exploring ways to prevent or cure a number of autoimmune and chronic diseases of the cardiovascular and metabolic systems.

Following the murder of his daughter, Avielle, Dr. Richman and his wife, Jennifer Hensel, started the Avielle Foundation. It is his belief that through brain health research and initiatives, we can protect our loved ones and foster happier and stronger communities.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Research and Development

Friday, December 4
Light Hall 214

featuring Ken Maynard, PhD, Global Program Leader, CNS, Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Ken Maynard, PhD, the Global Program Leader with Takeda Pharmaceuticals, drives strategic, scientific, and operational multi-national, cross-functional teams in research and development and external innovation. Dr. Maynard identifies external innovation opportunies that complement, diversify, and add value to the internal pipeline. He previously led a laboratory of medical students and neurosurgeons in research centered on cerebral ischemia and stroke as an Assistant Professor in Surgery (Neurosurgery) at Harvard Medical School and Assistant Neuroscientist, in the Neurosurgical Service, at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Academic Clinical Research panel

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Light Hall 208

featuring Mallory Hacker, PhD; Tiffanie Markus, PhD; and Courtnee Melton, PhD

Mallory Hacker, PhD, Research Instructor, Department of Neurology

Mallory Hacker is a member of the research faculty in the Division of Movement Disorders, Department of Neurology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She received a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Vanderbilt University where she characterized a selective neurodegeneration pathway arising from Coenzyme Q deficiency in C. elegans. In her current role, Dr. Hacker leads a group of research staff with a focus on Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Dr. Hacker earned an Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) approved by the FDA for Vanderbilt University to conduct a large scale, phase III, multicenter pivotal clinical trial testing deep brain stimulation in early stage Parkinson’s disease. She led all aspects of a multicenter consortium application to the NIH, including scientific writing, budget development, site selection, and protocol finalization. Dr. Hacker also regularly presents research findings at national and international conferences. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has twice funded her work in preparation for the FDA-approved pivotal, phase III clinical trial.


Courtnee Melton, PhD, Clinical Research Coordinator, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Courtnee Melton is a Clinical Research Coordinator at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.  In this role she coordinates studies focused on metabolic and hemodynamic determinants of right heart failure in pulmonary hypertension and using non-invasive imaging to understand the relationship between systemic and myocardial metabolism.  In 2013, she received her Ph.D. in Health Outcomes and Policy Research from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.  Her research interests include health disparities, health literacy, and patient empowerment. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Courtnee was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at a Health Disparities Research Center at UTHSC.  She left her postdoc a year early because she wanted to take her career a different route which is yet to be determined.  Her undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Exercise Physiology were completed at The University of Memphis. 


Tiffanie M. Markus, Ph.D., Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy

Dr. Markus is the Project Director of the Tennessee Emerging Infections Program at Vanderbilt. Her previous work has focused on a broad range of research topics including psychological neuroscience, recovery of function, oncology, and cardiovascular research. She joined the Emerging Infections Program team in January of 2015, bringing with her expertise in clinical research program management, regulatory oversight, and database design and management.

PhD Career Connections presents:

Medical Communications

Friday, February 12, in PRB 206. 

The panel will feature three medical communicators:

  • Leah Case, Syncrogenix
  • Kim Korwek, HCA
  • Tristin Abair, prIME Oncology

PhD Career Connections presents:

Working at the CDC

Jennifer Anstadt, Team Lead Microbiologist, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta

Friday, March 11, 2016
9:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Light Hall 214




Dr. Jennifer Anstadt joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2015 as Team Lead of the Vaccine Development Laboratory within the Polio and Picornavirus Laboratory Branch. She currently leads a team of eight scientists, including two postdoctoral fellows, five senior scientists, and an animal technician. The primary focus of her team’s research is designing and developing a new generation of poliovirus vaccines better suited for the eradication era. The team also investigates the mechanisms of attenuation and immune protection underlying these new vaccine candidate strains. In addition to poliovirus vaccines, the team also explores novel vaccine candidates for several other picornaviruses, including EV-71, and is currently developing a mouse model to better understand EV-D68 pathogenesis. It was this integration of basic research with a direct impact on public health that drew Dr. Anstadt to pursue a career at the CDC

Dr. Anstadt is a graduate of Fairfield University, with a B.S. in Biology. She earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied alphavirus pathogenesis and innate immunity in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Johnston. She completed an NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center under the mentorship of Dr. Terry Dermody, before transitioning to a Research Instructor position within the Dermody Laboratory team. While at Vanderbilt, Dr. Anstadt’s research focused on reovirus neuropathogenesis, including the identification of a new receptor for reovirus in the brain. She was named a Kathryn M. Edwards Fellow, and was deeply involved in the Vanderbilt Postdoc Association, serving terms as President and Vice-President. Over the past 15 years, her research has focused on investigating host-pathogen interactions and disease pathogenesis of neurotropic viral infections, with publications in Cell Host & Microbe, PLoS Pathogens, and the Journal of Virology. 

PhD Career Connections presents:

Technology Commercialization

Join us in welcoming back alumnus Jeff Keller, PhD, CEO and founder of Element Diagnostics

Friday, April 29, 2016
9:00 AM to 10:00 AM
PRB 206



Jeff Keller is the CEO and founder of Element Diagnostics.  He graduated from the Vanderbilt IGP program in 2006 in the laboratory of Bob Coffey.  Since graduation, he has worked in both technology and business roles at companies large and small, including stints in investment banking and in commercial roles in healthcare businesses.  Jeff recently founded Element Diagnostics to commercialize a proprietary molecular diagnostics technology for the improved management of bladder cancer.  Jeff lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife and two sons and takes every opportunity to come back to Vanderbilt and Nashville.

2016-2017 Series

PhD Career Connections presents:

Medical and Science Writing and Healthcare Communication

Join us in welcoming Karen Ventii, PhD and Dr. Abby Olena, PhD, to campus.

Friday, September 9, 2016
9:00 AM-10:00 AM 
Light Hall 214

Dr. Karen Ventii is the Vice-President of Medical Communications at Gold Star Communications. Dr. Ventii has worked as a full time medical writer since 2005. After realizing her passion for empowering other medical writers, she launched Gold Star Communications in 2011 to support the training and development of burgeoning and established medical writers. The company also provides tactical implementation support to pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients who specialize in oncology. Dr. Ventii has a PhD in Biochemistry (with a focus in oncology) from Emory University, as well as an MS and BS in Biology from Duquesne University. When she’s not writing or creating training materials, you can find her binge-watching reruns of 'The Big Bang Theory’.

Dr. Abby Olena, PhD, is a science communicator living in Carrboro, North Carolina. Until June 2016, Dr. Olena was a postdoctoral fellow in Science & Society at Duke University, where she focused on getting scientists the communication tools they need to share their work with non-scientists. Dr. Olena has a PhD in biological sciences from Vanderbilt University and has been the editorial intern at The Scientist and a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at the Chicago Tribune, where she faced head-on the challenges of communicating science to a general audience and learned a boatload.

Preclinical Research Services

Join us in welcoming back alumnus Chris Rogers, PhD.

Thursday, September 22, 2016
9:00-10:00 AM
Light Hall 214

Dr. Rogers is the Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Exemplar Genetics, a company focused on the development and study of improved models of human disease. Dr. Rogers received his PhD from Vanderbilt University and completed post-doctoral training at the University of Iowa. While at Iowa, Dr. Rogers and colleagues created the first knockout and knockin models of a human disease in a large animal species – cystic fibrosis in pigs. At Exemplar Genetics, Dr. Rogers has directed the development and characterization of additional disease models, including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.


Liberal Arts College Faculty

Join us in welcoming back alumna Kelli Kazmier, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Hillsdale College. 

Friday, October 14
Light Hall 214

Dr. Kelli Kazmier is a 2014 graduate of the Vanderbilt Chemical and Physical Biology program and former trainee of Dr. Hassane Mchaourab in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. Upon graduation, Dr. Kazmier defied her advisors' recommendations and conventional wisdom by declining a prestigious postdoctoral position and jumping directly into teaching at a liberal arts institution as a visiting professor. She spent two years teaching at two very different colleges, while applying to over 50 positions before landing a tenure track position this past fall. Based on these experiences, Dr. Kazmier will be speaking about how to successfully apply to teaching-focused faculty positions and answering questions about teaching and conducting research at liberal arts colleges.

Teaching and Education Landscape in High Schools

Join us as we welcome Dr. Paulianda Jones, PhD, former postdoctoral fellow in the Conn Lab, for PhD Career Connections. Dr. Jones is a science teacher for the Upper School of Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Bronx, NY.

Monday, November 14, 2016
Light Hall 411 A-D



Dr. Paulianda J. Jones is an upper school Science Teacher at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in Bronx, New York where she teaches general and intensive chemistry classes.  Dr. Jones is also a part-time Professor at the College of New Rochelle where she has taught general chemistry to undergraduate nursing students. Dr. Jones earned her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Virginia where she focused on the role of novel sodium channel blockers for the treatment of epilepsy. She earned a B.S. in chemistry from Washington and Lee University. Following her doctoral studies, she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University in the Conn Laboratory. While living in Nashville, Dr. Jones taught chemistry part time at Nashville State Community College and left Nashville to accept a tenure track position at Mercy College. After two years at Mercy College, Dr. Jones transitioned to teaching at Fieldston. When she is not teaching in the classroom, she also tutors students in the Westchester County area of New York. Dr. Jones is a dynamic, passionate educator who continues to work with students at both the college and high school levels to help them master chemistry.  

Career Opportunities in Science Outreach

Welcome back alumna Tiffany Farmer, PhD, Director of Education and Community Outreach with Nashville's Adventure Science Center. 

PhD Career Connections: Career Opportunities in Science Outreach
Tuesday, January 17
PRB 206

Forensic Science

Join us for a panel discussion on careers in Forensic Science featuring Christina Wells and Eric Warren.

Friday, February 38:45-9:45am
Light Hall 202

Eric Warrren, Special Agent/Forensic Scientist for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Dr. Warren has been a Special Agent/Forensic Scientist for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation since August 2009, where heis assigned to the Firearm and Toolmark Identification Unit. Dr. Warren has also served as an instructor at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, the Crime Scene ProcessingSchool at the TBI Headquarters, and the Basic Criminal Investigator School at the THP Academy. In addition to his recognition as an instructor, Dr. Warren has been recognized for his leadership abilities and attended the inaugural courses for the TBI Director’s Academy. Dr. Warren has continued to do research since joining the TBI and has most recently been published in the AFTE Journal and the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Before joining the TBI, Dr. Warren received his doctor of philosophy in Biological Sciences and his Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology with minors in Chemistry and Spanish from Vanderbilt University. During his studies atVanderbilt, Dr. Warren performed research on various aspects of DNA replication and has published several articles in the field. His articles can be found in Biochemistry, The Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, his article, “Structural Basis for DNA Binding by Replication Initiator Mcm10,” was featured on the cover of the journal Structure. This research was a collaborative effort by Brandt Eichman, Ph.D., associate professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt, Ellen Fanning, Dr. rer. nat., Walter Chazin, Ph.D., director of the Center for Structural Biology, and with Anja-Katrin Bielinsky at the University of Minnesota.

While enrolled at Vanderbilt, Dr. Warren was a Molecular Biophysics Training Grant Recipient and was awarded the Ann Bernard Martin Award for Excellence in Graduate Research. Dr. Warren has also been acknowledged as a presenter, receiving the 38th MidAtlantic Crystallography conference Best Poster Award and the Gisela Mosig Best Presenter Award.

A native of Nashville, TN, Dr. Warren currently resides in Memphis, TN with his wife Sabrina and their German Shepherd Lilly.

Christina Wells, Ph.D., Special Agent Forensic Scientist (SAFS), Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

SAFS Christina Wells, Ph.D. is a Special Agent Forensic Scientist at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Nashville Headquarters in the Forensic Biology Unit. She graduated in May 2013 with her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Vanderbilt and started in September 2013 as a contract employee in the Forensic Biology Unit. In August 2014, she was promoted to a SAFS in that same unit. In the Forensic Biology Unit she screens evidence for bodily fluids, runs DNA analysis on this evidence, and testifies on her results. She is also a member of the Violent Crime Response Team which assists local law enforcement agencies in processing crime scenes and collecting evidence.

From Bench to Wall Street to Business

We welcome alumnus David Reese, PhD, CEO and President of Provista Diagnostics for our March PhD Career Connections.

PhD Career Connections: From Bench to Wall Street to Business
Wednesday, March 1
Light Hall 214



David Reese, PhD, was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer in 2011 for his background in cutting-edge biomedical organizational infrastructure and finance. Dr. Reese leads Provista’s work to change how breast and gynecologic cancers are detected, managed and monitored.

Prior to joining Provista, Dr. Reese was the Managing Director of Brencourt Advisors, LLC, where he managed all healthcare investments for their Multi-Strategy Fund and Event Driven Fund from 2008 to 2011. During his time at Brencourt Advisors, Dr. Reese identified three successful healthcare buyouts in the public markets, worked with portfolio companies to develop additional capital resources and business development opportunities, and signed three significant business development deals with portfolio companies.

From 2005 to 2007, Dr. Reese was the Managing Director of Yorkville Advisors, LLC. He established their highly profitable healthcare group focused on funding early stage biotechnology, medical device, and diagnostic companies.

Dr. Reese began in finance as a consultant for DKR Capital – Saturn Management where he advised managers on scientific due-diligence and healthcare market metrics.

Before Dr. Reese’s ventures in finance, he served in various academic capacities after completing his postdoctoral training as a National Institutes of Health sponsored fellow. Dr. Reese has authored and published more than 40 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts and abstracts, as well as successfully received multiple rounds of grant funding.

He received his Doctorate in Biomedical Sciences from Vanderbilt University and his Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Dr. Reese also serves as the Principal of Alexia Consulting where he built an interactive consulting practice among various healthcare discipline such as scientific due diligence, clinical trial design, healthcare business development and advisory services.