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2017-19 Archive

2018-19 Series

Mallori Burse, PhD, and Ben Diop, PhD, Putnam Associates

Ben Diop, Ph.D., Principal, Putnam Associates

Benjamin serves a range of life-science companies developing market opportunity assessments, global pricing and market access, therapeutic area, franchise, and product growth strategy, detailed forecasting, and market modeling. Benjamin has particular experience leading projects in oncology where he has mainly focused on both hematologic disorders (CML, MF, MM) and solid tumors (Pancreatic, Lung, Breast, and Glioblastoma), cardiovascular diseases, and infectious diseases. He also has broad experience leading cases involving launch preparation, launch planning, and the associated development of a value story and access landscape.

Prior to joining Putnam, Benjamin was a Life Science specialist at L.E.K. Consulting with a focus on the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and med tech industries. He received a PhD from the joint Harvard – MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. Benjamin’s PhD research focused on drug delivery in tumors. Benjamin also received a B.Eng in Chemical Engineering from Vanderbilt University.

Mallori Upshaw, Ph.D., Life Sciences Consultant, Putnam Associates

In her current role as a Life Science Consultant, Mallori supports client projects related to product lifecycle management, market forecasting, and market opportunity assessment. Prior to joining Putnam, Mallori completed her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University in HIV-1 host-pathogen interactions under the direction of Chris Aiken in 2017. During her time as a graduate student she served as a Licensing and Marketing Intern at the Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization, as planning committee member for PhD Career Connections, and as an executive committee member for the Academic Alliance of Life Science Tennessee. She earned her BS in Biochemistry from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2010.

Chris Moth, Ph.D.

  • Scientific Software Developer in the groups of Tony Capra and Jens Meiler, supporting Vanderbilt's Program in Personal Structural Biology
  • Founder and current Lead Developer, The Daisy System (Teleflora, LLC)
  • Community activist and former political candidate.

Chris will share tales of success and crisis that led to epiphanies along his unique life path. His slightly humorous talk will introduce some basics of economics, followed by the thrills and agonies of launching, growing, and selling a small business. He’ll sketch his current software development work at the interface of clinical medicine, human genetics and computer science. In addition to discussing software-as-career, Chris will point to ways that software might next transform science. For dessert, he’ll share behind-the-scenes insights from the political campaign process, learned through two unsuccessful runs for the TN State House.

Chris received a Ph.D. in (Computational) Chemistry in 2008 at Vanderbilt under Terry Lybrand. He holds Masters Degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science from Vanderbilt, as well as a Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester, NY.

Chris and his wife Valerie have lived in Green Hills throughout their three decades of marriage. Their son Brian is a Freshman at Loyola University of New Orleans. Daughters Ellen (14) and Carolyn (9) are still in the nest.

Efrain Garcia, PhD, alumnus, and currently a Senior Health Scientist with the Division of CBRN Countermeasures, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Shannon Harlan, PhD.

Shannon is a research scientist at Eli Lilly and Co. Her role entails developing novel biological therapeutics which includes antibody and peptide therapeutics. She will discuss her career path, as well as share her unique experience in having a postdoctoral training in a pharmaceutical setting and academic. She will also discuss life as a research scientist at a large pharmaceutical company and opportunities pharma has to offer.

Juliana Lewis, PhD
Technical Sales Consultant for Miltenyi Biotec

Dr. Juliana Lewis is a highly accomplished Technical Sales Consultant for Miltenyi Biotec, Inc. with a strong, versatile background in Immunology, Cancer, Stem Cells and Neuroscience. She has a proven track record in developing excellent professional relationships, and supporting researchers at the bench in a personalized manner. Juliana leans heavily on her academic background to aid researchers in accomplishing their experimental and professional goals alike. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology at Northeastern University in 2003. She then held multiple positions at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH through the Intramural NIAID Research Opportunities (INRO) Program and as a Laboratory Technician for the T cell Development section of the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Immunology (2003 – 2006). During her PhD Candidacy, Juliana studied both Chronic Myeloid Leukemia and T cell Signaling, leading to her thesis defense in 2012. She continued on to carry-out her Post-Doctoral research in the field of Immunology-Oncology at the Center for Immunology, University of Minnesota. Throughout her educational growth the relationships that Juliana built with her many mentors were maintained and exist to this day. She has a deep desire to continue to use her personal experience to inspire and guide others seeking professional support through their journey in the biomedical sciences arena.

Steven Damo, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Co-director of the MARC U*STAR Program, at Fisk University here in Nashville. Please join us to here about his career at teaching (PUI) and minority institutions (MSI, HBCU, HSI)

Learn more about his research and teaching efforts here:

Margaret Read, PhD
General Manager, Corporate Alliances, Vanderbilt Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization

Margaret joined CTTC in Jun of 2018 as General Manager, Corporate Alliances and manages the collaboration with Deerfield Management,  Ancora Innovation.  Prior to joining CTTC, she was an independent consultant in the oncology sector for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.  Margaret previously served as vice president of Portfolio and Product Development at Infinity Pharmaceuticals.  Prior to Infinity, she was a director at Millennium Pharmaceuticals where she led Cell and Molecular Oncology and was the discovery leader on the VelcadeTMproduct development team.  She began her career in drug discovery at ProScript as a senior scientist and leader of the Cell Cycle team. Before joining industry, Margaret was an instructor and research fellow at Harvard Medical School. 

Margaret brings extensive experience in drug discovery and development to Ancora Innovation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in cell biology from University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. in pathology from Vanderbilt University.  


Akshata Udyavar, PhD
Senior Bioinformatics Scientist at Arcus Biosciences

Dr. Akshata Udyavar is a Senior Scientist and the head of Bioinformatics at Arcus Biosciences, Inc., a clinical-stage biotech focused on creating innovative cancer immunotherapies in the Bay Area. Her current work spans from novel target discovery, preclinical development to prognostic and predictive biomarker discovery in cancer immunotherapy clinical trials. Her work at Arcus has resulted in two patents as well as several presentations at international meetings. Akshata obtained her Masters in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Tennessee and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a research focus on understanding the role of T cell receptor point mutations in the pathology of multiple sclerosis. She graduated with a PhD in Chemical and Physical Biology from Vanderbilt University, discovering mechanisms underlying phenotypic heterogeneity in Small-Cell Lung Cancer in the laboratories of Drs. Vito Quaranta and Pierre Massion. Her thesis work resulted in a patent as well as publications with a F1000Prime recommended article in Cancer Research journal. Together with a Certificate in Molecular Medicine, she made a transition into her great passion of the marriage between computational biology and translational research. Her versatile training in immunology, translational oncology and computational biology led her into an Associate Scientist position in Bioinformatics at Genentech where she focused on retrospective biomarker analyses of oncology and immuno-oncology clinical trials, publishing several research articles. Akshata enjoys long walks with her dogs and dance parties with her two toddlers

2017-18 Series

Nonprofit Administration and Program Management

Maryrose Franko, PhD

Wednesday, August 9th
11:00am – 12:00pm
Light Hall 214



Maryrose Franko is the Executive Director of the Health Research Alliance (HRA) a multi-national consortium of nonprofit organizations working to maximize the impact of investment in biomedical research to improve human health.

Dr. Franko’s background includes over 20 years of program management at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), including strategic planning as well as creating, implementing, and managing over a dozen programs and initiatives. These include scientific research fellowships, an innovative university science education program, a joint initiative with the National Institutes of Health, and a student program at HHMI’s state-of-the-art research facility, Janelia Research Campus.

Dr. Franko received her PhD in molecular genetics from University of Southern California and did a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health before joining HHMI. Her collaboration to produce Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty, which was a joint effort of HHMI and Burroughs Wellcome Fund, contributed to the collaborative efforts that led to the creation of HRA. Franko was a founding board member of HRA, serving from 1995 to 2012. She has served as the Executive Director of the Health Research Alliance since 2015.

PhD Career Connections: Influencing Research through Scientific Foundations

Kevin Lee, PhD,  Executive Director for the Lawrence Ellison Foundation, Chief Scientific Officer of Grace Science Foundation, Senior Scientific Advisor for Medical Research for the JPB Foundation, and Senior Scientific and Programmatic Advisor of the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research

September 21st
1:00pm – 2:00pm
Light Hall 202



He also serves as Executive Director of the Lawrence Ellison Foundation (formerly the Ellison Medical Foundation), a philanthropic organization supporting biomedical research on the fundamental mechanisms of aging, age-related diseases, and neuroscience. The Foundation was established by Lawrence Ellison, the Executive Chairman and founding CEO of Oracle Corporation. Dr. Lee is also the Grace Science Foundation’s Chief Scientific Officer. As CSO, he coordinates the Foundation’s scientific mission to understand and develop treatments for NGLY1 Deficiency and other related genetic conditions.  Concurrently, Dr. Lee acts as Senior Scientific and Programmatic Advisor to the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, and as Senior Scientific Advisor, Medical Research for the JPB Foundation.

Dr. Lee is a graduate of the University of Michigan and received his Ph.D. in Biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His career spans over 25 years of research experience in molecular genetics and neurobiology in biotechnology, academic research and not-for-profit settings. He served previously as Deputy Executive Director of the Ellison Medical Foundation from 2007-2012. Prior to joining the Ellison Medical Foundation, Dr. Lee was Executive Vice President-Research of Sentigen Biosciences. He was responsible for the start-up and development of this New York City-based biotechnology company leading to its acquisition by Invitrogen Corporation in 2006. He has served as a member of the Scientific Review Board for the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative in New York. Dr. Lee’s scientific research career employed genetic approaches to learn how neurons in the brain are “wired up” during development to make functional circuits that relay sensory information and control behavior. He worked with Dr. Thomas Jessell in the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University, where he studied the specification, axonal projection, and functional connectivity of nerve cells in the spinal cord. He is the recipient of biotechnology patents and is the author of numerous research publications.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Laboratory Medicine

Thursday October 19th
Light Hall 202
featuring Jonathan Schmitz, MD, PhD, Jennifer Colby, Phd, and Ferrin Wheeler, PhD

Jonathan Schmitz, MD, PhD, D(ABMM) is an Assistant Professor in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology.  He serves as the Medical Director of the VUMC Molecular Infectious Diseases Laboratory, as well as principal investigator of a research group in the PMI Division of Molecular Pathogenesis.  Dr. Schmitz received his medical education at Cornell University, his graduate training at the Rockefeller University, and his post-graduate training at Vanderbilt in the Clinical Microbiology Fellowship Program.  His academic interests include emerging opportunistic bacterial infections, the development of molecular diagnostic tools, and (generally speaking) bridging the fields of clinical microbiology and microbial pathogenesis.

Jennifer Colby is an assistant professor in the department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology and the medical director of Toxicology and Esoteric Chemistry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Jen earned her BS in molecular and cellular biology from Vanderbilt University and her PhD in molecular toxicology from the University of California, Berkeley.  She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in clinical chemistry and toxicology at the University of California, San Francisco.  Her research interests include developing mass spectrometry based diagnostics, particularly for use in toxicology and therapeutic drug monitoring.  When not in the lab Jen runs, competes in dressage, and enjoys exploring Tennessee with her husband and their Bouvier des Flandres, Devi.

Ferrin Wheeler is an assistant professor in the department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology and serves as a co-medical director of Cytogenetics and associate director of Molecular Diagnostics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Jen earned her BS in genetic biology from Purdue University and her PhD in molecular genetics from the Washington University in St. Louis.  She studied the genetics of cardiomyopathy during a postdoctoral research fellowship at Duke University before completing ABMGG fellowships in clinical Cytogenetics and Clinical Molecular Genetics at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  Her clinical interests include using SNP-microarray based testing to identify submicroscopic copy number changes in individuals with developmental delay and birth defects.  Ferrin keeps busy outside the lab by playing soccer, running and hanging out with her family.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Project Management and Research Administration

Thursday November 30th
Light Hall 202
featuring Julie Field, PhD, and Jana Shirey-Rice, PhD,

from Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

Julie R. Field, Ph.D.

Dr. Field received her Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Vanderbilt University in 2010. Her doctoral research focused on structural determinants of serotonin transporter interactions with antidepressants and drugs of abuse.  Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery, Dr. Field joined VICTR as a Project Manager in 2012. At VICTR, she’s expanded on her extensive scientific training in pharmacology to manage numerous projects related to personalized medicine, including Vanderbilt’s Pharmacogenomic Resource for Enhanced Decisions in Care and Treatment (PREDICT), the VUMC Laboratory Formulary, and several discovery projects using BioVU and VUMC’s Synthetic Derivative. Currently, Dr. Field serves as the Research Core Team Lead for the All of Us Data and Research Center, a collaboration among VUMC, Verily, and the Broad Institute to establish a cloud-based data and research platform for the national All of Us Research Program.

Jana K. Shirey-Rice, PhD

Dr. Shirey-Rice received her doctorate degree in pharmacology from Vanderbilt University and is currently a Senior Project Manager and Team Lead for the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University where she studied allosteric modulation of G-protein coupled receptors as therapeutic targets for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. During her graduate training, she developed expertise in receptor pharmacology and signaling, high-throughput screening, brain slice electrophysiology, and drug discovery.  She pursued an additional year of training as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine, expanding her skills in neurobiology studying the norepinephrine transporter and its role in postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.  In her current project management role, Dr. Shirey-Rice uses her strong scientific training to initiate, plan, implement, and monitor multiple diverse, large-scale initiatives. These include managing a team of other project managers and a pipeline of drug repurposing projects levering human genetic associations to discover novel drug/indication pairs. Overall, the focus of Dr. Shirey-Rice’s work is speeding the pace of translation of scientific discoveries to clinically impactful therapeutics and technologies.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Pre-clinical and Clinical Development in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Thursday December 7th
Light Hall 512
featuring Ines Macias-Perez, PhD, Senior Scientist of Product Development at Cumberland Pharmaceuticals


Ines Macias-Perez, PhD, is the Senior Scientist in the Department of Product Development at Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc.  She serves as an Advisory Board Member of the BRET Office of Career Development ASPIRE program.  Dr. Perez received her doctorate degree at Vanderbilt University in the department of Cancer Biology, her masters degree in Biomedical Sciences at Barry University and her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Humanities at the University of South Florida.  Before joining Cumberland, she served as the Executive Director of the Radiosurgical Research Institute developing research programs with a consortium of medical centers across the country. Prior to this, she served as the Clinical and Research Director at Berg Pharma, a pharmaceutical company based in Boston specializing in anti-cancer drug products. She started her clinical research career at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute where she served as the Senior Program Manager of the Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant Program.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Scientific Communications and Marketing

Thursday January 18th
Light Hall 214
featuring Melissa Vaught, PhD, Scientific Editor at Medical Science & Computing, LLC, (MSC) contracted to the National Institutes of Health. 



Melissa Vaught, PhD, is scientific editor at Medical Science & Computing, LLC, (MSC) contracted to the National Institutes of Health. Her role included communications, project management, and meta-research related to post-publication issues. Dr. Vaught is a member of the editorial advisory board for ASBMB Today, a publication for members of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She continues to advise on The POSTDOCket, the newsletter of the National Postdoctoral Association, for which she served as editor-in-chief through December 2017. Dr. Vaught is also marketing and communications manager for STEM Career Services, LLC, a career coaching company focused on supporting STEM graduates.

Dr. Vaught received her doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University in the Department of Chemistry and her B.S. in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Before joining MSC, she did postdoctoral research at the Immune Disease Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston, MA. Dr. Vaught began blogging and tweeting (@biochembelle) about research and the culture of science in 2009. She has written articles on social media and other professional development topics for ScienceCareers, ASBMB Today, and The POSTDOCket, as well as presented and moderated sessions on social media and science. When she’s not at work or online, there’s a good chance she’s running.

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Clinical Genetics, Information Technology, and Genetic Counseling

Thursday February 15, 2018
Light Hall 214
featuring Gillian Hooker, PhD, Vice President of Clinical Development, Concert Genetics



Gillian Hooker completed her PhD in Molecular Genetics at Yale University and her masters degree in Genetic Counseling at the Johns Hopkins/NIH Genetic Counseling Training Program. Her career has focused on implementation and outcomes of genetic counseling and testing, first as an academic and more recently in her position as the Vice President of Clinical Development for Concert Genetics.  She completed her post-doctoral research Cancer Prevention & Control at Georgetown University studying BRCA1/2 testing and service delivery in a randomized controlled trial of telephone genetic counseling and among newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.  Following that, she served as the associate director of the NIH/Johns Hopkins Genetic Counseling Training Program and conducted research at NHGRI as part of the ClinSeq team, studying one of the first healthy populations to undergo whole exome sequencing.  In her role at Concert, she provides clinical leadership and coordinates a number of internal and external collaborations to use test order data, insurance claims and genetic testing market data to inform policy development for hospitals, health plans and federal policy makers.  

PhD Career Connections presents: 

Medical Science Liaisons

Friday, March 16, 2018
Light Hall 214
featuring a panel with:

Josh Neuman, PhD, Pediatric Endocrinology and Growth Hormone Disorder Medical Liaison at Novo Nordisk
Tom Plucinak, PhD,Medical Science Liaison at GlaxoSmithKline

Molly Seale, PhD, Medical Science Liaison Manager, Abbvie


Josh Neuman, PhD
Pediatric Endocrinology and Growth Hormone Disorder Medical Liaison at Novo Nordisk

Josh is originally from the Northern Suburbs of Chicago and comes from a family of 5 kids, including a twin brother. Josh completed his B.S. at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in Kinesiology with a minor in gerontology and then went on for his M.S. in nutritional sciences from Iowa State University with a research focus on folate metabolism. He then received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in nutritional sciences with a research emphasis in type 2 diabetes. After his graduate studies, Josh was a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University before transitioning to his current position as a Pediatric Endocrinology and Growth Hormone Disorder Medical Liaison at Novo Nordisk. Josh currently resides in Franklin, TN with his wife and 2 1/2 year old daughter. 

Thomas Plucinak, PhD
Medical Science Liaison, Respiratory

Thomas joined the GSK Medical Affairs team in 2015. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he focused on genetic engineering. Prior to joining GSK, he conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO where he participated in the development of novel compounds for the treatment of respiratory infections. Thomas is currently supporting the Respiratory Franchise as a Medical Science Liaison.


Molly Seale, PhD
Medical Science Liaison Manager, Abbvie

Molly (Thoreson) Seale always knew she wanted to be a scientist – but never knew what path it would take her on in life. After moving around every few years growing up, she ultimately landed in the IGP program at Vanderbilt after college. After rotations, she chose a cancer research lab that set the course for the rest of her career. She worked in Dr Al Reynolds’ lab studying the role of p120 and  E-cadherin in cancer cell growth and metastasis. She knows the struggle of all-night time-courses, the uncertainty of when (or if ) you will ever graduate, and the fun of grad school parties. She earned her PhD in Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt 6 years later,  and knew she was interested in a job outside of the lab. She entered industry through a contract MSL position, and soon started a job with Amgen as a medical science liaison, working remotely from home. She spent seven years as an Oncology RML, supporting the launch of both supportive care and therapeutic agents including Neulasta, Imlygic, Xgeva and Blincyto. Then she accepted a position at Amgen as a Regional Field Director, managing a team of RMLs in the Central Region of the U.S., and serving on strategic medical teams. In 2016, she transitioned to a new role at Abbvie to establish a Solid Tumor MSL team. Her current focus is on training and coaching her team for the launch of new therapeutics and developing innovative communication tools to optimize remote teams. Molly has lived in Nashville for 22 years now. In her free time she enjoys traveling, camping and skiing with her husband Kevin, their four young children and their rescue dog. They are supporters of the beyond organic local food movement and sustainable agriculture. 

PhD Career Connections presents: 

A Career in the Pharmaceutical Sciences: What I Do and Why I Like It

Friday April 27, 2018
Light Hall 214

Valerie Kramlinger, PhD

Title:   Scientist, Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism

Role:   Drug Metabolism Scientist for Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism in Cambridge, Massachusetts


Valerie Kramlinger is a Scientist in the Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism Department at Amgen. Before joining the pharmaceutical industry in 2016, Valerie received her BS in Chemistry and PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Minnesota. She studied cytochrome P450-mediated small-molecule metabolism during a postdoctoral research fellowship at Vanderbilt University. At Amgen, Valerie works with a diverse group of scientists in drug discovery and development towards the goal of understanding the chemical and biological basis of the enzymatic and non-enzymatic effects of the mammalian body on potential new drugs. This knowledge ultimately underwrites the selection of dosage and dose schedule for non-clinical and clinical safety and efficacy assessments.