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WIB-Capital Region: Member Spotlight with Julie (Wu) Rosen, Ph.D.

Posted By Jhimli Roy, Tuesday, February 11, 2020

 

Member Spotlight with Julie (Wu) Rosen, Ph.D.

 

Tell us about your background (both educational and professional).

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), and I serve as one of two Executive Directors for UMSOM Dean E. Albert Reece. In this role, I support all of Dean Reece’s projects relating to science and medicine and have co-led two large scientific meetings on behalf of the Dean. From 2013-2018, I co-directed the University of Maryland School of Medicine science communications internship program. In 2019 I accepted a position as the program administrator for the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Diabetes in Pregnancy Clinical Program, and this year I was appointed to the editorial board of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology as its inaugural Assistant Editor. 


I began my career at a biotechnology start-up company where I initiated a project to eradicate methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus biofilms from medical implants. I went on to earn my Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology, with a specific focus in the field of reproductive immunology. Prior to joining the UMSOM, I worked in the communications office at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. 

What are your top three tips for women who are just starting their careers?

Don’t be afraid to go after something that you might not feel 100% qualified for. I essentially had no science writing experience but got a job as a technical writer within six months of earning my Ph.D. because I wasn’t afraid to apply for those jobs. I had very little administrative experience but am now part of the administrative leadership team in my current role because I wasn’t afraid to jump into that role. 

Concurrently, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. I’ve successfully negotiated for two major promotions because I didn’t hesitate to ask. Know your value. Feel confident that you play an integral role within your organization. And then ask to be compensated accordingly. This doesn’t necessarily mean a pay raise or organizational promotion. When I was pregnant, I asked for an extended maternity leave and received it. That was huge. 

Finally, identify good mentors. If that turns out to be your direct supervisor, even better. But recognize that a mentor can be anyone, even someone whose position might be lateral to your own, or who might be completely outside your field or organization. And recognize that a good mentor isn’t just going to be there to tell you that you’re doing a good job. A good mentor is going to reveal your weaknesses and help you find ways to overcome those. 

What are some of the biggest challenges women still face in the life sciences?

Despite increased diversity, the life sciences are still dominated by men at the highest levels in organizations—be they industry, academia, or government. The business of science, such as the tenure clock, the grant funding cycle, the promotion considerations, are all built around this perspective. The tenure clock doesn’t stop because you have a baby but as a mother, you need to have a little recovery time after birthing a human. 

Parallel to that, I have observed that some women leaders are not as magnanimous as they could be when it comes to supporting the advancement of their junior female colleagues. Perhaps it’s because of the struggles of achieving as a woman in a (traditionally) man’s world. Or, perhaps it’s because there’s an unspoken sense that there are only a few available positions for women at the top. I don’t have specific studies to cite to support these hypotheses, but I’ve certainly observed successful women who, somewhat passive-aggressively, block opportunities for junior female colleagues out of (maybe) a sense of tenuousness of their own positions of prestige. 

Tell us how you got involved with Women In Bio, what you do for the organization, and what being a part of WIB means to you. 

I started attending the WIB meet-up groups in Baltimore just after I began working at the School of Medicine. After about a year or so of attending, I was asked to lead some of the discussions during the time Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book was popular. Also, I have been invited to serve on a panel discussion about the push-pull of having a family and working full-time. 


WIB is a fantastic resource, and I’m always telling a new colleague or friend about the group and encouraging them to join. I’ve invited a number of people to the Baltimore WIB meet-up groups, and I’m delighted that there are events in Baltimore, as driving down to Montgomery County or DC on a weekday is a non-starter for me at this point in time. 


I’ve met some amazing women through my involvement with WIB, and it feels great to be part of an organization focused on the unique needs of women professionals in the life sciences. Sometimes, I think society’s focus on equality for women and men in the workplace is a bit misplaced. We really need to focus on equity for women professionals, and I believe that WIB raises awareness of this distinction and need. And I love the fact that WIB encourages the support of other women and the celebration of women’s successes. Again, I think we can easily fall into the trap of viewing a successful woman as our competitor, rather than as a collaborator or even a mentor. WIB shows that there’s plenty of “room at the table” for all, and we should help each other get there. 

What is the most exciting and personally fulfilling part of your work right now?

One of the initiatives I proposed after joining the School of Medicine was starting an internship in science communications for graduate students and postdocs. I co-directed the program from 2013-2018 and, in this last year, decided to turn the internship into a for-credit course. I’m working on developing a syllabus for it now and plan to launch in Fall 2020. 

What is the best leadership advice you ever received and from whom?

The best leadership advice I’ve received is to not be afraid to ask for help. There are many things I don’t know, and there are many things I don’t even know that I don’t know. But, when you work in a rich environment, there will be people who do have strengths in those areas. Don’t be afraid to tap into that expertise. If someone can teach you (and if you have time to learn), then great. You’re not going to be an expert in everything, nor should you think you could be. Identify your go-to colleagues and build that collaboration because someday you might be the expert they turn to. 

What does success mean to you?

Career-wise, success is sort of a moving target for me and is really tied to the projects I’m working on right now. Success would be to get those done without feeling overly stressed or pulling a bunch of 18-hour days to do so. I’d like the course I’m going to launch to be well-received by the students, but I also really can’t wait to learn from them. Success for that will be that everyone gets something out of the process and has a lot of fun along the way.

On the personal side, success is leaving work on time, making a hot dinner from scratch for everyone, getting my kids to go to bed by 9:00 p.m., and staying awake long enough to have one substantive conversation with my husband. 

How did you find the career path that you are on right now?


Happy accident and serendipity. I started out thinking I’d be a creative writer. Then I thought I’d be a research scientist. Then I thought I’d be a science writer. Now, I’m kind of a science/academic administrator, science/medical editor, meeting planner, and, soon, teacher. None of those things were what I’d envisioned for myself when I entered college. But I’ve paused along the way, used challenges and setbacks as opportunities to take an inventory on what I wanted to do, and then done my homework to figure out what steps I needed to take to achieve those goals. I’ve taken risks but haven’t made rash decisions—these have always been calculated risks with pros and cons weighed and debated. And, I’ve also always taken the perspective that, even if I’m told a “no,” I’d be okay with that too…at least for a little while. 


Tags:  2020  Member Spotlight 

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WIB-Capital Region: January 2020 #SetYourGoals, January 30, 2020

Posted By Katrina Adlerz, Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Life and Leadership Coach Raven Bonniwell first shared her own story before leading the group through a series of exercises to offer perspectives on goal setting and career transitions.

 

Raven shared that she was pursuing an acting career when she found that her life had been overtaken by her numerous odd jobs, not leaving enough time for acting auditions let alone acting jobs. She decided to seek out a coach from whom she learned the power of designing life on her own terms. This led Raven to start her own theatre company as well as embark on a one-year coach training program herself. She now helps others to design their own life including in group sessions like this.

First, Raven asked us to begin thinking about leadership by writing down three leaders we admire. Next, we considered what specific characteristics of these leaders inspired this respect and admiration. Sharing answers led to a group discussion about our perception of what leaders are and what they are not. Some characteristics that we ascribed to leaders included power and responsibility, and interestingly, the words isolating and judgment also emerged. Raven had us consider reclaiming the word leader to include leading from love and compassion. 

Next, we each wrote down what qualities we bring as leaders. Then, we focused on confidence. Raven had us consider confidence as a feeling, not a quality. While it is common to fall into the thinking that confidence is something everyone else has, we considered that everyone acts differently when they are confident or not confident. Therefore, when you see confidence, you actually are seeing other qualities like presence, calmness, compassion, joy, or drive. So in truth, a leader is just someone who leads, and a leader may bring different qualities. Therefore, the qualities and strengths in each of us may be nurtured to become the qualities of a confident leader.

Finally, we each envisioned where we want to be in one year, and we were challenged to design our life based on this vision. We were encouraged that achieving these goals and this mindset must come from a place of leadership and that we can be leaders of our own lives.

Tags:  2020 

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WIB-Capital Region: Career Serendipity: Lessons from Women at Lieber Institute for Brain Development, December 3, 2019

Posted By Gelareh Vinueza, Tuesday, January 7, 2020

During this event, which took place on December 3, 2019, Dr. Wendy Yap, Manager at CDI Labs, Inc., introduced Rebecca Freedman and Elaine Jones (speakers) and thanked Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Technology Ventures / Fast Forward for providing space. 

Rebecca Freedman started off by sharing details about her role as Legal Counsel at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD). She drafts, reviews, negotiates, and/or tends to the administrative aspects of many agreements, from intellectual property-focused to vendor agreements. A particularly tricky part of her role was managing other lawyers when they needed to bring in outside counsel. It was scary in the beginning to not "have a lane", but she didn't want to be boxed in. Now bringing in outside counsel is one of her favorite parts of the job.

Rebecca shared how she moved along her career path, picking threads from current roles to leveraging them toward new opportunities. For example, in her work at JHU technology transfer group, she cultivated customer service skills with scientists. She uses that every day because she works closely with scientists at the Lieber Institute (metaphorically and with regards to physical proximity -- there's no hiding on a different floor!). 

Rebecca then shared some career advice:

• Listen. Particularly when entering a new role, balance confidence and action with listening more and understanding the culture and dynamics of the workplace. 

• Value and Communicate Skills Versus Role. Think about where you want to go and what you need to get there. Then build the skills required. When looking at opportunities, think about the skills that you would gain, not just the title. 

• Know What You Want. When seeking a job transition, prioritize what you want out of a new job and write those things down. It may also help to remember some things you love about your current job. 

• Push Boundaries. Rebecca shared several examples of using a current role to get exposure to adjacent fields. For example, at New York University, she made an effort get to know the intellectual property agreement folks, and at JHU, she volunteered to lead a group focused on health IT, which gave her exposure to risk management and IT.

• Be You and Don't Underestimate Yourself. Employers can't and don't list everything they're looking for in a job announcement. Especially if you get an interview, be yourself. You never know what the employer is looking for; intangibles such as your attitude and approach may make all the difference!

Then, Elaine Jones, COO of LIBD, shared stories about her career journey, including her transition from for-profit to non-profit work. She had gained experience with "turnaround" roles. She came into an organization that hadn't been doing well and she had to do whatever was needed to get it back on track. Elaine turned this for-profit experience toward the non-profit sector, working with non-profit research organizations who wanted to run a non-profit more like a for-profit but lacked the management expertise. She also had several pieces of advice learned along the way:

• Package Skills. Elaine stressed the importance of identifying skills you want to obtain and packaging those that you have in order to get there, echoing Rebecca's sentiments. She gave an example of switching companies to enable a transition from a bench chemist to a sales role.

• Take Risks. Feel more comfortable taking risks. Elaine had a plan for how to make a living if an opportunity did not work out.

• Persevere but Know Your Limits. Elaine shared that working in sales in the 1970s as a woman was not easy. She persisted and found ways to persevere. However, at another point in her career, she was in a situation that had gone too far so she resigned from her role. Luckily, she was able to pursue a different path at that same organization. 

• Deliver Results; Money Follows. Elaine even took pay cuts for roles in which there truly was room for compensation growth based on results. She also recommended being very careful to not over-promise and then go over budget. It's much better to execute well on a budget and come back to achieve more.

• Get Creative When Balancing Work and Life. Elaine started her career as a single parent and said it took creativity to find ways to find work/life balance. Loving what she did helped, too. At certain points in her career, she was willing to commute, even cross-country, if that meant new career possibilities. 

• Treat Employees Fairly and Understand Downsizing. Elaine recommended to treat employees fairly. This includes knowing when people need a break and to provide opportunities for levity, even if it's just an ice cream party. If you have to downsize, be as honest, transparent, and genuine as possible with those who may be affected. Downsizing is not fun, but it's a business reality; in fact, Elaine's work to turn a business unit around once after several years resulted in her own position being downsized out!

We thank Elaine and Rebecca for sharing their career paths and advice!


Tags:  2019 

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Capital Region: Perspective on Leadership in Biotech Event Recap, December 5, 2019

Posted By Katrina Adlerz, Friday, January 3, 2020

During the Perspective on Leadership in Biotech Event, Dr. Terlesky took participants on a journey of women in the workforce to provide perspective on where we have been and where we are going. She reminded the group that is was not so long ago when Dr. Terlesky's grandmother graduated from medical school but was placed as a nurse because they didn’t know what else to do. (She proudly noted that her grandmother did eventually end up with a very successful career as a medical doctor!) Women's integration in the STEM workforce has been uneven, with greater representation sooner in life sciences and health roles and women still underrepresented in physical science, computer science, and engineering roles. Starting in the 1980s, careers began to become available between the bench and bedside, including regulatory science and manufacturing roles. Job growth closer to the bedside, such as Biostatisticians, Health Economists, and Medical Scientists, has far outweighed that on the bench, such as Microbiologists, Biomedical Engineers, and Biochemists.

Dr. Terlesky views these workforce trends in relation to future areas of great impact -- personalized medicine and preventative health. In order to be represented in future efforts in these fields, women have ground to cover in physical science, computer science, and engineering roles. However, we still need women at the bench, particularly in senior scientist roles, as fewer are retained in the workforce at that level. If we want a new convergent workforce to be representative of the population, we need greater diversity across all roles and levels. 

Dr. Terlesky shared her personal story, which she realizes in retrospect mirrored workforce trends. She started as a scientist, working at Monsanto and General Dynamics. As she ventured into digital and computational technologies, she learned a new lexicon; which happened again when she moved to government contracting. She advised broad exposure to different "languages" and settings to anyone looking to move out of their current job function. Though she is no longer in a science role, she has often been told that she approaches her work as a scientist would, including making decisions based on data. 

Andi Overton asked questions to get the group discussion started, and several pieces of advice emanated from Dr. Terlesky, Margot Connor, and members of the audience. 
• The C-suite. Executive roles are demanding, and an active choice to go after those roles is necessary and requires a home life that can accommodate that, whether that means choosing a supportive partner or, if having children, pursuing more demanding roles before having them or after their early years. Regardless of demands at home, balance is important for women and their organizations -- a person who feels in balance will perform well. 
• Negotiation and Career Advancement. When applying for a job, always negotiate for salary. Do your homework on what the market rate is; you can always ask for 10% more than you're comfortable with. Don't forget that non-salary benefits are up for negotiation, too. While some hiring managers will go as far as telling applicants that they shouldn't settle for the first offer, it's not common nor really their responsibility. No one is in charge of our careers but ourselves. Hard work rarely automatically pays off and elevates women along a well-constructed career ladder, especially not without self-advocacy. Mentorship can also help, and they don't have to be formal relationships. Find someone who has what you want in your career, even if it's just one component, and connect with them. Push beyond fears and take risks; Margot gave this advice to someone and so turned it on herself, taking risks for a whole year, and it was extremely empowering. 
• Give Back. Organizations like GWIS, Women to Women Mentoring, are great ways to educate young women about STEM and encourage future generations. As you find yourself in leadership roles, be willing to have a door open, especially for women who need support. 
When an audience member asked about advice she had been given about taking significant time off to have children, Dr. Terlesky relayed her own experience with motherhood. She took time off when her children were young. She was worried about the impact it would have on her career, but as a post-doc with three children, she realized it did not make economic sense to continue working. However, it led her down a different path, for which she is glad. 

The evening closed with sharing personal mantras, including one Dr. Terlesky uses to lift herself up during tough times: "Put on your big girl pants and get back out there."

 

Tags:  2019 

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WIB-Capital Region: Work-Life Balance, October 22, 2019

Posted By Katrina Adlerz , Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On the morning of October 22, 2019, Women In Bio-Capital Region hosted an event at the University of Maryland, Baltimore entitled, “Family Matters: A Facilitated Discussion on Lessons Learned in Balancing Work and Family“. A panel of successful women who have “been there, done that” and “are there, doing that” shared their thoughts on balancing their careers with responsibilities to their families -- from children to aging parents.


The panelists were Julie Rosen, Ph.D., the Executive Director for Medical Research & Scientific Publications for the University of Maryland School of Medicine and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ob/Gyn & Reproductive Sciences; Elizabeth M. Miclette, Director, Human Resources at Emergent BioSolutions; Judith (Judy) McCorry, Quality Assurance Director at Emergent BioSolutions, Bayview; and Chloe Alexandre, Instructor at the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Department. 


There was an open, honest, and lively discussion around what can be a difficult subject to talk about. Key takeaways are provided below.
 

Discussion Themes:

-Set Expectations. Set them with your family, your work, and importantly, yourself. Know your non-negotiables when it comes to what you need to do for your family. The non-negotiables are different for everyone. Most likely, those non-negotiables will come into conflict with work responsibilities. In a perfect world, family commitments wouldn't affect work, but this is not a perfect world. Accept the known ramifications that family commitments will have on your job and career. 

-Understand Work-Life Synchronization vs. Balance. There will be times when work will consume 80% of you and times when family will. 

-Have a Tribe. Marshall support for you and your family. If you're lucky enough to have family around, that's great. Many don't. Surround yourself with friends, neighbors, and colleagues who will support you and your goals. 

-Augment Your Tribe. Don't forget about other resources that could help. Sites like Care.com nationally and Nap.com in Baltimore can help find qualified, trustworthy individuals to augment your tribe. Care.com helps with children and aging adults. For children, pediatricians and schools / parent-teacher associations are likely eager to provide solid information, resources, and advice. 

-Put Technology to Work. Get comfortable on Skype and using the mute button. Use the “block time” function on your calendar to not allow others to schedule you during times when you have family commitments and use it to help remind you to leave on time!

-For the Little Ones: if your child goes to daycare, they will likely be sick... for a straight year (well, it might feel like it at least). Mommy guilt could happen at any time - - like that time when your coworker took the day off to be with his sick cat and you didn't even though your child was sick; remember that having non-negotiables also means having negotiables, and give yourself a break.

Capital Region: Work Life Balance Event

  • Get comfortable with your house being dirty.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help! No one can do it all. 
  •  Have lan Cs. It's easier to run through Plan A and Plan B than you'd think. 
  • If you are in a leadership role, set a workplace culture that eases some of these tensions... and remember to walk the walk!
  • Make sure to take time for self-care and to be alone with your partner, if you have one.

Tags:  2019 

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WIB Capital Region: Member Spotlight Susan Hibbs

Posted By Katrina Adlerz, Wednesday, November 13, 2019


Spotlight Interview - Susan Hibbs

 

1. Tell us about your background (both educational and professional).

I have a slightly different background than many others in the field. I completed my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. Then, I got my Master’s of Education at Lesley University. I taught elementary education for six years in Howard County, Maryland. I had the option to teach either Math and Science or English and Social Studies, and I always took Math and Science because this is something that I liked and was good at! My job then expanded, and I helped teachers implement new curriculum kits from the county. 

I was fortunate to be able to take a break from my career to parent my kids. During this time, I kept involved by substitute teaching and organizing volunteers at the school library, along with other community volunteering efforts. When my kids were older, I went back to work at a preschool, where I was for the next ten years.

2. How did you find the career path that you are on right now?

While I was teaching preschool, I started to get involved in what I am doing now. Shock Therapeutics Biotech, of which I am now CEO, was founded by my father, Don Gann, a renowned surgeon. He and his research partner identified a toxin that makes the body go into shock with body fluid loss. They were able to isolate the toxin and use an antibody to reverse its effects, a patented discovery. Large drug companies are very interested in this discovery but need to see promising Phase I clinical trial data in order to take the drug forward. My dad asked me, in my free time, to help organize and figure out a path to move the product forward, which I did for about four years. 

I realized, however, that I could not put 100% into both teaching and this project. So, for the last six months, I have been totally focused on Shock Therapeutics. I recently took on the role of CEO and my son, Lewis, who has a business background, is the President. There are 5.8M people every year dying from trauma, and this drug could really help by stabilizing patients and giving them the time they need before getting more definitive treatment. We are focused now on accelerating our product development and milestone execution in preparation for filing an IND. 

3. What is the most exciting and personally fulfilling part of your work right now?


The part that is most exciting to me is trying to raise money to fund the next stages of our company, as we move towards clinical trials. It is challenging, but I enjoy being challenged, and I have learned a lot. I also enjoy storytelling – being able to tell our product’s story and convey its importance. I get to tell people that they have the opportunity to invest in this drug, which is going to be a game-changing product, impacting many lives. I spent much of my career preparing young people for the future. Now, as an entrepreneur, I am passionate about getting this drug to market to protect their future.

4. What is the best leadership advice you ever received and from whom?

Always listen. I have been given this same advice from a couple of different people. When you listen, you learn, and you have the opportunity to think of something new. For me, in this business, it might be a new way to use our product, for example. I love getting to talk to people with very different perspectives, to hear the stories of other people and to really listen; I always get something out of it. I speak with people in the industry and I listen and take notes furiously! Listening has helped and is continuing to help me develop as a leader and an entrepreneur. 

5. Tell us how you got involved with Women In Bio, what you do for the organization, and what being a part of WIB means to you.

 
A couple of different people told me about Women In Bio as a great place to meet people from all different spaces in the field, on a wide range of career paths, and a great place to be able to hear people’s stories. People who recommended this organization were right! I have always been interested in mentorship and I am excited to get more involved in that aspect of the organization. 

6. What does success mean to you?

It means a lot of different things, but in this instance, true success will be when we are able to say our product saved a life. For me, to be successful and for this company to be successful right now means raising funds, charting a path, and getting this product to patients. 


Tags:  2019  Member Spotlight 

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WIB-Capital Region: OktoberFest, October 24, 2019

Posted By Marina Pranda, Tuesday, November 5, 2019

On Thursday, October 24, 2019, the Capital Region chapter of Women In Bio hosted an Oktoberfest networking event at the Silver Branch Brewing Company in Silver Spring, MD.

Click here for more photos

It was a fantastic event, allowing WIB members and attendees to mingle and make lasting connections over refreshments in a safe space with great vibes! An evening filled with exciting conversations and many laughs amongst amazing women! 

The event was a success, and we would like to extend a sincere thanks to our sponsors and the Silver Branch Brewer Company for hosting us and providing excellent service. 

Please join us for our next event on “Improving Your Professional Brand” on Saturday, November 16 from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., at Bikram Yoga Works Mt. Vernon in Baltimore, MD. We are honored to have two special speakers, Dr. Kristin Backstrom and Stephanie Williams, cover this important topic through theoretical and practical exercises. This will be an event you won’t want to miss! Event details and registration can be found here.  

Tags:  2019 

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WIB-Capital Region: Member Spotlight: Sarah Ellinwood, Ph.D.

Posted By Nivedita Hegdekar, Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Spotlight Interview – Sarah Ellinwood, Ph.D.

1. Tell us about your background (both educational and professional).

I received my BS in Biology from Roanoke College in 2012 and my Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Maryland, College Park in August 2017. My doctoral research focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacterium that causes tuberculosis in humans) evades the immune response to cause disease. While I enjoyed the scientific aspects of my work, I knew from the start of my Ph.D. that I didn’t have long-term career aspirations in doing bench top research. And, like many others in graduate school, I was unaware of other career options for science PhDs besides academia or industry.

Unfortunately, my graduate program at the time provided limited resources for helping students transition beyond the bench, so I sought mentorship outside my department by joining Women In Bio and attending meetings and networking events around the DC area. I started connecting with like-minded women and learned more about the exciting careers in fields like science policy and science communication. After realizing that I enjoyed talking to people about science much more than doing science at the bench, I began searching for jobs in the science communication field.

Following graduation, I began working as a medical writer for a Bethesda-based CRO called Technical Technologies International (TRI), which offers a variety of services to different organizations, with a primary focus on the NIH. More specifically, I was providing regulatory writing support for clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). TRI was a great first step out of graduate school, as I learned a lot about clinical trial development and the latest progress in the cancer field. While I was satisfied with my work, I also wanted to explore the more creative aspects of medical writing and communication, which led me to my current job as an Associate Analyst and Medical Writer at Verge Scientific Communications in Tysons, VA. Here, I work alongside a team of seasoned communication professionals to help up-and-coming biotech companies craft and tell their scientific stories. I’ve been at Verge for a year now and have loved every minute so far!

2. What are your top three tips for women who are just starting their careers?

My first piece of advice would be to keep an open mind – something that people often told me when I began my first job out of grad school. Many people think that their first job after graduate school will be the career trajectory they stick with until they retire, but this is usually not the case. If you are dissatisfied with your current position, you should not settle and instead explore alternative opportunities. My suggestion would be to active in your community and continue attending networking events and having informational interviews with people in different careers. Reaching out for advice never hurts and, based on my experience, people are generally happy to help because they’ve been there.

A second piece of advice is to never be satisfied. By this, I mean, always keep learning and talking to others. Even if you have a job that fulfills you, continue to network in professional circles and strive to learn new skills. There is always a value in making new connections! In fact, the way I landed my current job at Verge was through connecting with the founder/president of the company on LinkedIn. I met with her for coffee to learn more about science communication agencies and her career path, which ended up turning into an impromptu interview and eventual job offer! In conclusion, you never know who you will end up meeting and where it might lead you.

Lastly, remember to leave the ladder down for others. Even as you advance in your career, it is important to mentor those that are more junior to you. During graduate school, I met so many people who supported me and offered much-needed advice, and it was pivotal in helping me get to where I am today. It is very important for me to pay it forward, and I always enjoy talking to graduate students/post docs about my experiences and science communication careers.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges women still face in the life sciences?

One of the biggest hurdles for women in life sciences is that they are often not taken as seriously in their area of expertise compared to their male counterparts. I’ve seen this frequently on social media, particularly on Twitter, where prominent female scientists often have their knowledge and expertise questioned and are sometimes even perceived as egotistical. Women with strong leadership abilities also have the additional burden of walking the fine line when being leaderly and authoritative, as strong and assertive women in life sciences might be considered difficult to work and get along with. This bias rarely exists for their male colleagues who behave the same way. While we’ve made great strides in combating sexism in life sciences, we still have a long way to go. 

4. Tell us how you got involved with WIB, what do you do for the organization, and what being a part of WIB means to you?

I learned about WIB during my first year of graduate school. A senior graduate student who was involved with WIB was advertising an event that was sponsored by the organization, and I decided to attend. I found the meeting to be extremely informational and signed up for student membership in the WIB-Capital Region chapter so I could meet other like-minded women and find potential mentors. In the beginning, I largely focused on attending meetings and networking events, but as I learned more about what WIB had to offer I began seeking opportunities to volunteer and hone my leadership and communications skills. I volunteered as chair for our chapter’s Mentors, Advisors, Peers, and Sponsorship (MAPS) University program for two years, followed by a two-year tenure as co-chair for our chapter’s communications committee. I loved working with our chapter leadership and wanted to stay involved as a volunteer, but also wanted to challenge myself with a new role, leading me to my current position as Vice-Chair for the WIB National Communications committee.

WIB has been such an essential and important part of my life, particularly during graduate school. WIB helped me develop relations and identify mentors in different fields – something I could not have gotten from doing bench work all day. I found a network of supportive women with whom I could discuss issues that I wasn’t comfortable talking about in a graduate school setting, and I learned how women can empower each other to overcome obstacles and be the best versions of themselves. Moreover, WIB gave me the opportunity to grow professionally and hone my soft skills. At the same time, I learned the value of giving back to the community, particularly to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Without a doubt, WIB has been influential in my journey of self-discovery and learning.

5. What is the most exciting and personally fulfilling aspect of your current work?

The most exciting part of my work is the fact that I get the opportunity to collaborate closely with different biotech companies who are working in exciting areas of research, ranging from cancer to inflammatory diseases and beyond. Each day at Verge presents new avenues to learn and explore. A fulfilling aspect of my job has been helping companies that are developing potentially life-saving therapeutics shape their narratives and talk about their science in a way that both excites and inspires others. Being a part of their journeys and walking alongside them through their successes and challenges has been a truly rewarding experience.

6. What is the best leadership advice you have received and from whom?

My undergraduate research advisor had a knack of giving good advice, and the thing that stuck with me the most over years is this: Do what you need to do in order to be successful. If you want something, work towards achieving it, and don’t allow hurdles and other people deter you (this in no way implies that one should resort to unethical practices, of course!). During graduate school, this advice motivated me to be pro-active about my career, get out of my comfort zone and become involved with WIB. Even now, as I am in my current role, his words motivate me to keep learning and growing within my organization and beyond.

7. What does success mean to you?

To me success is an overall feeling of fulfillment. Despite facing several setbacks during graduate school, I kept the end goal in focus and worked hard.  While the journey has been difficult at times, I am proud of my achievements and where they’ve landed me. I feel truly fortunate to get to work with such an amazing team and clients, doing what I love every single day, and in that way I feel like I’ve been successful.



Tags:  2019  Member Spotlight 

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WIB-Capital Region Member Spotlight: Akunna Iheanacho, Ph.D.

Posted By Jhimli Roy, Monday, September 16, 2019

Spotlight Interview – Akunna Iheanacho, Ph.D.



1. Tell us about your background (both educational and professional).

I am the Director of Research and Development at Texcell – North America, Inc. where I support novel assay development and virus purification efforts. I serve as a subject matter expert with extensive experience in the purification, recovery, and formulation of proteins and biologics. Prior to joining Texcell, I was a Senior Scientist at Paragon Bioservices, Inc. (now Paragon Gene Therapy). While there, I made significant contributions in transitioning projects from basic science discovery to cGMP-ready processes by establishing critical process parameters and quality attributes for vaccines, AAV gene therapies, and reagents for diagnostics. During my graduate studies, I employed biochemical and biophysical techniques in my structural and functional characterization of proteins dysregulated in cancer and type II diabetes. I received my Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia, and B.S. in Biology from Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL.

2. What are your top three tips for women who are just starting their careers?

Here are my top three tips for women starting their careers:

I. Success in professional relationships lies in your ability to effectively communicate with others. It is important to advocate for yourself and for this, effective communication is critical. To be successful in pitching yourself, you need to know your audience, their needs, and also consider what they value. It’s not just the words that you use but your nonverbal cues are equally important —the gestures you make, your posture, your tone of voice, how many eyes contact you make—these all send strong messages. I should probably also mention the importance of effectively communicating when you are networking. With an exchange, really think about the key message you are trying to convey.

II. Practice fostering resilience. In order to conquer challenges at work, you must possess determination, perseverance, and grit. View challenges as opportunities for growth.

III. Avoid perfectionistic thinking and accept feedback. Because the fear of failure can have an immobilizing effect, one way in which you can avoid perfectionist thinking is by focusing on the process rather than the end result. Strive for continuous improvement rather than perfection. When others give you feedback, listen objectively and take time to process the information.

3. Tell us how you got involved with Women in Bio, what you do for the organization, and what being a part of WIB means to you.

I attended a WIB-Capital Region chapter roundtable discussion on how women can become more effective leaders. This event was truly inspiring. I was excited about the opportunities this organization offered and became a WIB member that same afternoon. Later that year, I began participating in MAPS. I am passionate about encouraging young women to explore opportunities, education, and careers in STEM and while at Hopkins I was actively involved in mentoring programs that encouraged STEM outreach and targeted young people. I missed being able to give back in this way and once I learned about Young Women in Bio (YWIB), I decided to volunteer. I currently serve as Co-Chair for Capital Region Chapter of YWIB).

4. What is the most exciting and personally fulfilling part of your work right now?

The most fulfilling and exciting part of my work is that every single day I have an opportunity to make scientific contributions that have the potential to improve someone’s quality of life. On any given day, I’m able to facilitate the translation of breakthrough discoveries into safe and effective products.

5. How did you find the career path that you are on right now?

While in graduate school, I evaluated protein-protein interactions with the end goal of utilizing structure-based drug design to assist in the development of more targeted therapies. Although I really enjoyed basic science research, I was more passionate about seeing those scientific breakthroughs or discoveries translate into actual commercial products (e.g. drugs, vaccines, biologics, or other pharmaceutical products) that had the potential to impact public health. I pursued a career in industry because I believed my skills and knowledge base would assist me in conducting research that bridged the gap between scientific discovery and the delivery of new technologies or biotherapeutics to market. While at Paragon, I was able to develop new technologies and medical products that improved patient outcomes – this is how I started my career path in translating basic science to therapies and diagnostic tools. As I have transitioned into my role at Texcell, this position been a great fit for me because I’m part of a global organization that supports therapeutic innovation and enhances product safety.

Tags:  2019  Member Spotlight 

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WIB-Capital Region: Second Annual Summer Picnic, August 11, 2019

Posted By Gelareh Abulwerdi , Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Long-time and new members of Women In Bio, along with family and friends, gathered at a picnic area at Rock Creek Park on Sunday, August 11th for the 2nd Annual Summer Picnic. Programs Chair, Jenny Lindvall, organized great food (and weather!) for the get-together. The casual event didn't have a formal program. Remarks were given by Susan Bahri of Capital Region sponsor NIH Federal Credit Union (NIHFCU). She explained her transition from commercial banking to non-profit banking and the ability of NIHFCU to offer personalized assistance for things like starting or growing a business.Thanks to Susan and her colleague Peggi McCarty for coming out and for several raffle prizes. WIB National Executive Director, Lisa Iadicicco, spoke next and closed the informal program. Lisa just celebrated her first year as Executive Director, and she became familiar with Women In Bio because of its great work in her city, Pittsburgh, PA. As Lisa has gotten to know WIB even better, she talked about two things that set it WIB apart for her: 1. WIB's ability to support women at all stages of their career (from 12 to 112!) and 2. the extensive involvement of volunteers to deliver on the mission at the chapter level. Lisa also previewed upcoming activities, such as focused efforts for entrepreneurs and executives. A great time was had by all at what is quickly becoming a WIB-Capital Region tradition.

Click here for more photos 

Tags:  2019 

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