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Next Stage Mixers: Advice for the next stage in your career

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

5:00 pm - 7:00 pm: North Tower

Undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and new faculty members can kick off their TAGC conference experience with a networking event and panel discussion tailored for each group. Attendees at each event will be able to socialize, network, and ask questions about their next career steps during a moderated hour-long panel discussion. The undergraduate session will focus on graduate school applications and experiences; the graduate student and post-doc sessions will focus on both academic and non-academic careers; and the new faculty session will focus on funding, recruiting lab members, managing teaching loads, and the tenure process. Panelists will take questions from the crowd, and there will be time for socializing and networking across all four groups after the panel discussions. Fee: $10. Pre-registration required.

Undergrad Mixer

Graduate Student Mixer

Postdoc Mixer

Early Career Faculty Mixer

Undergrad Mixer

Key West

The Undergraduate Mixer will begin with a short overview of the goals and objectives of National Science Foundation and fellowship applications (Anthea Letsou, NSF), followed by guidelines for creating a successful graduate school application (Rob Ward, Univ of Kansas), and finally advice from a graduate student on navigating your graduate career (Elif Kamber, UMass Amherst). A diverse panel of experts will then answer questions from the audience before attendees network across mixers.


Anthea Letsou, PhD - Science Advisor, National Science Foundation

Dr. Letsou received her BA from Harvard University and PhD from Yale University. She is a Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Utah, using Drosophila to research human development and disease. She is also a Science Advisor in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems within the Bio Directorate at the National Science Foundation. 

Robert Ward, PhD - Associate Professor, University of Kansas
Rob Ward is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Kansas. He received his PhD from Duke University in 1998, conducted postdoctoral work at the University of Utah, and joined the faculty at KU in 2003. His primary research interest is in characterizing mechanisms that provide spatial and temporal control of tissue morphogenesis during development in Drosophila. Dr. Ward is also the director of the HHMI SEA-PHAGES program at KU, and is the campus coordinator for the Kansas Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence program which provides mentored research opportunities to about ten undergraduate students each year.

Hatem Elif Kamber Kaya - Graduate Student, UMass Medical School

Ms. Kaya is a PhD candidate in Andreas Bergmann's Lab in the Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology Department at UMass Medical School. Her research focuses on  understanding regulation of caspases through post-translational modifications in Drosophila. She is planning on pursuing an academic career after graduation.


Margarita Correa-Mendez, MSc - Graduate Student, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Margarita is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences at UMBC working with Dr. David Eisenmann. Her research focuses on how cells acquire defined cell fates in the early stages of development. Specifically, she studies the process of cell fate specification in the skin of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.

Kristin Fenker - Graduate Student, University of Utah

Ms. Fenker completed her undergraduate degree in Human Biology from the University of Indianapolis. After working briefly in Public Affairs for a scientific research company, she began her PhD at the University of Utah studying genes that regulate C. elegans sperm development. In addition to her research, Kristin has a passion for science communication, and she did a teaching assistantship at the Genetic Science Learning Center.

"My personal interests include hiking, backpacking, and playing with my dog"

Michele Markstein, PhD - Assistant Professor, UMass Amherst
Dr. Markstein conducted her PhD thesis research jointly with Dr. Michael Levine at UC Berkeley and Dr. Edwin Ferguson at the University of Chicago, where she worked on transcriptional regulation and embryonic patterning. She then worked with Dr. Norbert Perrimon as a postdoctoral fellow developing methods to screen for anti-cancer drugs in vivo. In her lab at Umass Amherst, they build on the tools and approaches of developmental biology to understand how stem cells interpret and respond to their chemical environment.

Erika Matunis, PhD - Professor of Biology, Johns Hopkins University
Erika Matunis is an affiliate member of the Institute for Cell Engineering and Professor of Cell Biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. As a graduate student in Gideon Dreyfuss's lab at UPenn, she studied RNA binding proteins, then joined Steve DiNardo's lab as a postdoctoral fellow to become a Drosophila geneticist. The Matunis lab's investigation of stem cells in the Drosophila testis has revealed fundamental principles of niche biology including the cellular and molecular nature of niches, how stem cells compete with each other, and how damage triggers cell fate transformations to occur within niches during regeneration.

Jacob Mueller, PhD - Assistant Professor, University of Michigan Medical School
Dr. Mueller received his BA in Biology and Economics from Gettysburg College in 1998. He conducted doctoral studies with Dr. Mariana Wolfner at Cornell University and was a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. David C. Page at the Whitehead Institute at MIT. During his post-doctoral research, Dr. Mueller discovered large, nearly-identical segmental duplications, or amplicons, are prominent features of both the mouse and human X chromosomes. His laboratory now explores the biological significance of these poorly understood structures and their role in infertility.

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Grad Student Mixer


The Grad Student Mixer features a diverse panel of experts with careers within and beyond academia; some panelists experienced traditional postdocs and some did not. Which is the right step for your career trajectory? Panelists will answer questions from the audience from 5:00 - 6:00 pm before attendees network across mixers.


Christopher Baker, PhD - Research Scientist, The Jackson Laboratory

Born in Texas, Dr. Baker left the unbearable heat and humidity of his youth and resettled in New England where he attended The University of Vermont as an undergraduate. Traveling further east to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, he acquired his PhD studying circadian rhythms in filamentous fungi. To learn mouse genetics and genomics he ventured to the end of the east coast to Bar Harbor, ME and studies meiotic recombination for his post-doc.

Kari Barlan, PhD - Postdoctoral Fellow, The University of Chicago

Dr. Barlan grew up and attended college in small-town Ohio. After a three-year stint as a lab technician, she took the plunge into grad school, and is looking to run her own research group in the near future. She lives in downtown Chicago with her wife.

Janna Bednenko, PhD - Head of Genetics, Tetragenetics, Inc.

Janna Bednenko started working on ciliated protozoa during her PhD in Dr. Dorothy Shippen's lab at Texas A&M University. Her academic research included discovery of developmental regulation of telomerase in a ciliate Euplotes crassus and characterization of novel factors involved in small RNA-mediated genome rearrangement in Tetrahymena thermophila. Currently, Dr. Bednenko is a Head of Genetics at Tetragenetics, Inc., developing Tetrahymena strains to produce difficult-to-express membrane proteins for drug discovery purposes.

Interests: Mentoring at AWIS; competitive intelligence; collaborative project management.

JJ Leissing, MBA - Director of Visitor Experience, Orlando Science Center

JJ Leissing is the Director of Visitor Experience at the Orlando Science Center, where she coordinates traveling exhibitions and oversees science content for public programs and exhibits. She works with broad audiences ranging from children to adults, developing guest experiences that highlight the mission of the Orlando Science Center: 'Inspire Science Learning for Life.'

Chris Lelliott, PhD - Senior Scientific Manager, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

Dr. Lelliott received his PhD in Clinical Biochemistry from Cambridge University, United Kingdom, in 2003. He became an industrial post-doctoral fellow and later a full-time research scientist at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Sweden, with responsibility for early-stage drug discovery programs, in particular those combining in vivo disease models with pharmacological assays. He is currently Senior Scientific Manager for In Life Phenotyping at Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, managing both the operations of the mouse primary pipeline team, and scientific collaborations with a wide range of collaborators.

"I am a trained mentor and part of WTSI's Mentoring and Coaching scheme."

Daniel Miller, PhD - Program Director, National Institutes of Health

Dr. Daniel Miller joined the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2015 and serves as a Program Director in the Neurodegeneration Cluster. His focus is basic, translational, and clinical research on Huntington's Disease, as well as invertebrate neuromuscular junction research. Dr. Miller received a PhD in molecular biology from Princeton University, then completed a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most recently, as a visiting researcher at Janelia Farm (HHMI), he collaborated with Dr. Jim Truman to model the structural plasticity of injured circuits and the developmental plasticity of neuronal stem cells.  

Dr. Miller is the Drosophila contact at NINDS/NIH

Victoria Schulman, PhD - Postdoctoral Research Associate, Yale University School of Medicine
Victoria is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Yale University School of Medicine studying the genetics and cell biology underlying numerous cancers. In addition to her research, Victoria also started her own science editing and writing company, Amino Group LLC, after recognizing that many of her non-native English speaking colleagues truly valued her strong command of the English language. She now serves as the President and one of the Senior Editors for the Amino Group LLC to help researchers around the globe improve the logical flow, clarity, and English grammar of their manuscripts and grant applications, thereby dramatically improving their chances of acceptance. "Because brilliant science deserves to be funded and published despite language barriers."
Victoria also manages the blog for the Career Network for Students and Postdocs at Yale (CNSPY).

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Postdoc Mixer

Harbor Beach

The Postdocs Mixer features a diverse panel of experts with careers within and beyond academia. Panelists will answer questions from the audience from 5:00 - 6:00 pm before attendees network across mixers.


Cris Cheney, MPhil, PhD - Associate Professor of Biology, Pomona College

Dr. Cheney received her BA from Goucher College, a Master's of Philosophy from Yale University, her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a post-doc at  Johns Hopkins University. She has held faculty positions at Johns Hopkins University, Washington University in St. Louis Medical School, and Pomona College. where she has been since 1997. She teaches Introductory Genetics with Lab and Developmental Biology with Lab.

Krista Dobi, PhD - Assistant Professor, Baruch College
Krista C. Dobi is an Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Baruch College, The City University of New York. While a postdoctoral researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, she served as an inaugural Trainee Advisory Representative to the GSA Board of Directors. She likes all model organisms, but is partial to the fruit fly. Her lab studies muscle development in Drosophila.

Bill Eggleston, PhD - Program Director, National Science Foundation

Dr. Eggleston is currently on a leave-of-absence from the Department of Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while serving at the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Program Officer for the Genetic Mechanisms cluster in the BIO Directorate. He is a Molecular Geneticist studying epigenetics in maize and previously worked on P transposable elements in Drosophila.

Fei Li, PhD - Associate Professor, New York University

Fei Li received his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. After his postdoctoral research at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and University of California at Berkeley, he became an assistant professor in 2010, and was recently promoted to associate professor with tenure. He was named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts in 2013. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms underlying epigenetic regulation.

Philippe Prochasson, PhD - Project Manager, Evolva

After a long stint in Academia, first studying chromatin remodeling complexes in S. cerevisiae as a Postdoc and later focusing on Histone chaperones as an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Dr. Prochasson transitioned to the private Biotech sector a few years ago. He is now a Project Manager in a biotechnology company called Evolva which uses Yeast to produce flavor and fragrance molecules. He leads a group of Scientists and Research Assistants to engineer S. cerevisiae strains to produce Sesquiterpenes.

"After a long stint in Academia, I transitioned to the private Biotech sector a few years ago."

Beth Ruedi, PhD - Director of Education and Professional Development, Genetics Society of America

Beth Ruedi is the Director of Education and Professional Development at the Genetics Society of America (GSA). Beth received her PhD in behavior genetics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and then became a lecturer & postdoc at North Carolina State University. In 2010, she began a part-time position with the GSA while finishing her work at NCSU, moving to DC in 2011 to serve in her current role. Her duties include coordinating educational and professional development programming at GSA conferences, maintaining and enhancing the Society's educational resources, and developing

"I am passionate about mentoring, diversity in STEM, and a wide array of very nerdy things."

Tina Saey, PhD, MS - Molecular Biology Writer, Science News
Tina Hesman Saey is a scientist turned science journalist. After earning a PhD in molecular genetics, Tina got a master's degree in science journalism. She is currently the molecular biology reporter at Science News magazine and was the recipient of the GSA's Excellence in Research Journalism award in 2010.
“I'm a fan of both science fiction and science fact.”

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Early Career Faculty Mixer

Marco Island

This Mixer for new faculty will focus on funding, recruiting lab members, managing teaching loads, and the tenure process. Panelists will answer questions from the audience from 5:00 - 6:00 pm before attendees network across mixers.


Ashley Bruce, PhD - Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Dr. Bruce completed her doctoral work in Neurobiology at Harvard University, studying the axial patterning in a simple invertebrate, the leech Helobdella. For her postdoctoral work in Robert Ho's lab, she switched to the zebrafish system. She started her own lab at the University of Toronto in 2004, and was granted tenure in 2010. Dr. Bruce's responsibilities also include teaching undergraduate and graduate students, as well as mentoring them in the lab.

Greg Carter, PhD - Assistant Professor, The Jackson Laboratory
Greg Carter received a PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota. After postdoctoral research in theoretical physics, he transitioned into computational biology as a postdoc at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. Greg joined The Jackson Laboratory in 2010.

Cassandra Extavour, PhD - Professor, Harvard University

Cassandra Extavour received her BSc in Molecular Genetics from the University of Toronto. Though a Toronto native, her academic life has been international: she obtained her PhD at the Autonomous University of Madrid, and performed postdoctoral work at the Institute for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Crete, Greece, and at the University of Cambridge. While at Cambridge, a BBSRC Research Grant allowed her to transition to Research Associate in the Department of Zoology. In 2007 she established her independent laboratory in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University; she was promoted to Full Professor in 2014.

Dr. Extavour is also a professional classical singer & currently performs with the Handel and Haydn Society and Emmanuel Music in Boston.

Julie Secombe, PhD - Associate Professor, Einstein College of Medicine

Julie Secombe received her PhD from the University of Adelaide, Australia, studying the regulation of the cell cycle. Her postdoctoral training with Dr. Robert Eisenman at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center centered around defining the means by which the oncoprotein Myc regulates cell growth. Dr. Secombe started her own research group in 2009 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Her research focuses on defining mechanisms of transcriptional regulation.

Trisha Wittkopp, PhD - Professor, University of Michigan
Patricia (Trisha) Wittkopp is an Alfred F. Thurnau Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) whose research focuses on the genetics and genomics of evolution and development. She was an undergraduate Honors student at the University of Michigan, earned her PhD in Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and performed postdoctoral research at Cornell University before joining the University of Michigan faculty in 2005.
Dr. Wittkopp's other interests include genetics education.

Dennis Wykoff, PhD - Professor of Biology, Villanova University

Dr. Wykoff was an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis. He attended Stanford University and earned his PhD studying the genetics of photosynthesis and nutrient starvation. Dr. Wykoff performed his post-doctoral research at UC San Francisco and Harvard University with Erin O'Shea and went to Villanova University as faculty in 2006.

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