Plenary talks

PictureCarmen Gervais
Carmen Gervais joined the Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) on June 1, 2012 as the Director of Fellowships and Career Development Awards. Prior to joining the HFSP secretariat, she was the Senior Advisor at the Canada Research Chairs secretariat in Ottawa, Canada. In this capacity she was involved in policy analysis, strategic planning and program management. Most recently she oversaw the development and implementation of the prestigious Canada Excellence Research Chairs program, launched in 2008. 
A cell biologist by training, Carmen has held various positions in science policy and science program development and delivery in government, and was also a lecturer at the University of Ottawa. Carmen has served on the Board of Directors of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa, and has volunteered with various social support organizations. 

PictureArsalan Daudi
Arsalan Daudi is an Executive Editor at Bio-protocol. In addition to his editorial role, he is involved in several projects that aim to address the lack of experimental reproducibility often reported in the life sciences research community. He has a background in molecular plant biology and plant-microbe interactions, having held postdoctoral positions at RIKEN, Royal Holloway, and UC Davis. He received his PhD in molecular plant-microbe interactions from Rothamsted Research and the University of East Anglia, UK.

PictureEthan Perlstein
Over the course of the last decade, first as a graduate student at Harvard and then as an independent postdoctoral fellow at Princeton, Dr. Ethan Perlstein developed an approach to studying complex drugs in simple model organisms called evolutionary pharmacology. In 2013 Dr. Perlstein left academia in the face of the “postdocalypse,” declared scientific independence, and decided to apply evolutionary pharmacology to orphan/rare diseases. His journey of professional reinvention includes forays into tweeting, blogging, and crowdfunding. It culminates in the creation last year of Perlstein Lab, PBC, a San Francisco-based biotech startup and public benefit corporation that is focused on precision orphan disease drug discovery.

Panel I: Career panel; transitioning out of academic research.

PictureMark Drapeau
Dr. Mark Drapeau is a behavior scientist, writer, and business strategist. He currently works at a boutique design agency in the West Village named Sub Rosa, where he leads strategy, insights, and concepting for major clients like GE. Prior to that he held private sector positions in Washington, DC at Atlantic Media and Microsoft focused on implementing creative methods to engage influential audiences. Before entering the private sector, Dr. Drapeau taught in the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, held a AAAS Science & Technology Policy fellowship at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at the U.S. Defense Department, and held a National Institutes of Health fellowship at NYU’s Department of Biology. He holds a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from the University of California – Irvine and a B.S. in Biology with research honors from the University of Rochester. 

PictureAngela Welch
Angela Welch, PhD, received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. (2010) from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY where she investigated tissue engineering applications in peripheral nerve repair. As a result, her research interests include: (neural) tissue engineering, BioMEMs, micro/nano-patterning, scaffold design, and biological image analysis. She has authored three manuscripts and presented her work via poster and podium presentations at national and international conferences. Since then Angela has translated her biomedical engineering background and passion for scientific communication into a career in publishing. In her current role as Senior Publisher at Elsevier, she oversees the editorial and financial health of a suite of journals dedicated to the area of Chemical and Biological Engineering including Chemical Engineering Science, Biochemical Engineering JournalPowder Technology, and Computers & Chemical Engineering. Over the past four years, Angela has hosted numerous Author and Reviewer Workshops at universities, corporations, and conferences across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. 

PictureChris Blagden
Chris Blagden, PhD, is currently the Director, CME Development and Strategy at HealthmattersCME in New York.  He has almost 10 years’ experience developing continuing education initiatives for improving the care of patients with a wide range of mental and neurologic health disorders, cardiometabolic and cardiovascular disease, chronic pain and addiction.
Chris received his Bachelor of Science and PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of London in the United Kingdom, and completed his postdoctoral work at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.  His research studies initially concerned the developmental biology, and latterly the adult neurobiology of skeletal muscle, and how it adapts in response to electrical stimulation.
Chris has been a part of several leadership initiatives to enhance the state of the US scientific and medical workforce.  He was a charter member of the National Postdoctoral Association, including serving on their Board of Directors for two years; involved in the development, securing funding for and executing their Team Visit Program; chairing Outreach and Board Development Committees.  Chris has also served as a scientific and strategic consultant for the Institute for Schools of the Future, a New York non-profit with National Science Foundation grant support, focused on innovative scientific educational programs for children, developing and executing a national education program on forensics for middle school children in collaboration with the Police Athletics League.

PictureFriederike Schüür
Friederike Schüür works as a data scientist at Oscar, a health insurance startup based in New York City. She enjoys contributing to a mission driven company: Oscar aims to make health insurance simple, intuitive, and human. The fast-paced, evolving environment of a startup poses new challenges and opportunities for growth; the best tools to get the job done tomorrow will be different from the ones we use today. Most of all, she does what she enjoys most; dig into data. Medical claims data or call logs from customer service, as a data scientist, she uncovers stories in the data, builds predictive models, and algorithms to automate business processes. Prior to Oscar, she was an Insight Data Science Fellow and engaged in pro-bono data science work for DataKind. She earned a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from University College London and completed a post-doc at the NYU psychology department on human decision making. The knowledge and skills she gained during her PhD prepared her for a career in data science. What do you need? Curiosity, creativity, a knack for asking the right questions, and the skills to dig into data to find your answers.

PictureNina Vogt
Nina Vogt is an Associate Editor at Nature Methods, where she handles manuscripts about methods and tools for neuroscience, model organisms, mechanobiology and other topics. In addition, she contributes to the journal content by writing short highlights about papers published in other journals. Before joining Nature Methods in April 2014, Nina worked as a postdoc in Claude Desplan’s lab in the NYU Biology department. Her research focused on the behavioral analysis of color vision in Drosophila. Drosophila was also her model of choice to study early development during her PhD thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tuebingen, Germany. The career path as an editor allows Nina to combine her interests in science, reading, writing and travelling.

PictureIsabel Kurth
Isabel Kurth joined Rgenix, a small New York based start up biotech in 2012 as VP of Research. In this role she is coordinating, supervising and conducting numerous pre-clinical studies with the goal to develop cancer therapeutics.  Prior to her transition to the private sector, Isabel was a postdoc at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, focusing on various aspects of DNA replication and DNA damage. Isabel earned her PhD from ISREC/University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Not knowing what life in biotech would be, she found a position, which allows her to apply the academic technical and intellectual skills that she has acquired, and combine them with project management, communication, and most importantly, team work. All with a very focused goal – to improve the lives of thousands of cancer patients worldwide.

Panel II: Current postdoctoral crisis and what can be done about it.

PictureChristine Ponder
Dr. Christine Ponder is the Director for Postdoctoral Affairs at the Washington Square campus of NYU. She established the program in 2011 and has since been part of two large projects in postdoc career development, the NYU STEP program funded by a BEST grant from the NIH, to expand career preparation and outcomes for biomedical postdocs, and the NYC ASCENT program funded by the Computing Community Consortium, to do the same for Computer Science Postdocs. Christine has a PhD in Genetics and Development from Columbia University and was a postdoc at Rockefeller University before joining NYU. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

PictureAntoine de Morrée
Dr. Antoine de Morrée is interested in how tissues repair themselves and why this ability diminishes with age. After a PhD in the Netherlands, he now pursues postdoctoral research at Stanford, where he studies molecular mechanisms that enable muscle stem cells to activate and repair muscle damage. Antoine was the elected 2012 treasurer and 2013 co-chair of SURPAS, the Stanford University Postdoctoral Association, in which capacity he co-led two successful advocacy efforts that resulted in improved postdoc benefits. In 2013, Antoine started Stanford Leaders in Communication; an organization that teaches scientists to communicate effectively and position ideas more competitively so they become more successful at communicating science and applying for jobs.

PictureKeith Micoli
Dr. Keith Micoli received his BA from New College of Florida in 1993, and his Ph.D. from University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2001. Keith remained at UAB as a postdoc before being promoted to Instructor in the Department of Pathology, and was also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biology at Samford University. 
Keith’s interest in postdoctoral training at a national level was developed by volunteering with the National Postdoctoral Association. He served on the NPA Board of Directors for four years and was Board Chairman from 2004-2006. During this time, the NPA transitioned from a special project of AAAS into an independent 501(c) non-profit corporation. Keith returned to the NPA Board of Directors in 2013 and is serving another term as Chairman for 2014. 
He left academic research to join New York University’s School of Medicine as Postdoctoral Program Director in 2008. Since that time, Keith has developed numerous formal programs to foster postdoc training, including courses in ethics, grantwriting, lab management, and communication skills. He has also expanded his role to include career development programs for graduate students, and organized a popular career discussion series that brings in PhDs who have chosen a wide variety of careers to come and discuss what the transition was like and how people can position themselves to be competitive when opportunities present themselves. His biggest challenge has been the organization of What Can You Be with a PhD?, a career symposium that brings together over 100 speakers, 1300 graduate students and postdocs from NYC for two days of talks and workshops. 
Keith is the co-primary investigator on the newly-created NIH BEST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grant, awarded in September 2013. This five-year grant is intended to promote and foster diverse training opportunities for graduate students and postdocs, explicitly targeting careers beyond academic research. A key feature of NYU’s grant is partnering with employer organizations to deliver education and training necessary to create a more competitive future workforce. His passion is encouraging postdocs and graduate students to take responsibility for their own success, and providing the resources they need to develop their own careers.

PictureGary McDowell
Gary McDowell is a postdoctoral researcher at Tufts University.  Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he holds BA and MSci degrees in Natural Sciences (Chemistry) from the University of Cambridge, UK and studied protein folding before beginning a PhD in Oncology, also at the University of Cambridge. He studied the role of protein modification and degradation in neurogenesis, using the frog Xenopus as a model system. He then undertook two years of postdoctoral research at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School learning mass spectrometry and proteomics before moving to the Biology Department at Tufts, where he is currently researching the role of the cytoskeleton in left-right body patterning during embryo development.   Gary was an organizer of the Future of Research Symposium, held in Boston in October 2014, which brought together young scientists to discuss issues that have led to a hyper-competitive crisis in biomedical research, and was first author on the subsequent report, “Shaping the Future of Research: A perspective from Junior Scientists” published in F1000Research.  He is actively involved with the ongoing activities of the Future of Research as well as being President of Tufts Postdoctoral Association.

PictureAaron Lotz
Dr. Aaron Lotz earned both his B.S. and M.S. in Wildlife Biology from Humboldt State University. He earned a Ph.D. in Applied Ecology from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and then became a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of California, Davis. At Davis, Aaron worked with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to help develop a conservation/management plan for the reptiles and amphibians of California. He is particularly interested in herpetology, endangered species conservation, invasive species management, cross-scale ecosystem resilience, functional diversity, and functional redundancy.
Aaron currently works for UAW Local 5810, the Union for Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of California ( As an organizer and as Trustee on the Executive Board, Aaron has helped identify and resolve numerous problems encountered by postdocs over the past two years (e.g., issues concerning healthcare, salary, and job title classification). He has also educated postdocs about their contractual rights and benefits. Aaron intends to vigorously defend and improve the rights and benefits of University of California postdocs in upcoming contract negotiations.

PictureKeith Woerpel
Professor Keith Woerpel received a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry from the University of Virginia with Highest Distinction in 1986. He moved to Harvard University and earned an A.M. degree in 1988 and a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1992. After two years of postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, he began his academic career at the Department of Chemistry at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 2000, and to Professor in 2002. He has received several awards for his research, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the White House, Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, Johnson & Johnson Award for Research, and the AstraZeneca Excellence in Chemistry Award. His efforts in the classroom have resulted in four teaching awards, including the UCI Academic Senate Distinguished Assistant Professor for Teaching Award, and he was selected as the Outstanding Professor of the School of Physical Sciences by the Class of 2010. In 2010, he began his current position at NYU. Current research in his laboratories include the discovery and development of new reactions of organic compounds, the synthesis of biologically active organic peroxides, and the formulation of stereochemical models to explain reactions involving oxocarbenium ions.

Networking Opportunities

PictureKevin Mercurio
Kevin Mercurio is currently a Program Director for the Insight Data Science Fellows Program in New York City, where he helps PhDs and postdocs transition to new careers in data science. In his academic career, he earned a PhD from Harvard University in experimental particle physics, and spent three years at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also an alumnus of the Insight Data Science program, having participated as a Fellow in 2014.

PictureBethany Drehman
Bethany Drehman is a science policy analyst at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), which is comprised of 27 scientific societies. For the past two years, she served as staff lead for FASEB’s Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences effort, which culminated in the release of a discussion framework in January 2015. As the staff liaison for FASEB’s Data Science and Informatics Subcommittee, she assists with the development of policy statements and has expanded the Subcommittee’s scope and activities. Bethany has also played a major role in several of FASEB’s advocacy and outreach efforts, including the BioArt contest, Stand Up for Science competition, and federal funding factsheets. She received her PhD in human genetics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

PictureCesar Berrios-Otero
Guided by the passion of Jacques Cousteau, from a very early age Cesar Berrios-Otero knew he wanted to be involved in science, or at least make movies about the denizens underneath the waters of the Caribbean Sea. After graduating from high school in his native Puerto Rico, he enrolled in the UPR Rio Piedras’ program in Biology where as an undergraduate researcher he worked on studying the regenerative capabilities of sea cucumbers. After a couple of summer vacations spent in labs on the US mainland he enrolled in NYU’s Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, where he received a Ph.D. in Developmental Genetics. During this time he dabbled in outreach work, traveling to Puerto Rico to recruit fellow students into NYU’s graduate program. After two and a half years as a postdoc he made the decision to hang up his pipette and joined the outreach team at Faculty of 1000, where he has worked since December 2013.

PictureSjoerd Cooijmans
Sjoerd Cooijmans has been with Elsevier for over 13 years and is originally from The Netherlands. In his 13 years at Elsevier, he has been in more than 8 different roles working on various projects in three different countries: in The Netherlands (Amsterdam) for 7 years, in the UK (London) for 3 years, and since May 2012, based in New York.
As HR Director Sjoerd brings a combination of strategic thinking coupled with hands on operational management and HR experience with an international flavor. In Amsterdam, Sjoerd attended and assisted several career events for PhD students advising academics on their transition to the industry and specifically on roles within Elsevier. 
Currently Sjoerd is currently supporting 9 different departments in Elsevier and is HR lead in the Elsevier New York Office. Manager of 3 HR Business Partners and 1 HR coordinator, he supports approximately 700 employees. In addition, Sjoerd is involved in HR related projects:
  • Global project lead for a project team to embed a competency framework across the company 
  • Project lead for developing and implementing a new governance structure around Independent Contractors in the US.
  • US Lead on (Gender) Diversity – specifically Women & minorities in Science, Sales and Technology
Sjoerd has a Masters in Management and Organization with a Major in HR from University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He lives in Manhattan on the Upper West Side.  He is an avid field hockey player and he enjoys running in Central Park. He ran and finished the 3 last New York Half Marathons, the most recent one being on March 15, 2015.


PictureJustin Williams
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Justin Williams is black and comfortably middle-class. Justin developed his sense of humor as a defense mechanism because moving between divorced parents caused him to always be the “new kid” in school. So it was either be the nerd or the funny nerd. Justin chose the second option, mainly because Steve Urkel was huge back then.  As one of New York City’s funniest up-and-coming comics, Justin has performed at comedy festivals across the United States and Canada.  He has also been featured on Comedy Central’s, SiriusXM’s Raw Dog Comedy, The Elite Daily, Men’s Health Magazine, ‘Morning Buzz Live‘ on VH1 and ‘Laughs’ on Fox. You can check out more at 

PictureRaj Sivaraman
Raj Sivaraman is a writer, comedian, and writer/comedian (Oh! And scientist!). He is one of the co-hosts of the Universe City podcast, which breaks down scientific papers for mainstream audiences. In addition to performing across the country in a variety of comedy festivals, he has presented his research at many international scientific conferences. As a sketch writer, he released an album in 2012 entitled “In Case of Emergency” and was one of the main writers/performers for Boston News Net. As a smart person, he's appeared on Jeopardy!, and asked out Kate Middleton before she met some other guy.

PictureRamin Rahni
NYU's own Ramin Rahni, a graduate student at the CGSB, will provide the tunes during the reception. Ramin, DJing as RAWMEAN, interweaves heady melodies with uplifting world music. Some of his music can be listened to here: