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Career Day 2017

Bioscience Career Day

Thursday, May 18, 2017
HSEB Alumni Hall, Room 2100

To register please click here.

Program Schedule

9:30 - 9:45 am
9:45 - 10:40 am
10:40 - 11:00 AM 
Coffee break and spotlight resource 
11:00 - 12:00 Pm 
Communication Panel Discussion
12:00 - 12:50 PM
Lunch (Registered Guests Only)
1:00 - 2:00 Pm
Government and Policy Panel discussion
2:00 - 2:20 PM
2:20 - 3:20 PM
Industry Panel Discussion
3:20 - 4:20 PM
Coffee break, Spotlight resource, goodbyes

The University of Utah graduate programs in Molecular Biology and Biological Chemistry designed the Bioscience Career Symposium to provide an open forum in which graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can explore the wide range of career options available to Ph.D. life scientists. We appreciate the willingness of the invited professionals to share their perspectives and look forward to an enjoyable and educational Career Day.




Speakers Biographies

Darrell Davis

Biography to come!


Mark Karver

Director, Northwestern University Peptide Synthesis Core

Mark is currently Director of the Peptide Synthesis Core Facility at the Simpson Querrey Institute of Northwestern University. He has been in this position for almost 5 years and his facility provides consultation, instrumentation, and services related to custom peptide synthesis, purification and characterization. His education started at Butler University where he earned a BS in both Biology and Chemistry. Mark then went on to the Chemistry PhD program at the University of Southern California where he joined the laboratory of Prof. Amy M. Barrios. He followed Prof. Barrios when she accepted a position in the University of Utah’s Medicinal Chemistry Department where he finished up his degree. Next, Mark did a postdoctoral fellowship in the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and prior to joining Northwestern, he worked for the Sigma-Aldrich Corporation as a Chemical Biology Product Manager.


Deborah Neklason

Research Associate Professor in Division of Genetic Epidemiology in Internal Medicine, Investigator in Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, and Program Director of Utah Genome Project

Deborah Neklason, PhD is a Research Associate Professor in Division of Genetic Epidemiology in Internal Medicine, Investigator in Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program, and Program Director of Utah Genome Project. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from University of Washington, followed by 3 years at Immunex Corporation in biotech and 3 years with Francis Collins at University of Michigan in Human Genetics. She then landed at University of Utah earning her PhD is in Human Genetics in 1999 where she studied cholesterol metabolism. After graduation, she took a position as Manager at Echelon Biosciences when it was a new company of four people doing everything from people management, assay development, product shipping and billing, marketing, and grant writing. After a year of growth in this intense environment, she went back to the University as an Instructor in Oncological Sciences and Huntsman Cancer Institute working closely with a senior gastroenterologist and pioneer in colon cancer genetics, Dr. Randy Burt. Her work was and, 17 years later, still is, focused on translation between basic and clinical science. Her projects involve identification new genes that are important in cancer development, improving ways to identify individuals at risk of developing gastrointestinal cancers, and clinical trials to prevent cancer. Over this time, she had forays into helping get the biotech technician program off the ground at SLCC, developing clinical trials, raising two kids, and more recently directing Utah Genome Project (UGP), an initiative to invigorate genomic medicine at Utah using the unique family and genetic resources. University of Utah’s Algorithms publication termed her the “connector” in her UGP role by bringing clinical, basic, and computational scientists together. She currently has two NIH-funded grants, a partnership with Janssen pharmaceuticals for cancer interception and a magnificent husband of 26 years.


James Gagnon

Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah

James Gagnon is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah. He was born in rural Vermont and got his B.S. in Biology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He studied mechanisms of RNA transport during his Ph.D. at Brown University. As an American Cancer Society postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, James developed genome engineering tools for use in the zebrafish. He also dissected the role of pluripotency factors during early embryogenesis. He started his own lab in January 2018. His lab uses CRISPR-Cas9 for genetic recording of events during development. James advocates for open science and contributes to Prelights, a preprint highlight service. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring Utah by foot, by bike or by ski.


Ofer Rog

Biography to come!



Rebecca Fedrick

Principal, Boston Consulting Group

Becky is a Principal at the Boston Consulting Group, and a lead member of the TMT (Technology Media & Telecom) and Technology Advantage practices. She specializes in software product strategy and opening new digital channels for her clients.

Becky began her career as a scientist – graduating with a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University followed by a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Utah as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She completed post-doctoral training as an American Cancer Society fellow in Allan Spradling’s lab at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Baltimore. Before consulting, Becky spent a year as a AAAS Science Policy Fellow at the NIH National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, where she focused on the traumatic brain injury portfolio.


Felix Karim

Executive Vice President, Business Development, Blade Therapeutics Inc.

Felix Karim Ph.D. has worked in the biopharmaceutical industry for 19 years and has held leadership roles in business development and R&D management in both public and private biopharmaceutical companies, including Blade Therapeutics, Compugen, Amgen, KAI Pharmaceuticals, Celera Genomics and Exelixis.

Felix has led multidisciplinary teams across a variety of therapeutic programs that have attracted major pharmaceutical partnerships. While at KAI, Felix led the discovery team and is co-inventor of KAI-4169 (ParsabivTM/etelcalcetide), which is approved and marketed in the US, Europe and Japan for the treatment of hyperparathyroidism in chronic kidney disease. While at KAI, he also served as Vice President of Business Development where he led the partnering efforts, including a license with Ono Pharmaceuticals for development and commercialization of KAI-4169 in Japan and the sale of KAI to Amgen in July 2012 for $315 million. Currently Felix is Executive Vice President of Business Development at Blade Therapeutics where he has responsibility for business and corporate development, strategy and competitive intelligence.

Felix is co-inventor on over a dozen patents, and has numerous publications of his scientific work in both academic and industry setting.

Felix received his BA in Biochemistry from University of California, Berkeley and did his PhD in the lab of Carl Thummel in the Human Genetics Department at University of Utah, and returned to UC Berkeley where he did post-doctoral training with Gerry Rubin.


Paulmichael Maxfield

Public Programs Coordinator, Natural History Museum of Utah

Paulmichael Maxfield manages the Gallery Programs department, which specializes in developing programs and hands-on activities, cooridnating special events, and building relationships with partners in the community. As the public programs coordinator, he is responsible for developing new and memorable educational experiences to complement exhibits and special events for Museum visitors. Maxfield brings over fifteen years of professional content development experience to his position.

Maxfield developed and manages the museum's Science Communication Fellows Program, in which local scienitists improve their science communication skills through a series of formal workshops and public programs like Science Cafe (scienitists share their research in a TED-esque Talk) and Scientist in the Spotlight (scienitists share their research with the general public in a conversational, materials-rich open house enviroment).


Julie Kiefer

Manager, Science Communications, University of Utah Health

My passion for science has brought me many places, all of which I’ve adored. Currently I manage communications on basic science and clinical research for University of Utah Health where I oversee and produce multimedia content that explains our research and why it matters. I also spend time strategizing, consulting, editing, interfacing with media, podcasting and tweeting. Previously I managed web communications for the Brain Institute, co-founded an independent local science news website called Explore Utah Science, was a science writer for the journal Developmental Dynamics, and a freelance science writer. I received my Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Washington and was a postdoc in a developmental biology lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.


Cara C. Burns

Deputy Branch Chief of the Polio and Picornavirus Laboratory Branch and Team Lead of the Molecular Epidemiology and Surveillance Laboratory, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Cara C. Burns, PhD, is Deputy Branch Chief of the Polio and Picornavirus Laboratory Branch and Team Lead of the Molecular Epidemiology and Surveillance Laboratory, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

She graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Texas A & M University in 1985. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Utah in the laboratory of Ellie Ehrenfeld, Ph.D., in the Cellular, Viral and Molecular Biology Department, studying poliovirus RNA replication. She did a postdoctoral fellowship in the Microbiology Department at the University of Washington in Seattle, studying feline leukemia virus receptors, envelope processing, and HIV-1 integrase evolution, in the laboratory of Julie Overbaugh, Ph.D.

She has worked at CDC as a Microbiologist since 1998, doing poliovirus molecular epidemiology and using poliovirus as a model for rational vaccine design. She and her team provide support to >50 World Health Organization (WHO) Global Polio Laboratory Network laboratories, performing high resolution sequencing and tracking of wild and vaccine-derived polioviruses. She is a co-inventor on federal government patents in more than 20 countries for vaccine technology and is a founding member of the New OPV Consortium, which has brought two new OPV2 vaccine candidates to clinical trials.


Suzzane D. Vernon

Research Director, Bateman Horne Center

Suzanne D. Vernon has her doctorate degree in Virology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Suzanne has co-authored 100 scientific papers. She spent 17 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studying human papillomavirus. opportunistic infections and complications in people with human immunodeficiency virus and chronic fatigue syndrome. Her CDC tenure was highlighted by a number of “firsts” including the demonstration that molecular interaction of HPV and HIV and conceiving and organizing an international BIG DATA computational challenge. Suzanne assembled an eclectic team of molecular biologists, engineers, physicists and computational biologists to merge data collected in laboratory, clinical and epidemiology studies with the goal of identifying biomarkers to objectively define a complex, medically unexplained disease known as ME/CFS. Suzanne transitioned into the nonprofit sector to more readily engage patients as partners in the research process. She “built” the Research Institute Without Walls (RIWW), the first nonprofit patient-centered research initiative focused on identifying diagnostic biomarkers and disease-modifying treatment for ME/CFS. The RIWW attracted some of the brightest investigators from the best institutions into ME/CFS research. Now as Research Director at the Bateman Horne Center, Suzanne brings her experience, connections and collaborations to grow a research program focused on developing diagnostic tests and evidence-based treatments for ME/CFS.


Karlee Adams

Health Program Manager, Utah Department of Health

Karlee Adams is a Health Program Manager at the Utah Department of Health working in tobacco prevention, cessation, and control initiatives. Karlee did a B.S. in Community Health Education at Utah State University while also working as a medical assistant, and she received a Master of Public Administration from BYU.


Shenshen Cai

Regulatory Affairs Manager, Pfizer

Shenshen Cai currently is a Manager of Regulatory Affairs at Pfizer, focusing on the CMC (Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control) strategies for brand drug lifecycle managements. He leads the post-approval product CMC variation registrations for global markets. He earned his BS in Life Sciences from Peking University in China and PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from University of Utah. He started his industry career as a formulation scientist after his postdoctoral research in University of Pennsylvania. After several years of working on drug development for various dosage forms, he moved into the Regulatory Affairs at Teva Pharmaceuticals, USA, managing registrations of generic medicines through FDA, before he recently changed his job to work at Pfizer. He enjoys his work in regulatory affairs as it presents abundant steering opportunities through the medicine development, registration, and lifecycle management processes. The research experience from both school and industry also provides valuable help with development of the critical analytical skills in regulatory affairs careers.


Cheryl Baird

Biography to come!


John McIntosh

Senior Scientist in Biocatalysis, Merck

John McIntosh is currently a Senior Scientist in Biocatalysis at Merck Research Laboratories. He obtained his PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from Prof. Eric Schmidt's laboratory at the University of Utah in 2012. After completing his degree, he worked as a postdoctoral scholar Prof. Frances H. Arnold's group at the California Institute of Technology, studying the development of non-natural cytochrome P450-catalyzed reactions. In 2015, he started his industry career at Merck & Co. Inc. where he has continued to focus on developing novel enzyme catalyzed reactions. 



Yolanda Chong

VP-Biology, Recursion

Yolanda obtained her PhD in Plant Molecular Biology from the University of Toronto. After completing her PhD in 2007, she joined the Saccharomyces cerevisiae omics team at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, headed by Brenda Andrews and Charlie Boone. In 2011, Yolanda was recruited to Janssen Pharmaceuticals with Johnson and Johnson to apply high-dimensional imaging approaches to their small molecule discovery pipeline and in 2017, she transitioned to Recursion to further advance this approach for small molecule therapeutics. She is currently the Vice President in Biology department at Recursion Pharmaceuticals. 


Lisa Peterson

Medical Director in Immunology, ARUP Laboratories

Lisa Peterson is an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. She received her PhD in experimental pathology from the University of Utah and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Immunology at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. Dr. Peterson continued her training with a clinical immunology fellowship at the University of Utah. Her research interests include cellular immunology and autoimmune immunology, with a focus on autoimmune neurology. Dr. Peterson is a member of the Association of Medical Laboratory Immunologists, the Clinical Immunology Society, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry, and the American Society for Microbiology.









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Last Updated: 5/5/21