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8:30 - 9:00 AM
9:00 - 12:00 PM



Nancy Houfek, Keynote Speaker

12:00 - 12:30 PM



Francine Mahak, Graduate Student Career Development, University of Utah

12:30 - 2:00 PM



Professor, University of Utah 
Department of Oncological Sciences
Assistant Professor, University of Utah 
Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy
Zhizhou Ye
Research Scientist 
Tolero Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 
Kimberly Frizzell
Clinical Variant Scientist Supervisor 
ARUP Laboratories



Distinguished Professor, University of Utah
Department of Biochemistry, Co-Chair
Grace Hsu, ALM, MS, CMI
Board Certified Medical Illustrator 
Scientific Animator in the Animation Lab
Biomedical Illustrator 
Postdoctoral Fellow in the Animation Lab



Director Global, Rural & Underserved Child Program 
Assistant Professor Pediatrics, University of Utah School of Medicine 
Division of Pediatrics Emergency Medicine


Utah House of Representatives
Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Ambassador 
2:00 - 5:00 PM

Nancy Houfek, Keynote Speaker



Organized by theBioscience Career Day Committee

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.

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Nancy Houfek (Keynote Speaker)

Nancy Houfek holds a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.F.A. from San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater, where she remained as an actor, director and coach for nearly a decade. She has also held faculty or guest positions at the University of Washington, the Drama Studio of London, Southern Methodist University and the University of Minnesota. Nancy is a Master Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework.

Since 1978, Nancy has served as a consultant to a wide variety of institutions and individuals, presenting workshops using theater, storytelling and leadership techniques for corporations, think tanks, universities, and professional organizations throughout the country. She offers specific skills from the theatre to become a more engaging and memorable speaker, whether at a professional conference, public event, job talk or in the classroom. 


Donald E. Ayer (Academia Panel)

Donald Ayer, PhD, is an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah (U of U). He is a member of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program.

Ayer is a leader in the area of gene regulation and its role in normal and cancer cell growth. His research focuses on how cells regulate a transcription factor known as Myc, which is mutated in a wide variety of cancers. In normal cells, Myc is responsible for turning on the genes that are required for cell division. In cancer cells, Myc is "hyperactive" and causes cells to divide continuously, creating excess, unnecessary cells that form a tumor. Ayer's research group investigates how Myc functions in normal and cancer cells, and they work to increase the understanding of basic gene control mechanisms. This information could greatly improve cancer diagnosis methods and treatment.


Adam Douglass (Academia Panel) 

Despite their relatively small numbers, modulatory neurons contribute to an overwhelming number of essential behaviors. Douglass's lab exploits the relative simplicity of the larval zebrafish brain to understand how neurons that produce the neuromodulators dopamine and oxytocin shape locomotion, pain processing, learning, and social behavior, and in the process derive general principles for the operation of modulatory circuits. There are currently three, specific projects in Douglass's lab: Dopaminergic control of locomotion, Oxytocin and pain processing, and Danionella translucida: A new fish model for systems neuroscience.

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Wesley I. Sunquist (Science Publishing ) 

Wesley Sundquist, PhD, is Samuels Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Utah. He is also a member of the Cell Response and Regulation Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Sundquist received a bachelor's degree from Carleton College, Minnesota, and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His honors and awards include election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences

The Sundquist lab studies the cellular, molecular and structural biology of retroviruses, particularly HIV, and the roles of the ESCRT pathway in cell division and the abscission checkpoint. Major projects in our lab include studies of: 1) ESCRT pathway functions and regulation in cell division and cancer, 2) HIV budding, 3) HIV capsid structure, function and restriction, particularly by the TRIM5α system, and 4) Designed enveloped protein nanoparticles. Our approaches include NMR, EM, crystallographic and computational studies of viral complexes, identification and biochemical analyses of the interactions between viral components and their cellular partners, and genetic analyses of viral and cellular protein functions.


Grace Hsu (Science Publishing) 

Grace Hsu is a Scientific Animator in the Animation Lab. She earned her MS in Biomedical Visualization from the UIC in 2015. She was a recipient of the Vesalius Trust Research Grant, which recognizes meritorious projects in the field of biomedical visualization.

Grace Hsu has a strong background in biochemistry and biotechnology to support her professional career as a biomedical illustrator. From her graduate studies and research, she has learned the vital role of visualization has in communication and knowledge transfer to advance science and medicine. Grace's interests lie primarily in patient education, storyboarding/concept art, and data visualization. By designing a useful and engaging user interface for low health literacy oncology patients to communicate cutting-edge discovery to potential investors and pharmaceutical executives, she enjoys translating complex scientific information into something understandable and engaging for the target audience. 


Shraddha Nayak (Science Publishing) 

Shraddha Nayak is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Animation Lab. She earned her Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 2015. Before joining the Animation Lab, she freelanced as a scientific illustrator.

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Jeff Robison (Clinical Research) 

Jeff Robison, M.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine and an attending physician in the Emergency Department at Primary Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Robison teaches courses in Global Health at the University of Utah School of Medicine and is the Director for the Global, Rural, and Underserved Child Health Certificate Program for pediatric residents. His research interests include provision of emergency care for children in resource-limited settings.

Dr. Robison completed residency training in pediatrics at Columbia University. After residency, Dr. Robison spent two years in Malawi at Kamuzu Central Hospital working with acutely ill children and children with HIV/AIDS. He has since completed fellowship training in pediatric emergency medicine through the University of Utah. Dr. Robison is certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine by the American Board of Pediatrics.


Representative Elizabeth Weight (Government & Policy) 

Elizabeth Weight is a Democratic member of the Utah State House, representing the state's 31st house district. She has been in office since Janurary 1, 2017. Ms. Weight received her B.S. in Secoundary Education at Utah State University and her M.A. in Linguistics at the University of Utah.


Sasha Luks-Morgan (Government & Policy) 

Sasha Luks-Morgan is a Neuroscience Program Graduate student in Douglass's Lab. She is currently exploring how the role of oxytocin and oxytocin receptors play in behavioral responses to pain in the larval zebrafish. Sasha uses a combination of behavioral studies and molecular techniques to help map the circuit that underlies this behavior. She is interested in the expression of oxytocin receptors within the reticulospinal network and how they can modulate response. Sasha was selected to serve as a Society for Neuroscience Policy Ambassador in 2018. When she is not in the lab, she enjoys working on scientific engagement with government and policy.

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Autumn Mcknite (Chair), Neurobiology & Anatomy Department, Christian Lab
Priscilla Figueroa, Neurobiology & Anatomy Department, Dorsky Lab
Victoria Krawiec, Human Genetics Department, Stanfield Lab
Amaka Nwagbo,  Pharmacology & Toxicology Department, Bernstein Lab


Special Thanks to:

Janis Weis, PhD, Molecular Biology Director

Michael Kay, MD PhD, Biological Chemistry Director

Elizabeth Loertscher, Bioscience PhD Programs Office

Sarah Dunn, Bioscience PhD Programs Office

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Last Updated: 5/5/21