Winter 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 1

This issue of the Newsletter is available as a PDF:


For archived versions of previous newsletters, go here. 

Letter from the President

Dear AWIS-SD Members & Friends,

Happy 2016. I hope the New Year finds you all well and looking forward to more professional growth. AWIS-SD offers many opportunities to assist you in attaining your goals. We offer many different committees to serve the local needs of members. These committees range from assembling this newsletter to reaching out to aspiring scientists.

Why join a committee? I found that my “soft skills,” those difficult to measure, such as the qualities of communication, leadership, and management, really grew once I joined a committee. Yes, it was, the Newsletter Committee, but now as president, I have to work on not having any favorite “children” by loving all the AWIS-SD committees equally.

One committee in need of members and co-chairs is the Public Relations Committee. Skills gained by work as the Co-Chair of this committee include the following:

  • Communication: send out periodic communication through Constant Contact of upcoming AWIS-SD events
  • Leadership: organize regular committee meetings to discuss business
  • Promotion: represent AWIS-SD at local science events

These skills are honed by coordinating volunteers to represent AWIS SD at local science events, scheduling monthly meetings to discuss committee business, monitoring promotional material supplies (ordering more when running low), emailing welcome notes to new AWIS SD members, and composing an event list to be mailed twice a month to members and interested non-members. Does this require a time commitment? Of course! I estimate that each co-chair will spend about 10 hours a month on these items.

Based on my own experience, I can attest that I really began building my soft skills—lab work is so often merely the technical skills of science—when I became more active in an AWIS-SD committee.

The other benefit of joining an AWIS-SD committee is the supportive environment that encourages committee members to learn something new.

This is a good place to try something that you have never done before.

With that thought, I invite you to look at all the committees that comprise AWIS-SD (, find one that interests you, and join it.

All the best,


DeeAnn Visk

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A Few Tips from the Career Development Programs at the ASCB Annual Meeting

By Juliati Rahajeng

Overwhelmed. That was the feeling that I had when I looked at daily schedule of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Annual Meeting in December 2015. There were so many activities that include symposia, mini-symposia, micro-symposia and poster presentations that took place every single day. However, those are not the only activities available during the meeting. There were exhibitor tech talks, science discussion tables, table talks, workshops, CV review, immigration advice, career coaches and various career development programs.

Some of the career development programs that occurred during the ASCB meeting were organized by The Committee for Postdocs and Graduate Students (COMPASS), who represents young scientists within the ASCB community. One of programs that I attended was about “Delivering Science: Effective Communication Skills to Become a Successful Scientist”. A panel that consists of several faculty members and postdocs gave tips on how to make good presentations and chalk talks. They emphasized the importance on knowing your audience and presenting them with enough background. Convincing your audience on why your research is important and exciting is also crucial. Practicing your presentations with your peers is critical in polishing your presentation skills. An important note from one of the panelists was to attend as many seminars as you can, analyze them and think about what make them effective seminars. The panelists recommended several books to read, such as “How to Give a Talk” by David Stern, and “Houston, We Have a Narrative” by Randy Olson and “Don’t Be Such a Scientist,” which was also written by Randy Olson.

Another topic that was also organized by COMPASS was about “Making the Most of the Annual Meeting” presented by Natalie Lundsten, PhD, who is the Director of Career Development at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. When attending a meeting, she encouraged us to communicate with other attendees because sometimes having conversations with them can be more valuable than attending a session.

Conversations and connections created during scientific meetings can be the beginning of relationships that you can build upon. Therefore, communicating with other attendees needs to be considered as “net-friending” instead of “networking.” Talking about the weather with other attendees, asking their opinions about the meeting in general or on a certain talk or poster are great conversation starters. If you have a particular person in mind that you want to talk to, you can start by saying “I’ve been wanting to meet you.” In addition, she suggested practice talking with the exhibitors. You can practice introductions, greetings, eye contact with them and asking questions about their products that may be applicable to your current research. Natalie recommended a book to read called “Networking for Nerds: Find, Access and Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere” by Alaina Levine.

November Focus Session

By DeeAnn Visk

The November strategy session was a special workshop aimed at developing a strong resume. Beginning with the basics, the speaker, Beth Cisar, recommended that your name and contact information appear in a large, bold font on top. This could be followed with a summary, which is useful if entering into a new field or making a career change. Next come section headings, e.g., Experience, Education, Awards, Sample publications, in bold or larger-point font. Cisar also recommended a simple 11- or 12-point font, a maximum of two pages, and keeping the content, clear, concise, and easy to read or skim.

Listing the do’s and don’ts, Cisar advised:

  • Do tailor your resume for each position to which you apply in order, highlighting the most relevant info.
  • Do get your resume reviewed by others.
  • Do promote yourself shamelessly, include all honors, awards, accolades, and highlight your biggest responsibilities and accomplishments.
  • Don’t include fun but irrelevant info such as hobbies and outside interests.
  • Don’t include a keyword section.
  • Don’t include anything that you are not prepared to answer questions about.

The workshop concluded with small group discussions of resumes that participants brought with them.

AWIS Outreach—Exploring Careers in STEM

A career exploration and networking luncheon for young women interested in STEM

By Anne Kornahrens

This past November, AWIS-SD Outreach had the opportunity to connect female students to local women in STEM careers. In the process, the Outreach Committee inspired and allowed the aspiring scientists to dream of themselves in such roles.

The AWIS Career Panel, held biannually for the first time last year, was created as a networking dinner by the AWIS Outreach Committee in 2009 to offer a focused and dynamic environment for young women to feel encouraged and supported in their pursuit of science careers. This event has grown to a full-day program, and this year included 35 students from 8 high schools and one community college. We also recruited an amazing panel of 12 women from a variety of STEM careers. The range of experiences spanned from a graduate student in climate science to a business development manager, and also included a postdoc, research scientist and clean energy company founder! The 5- minute introductions at the beginning of the day provided many inspirational quotes and encouraging advice such as “ignore your inner, doubtful voice” and the acknowledgment of the need to fight the “imposter syndrome” that can plague women in such careers.

“This inspirational and exciting day was definitely a hit of the fall AWIS Outreach calendar and we are looking forward to our spring panel in the spring!”

The event was hosted by the La Jolla Riford library, which features San Diego’s public biology lab. Our agenda included an introduction and tour of the lab space by Callan Hyland, an instrumental figure in the creation and running of the BioLab. Additionally, we were excited to have breakfast sponsored by Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) and its representatives, who were present to connect with the young women attending our networking event.

The highlight of the day, confirmed through our surveys of students and panelists, was the “speed mentoring” over lunch and the afternoon. This consisted of small groups of two-three students interacting with each of the panelists individually. The rotations were managed through the help of our stellar volunteers, who were also instrumental in food and material preparations.

The day ended with the distribution of door prizes, a collection which included a “mentorship certificate” to allow further interactions with a dedicated panelist. Offers included a tour of the scientist’s lab, a coffee meet- up, or networking correspondence, all in the interest of continuing the relationships built that day.


AWIS Strategy Session: Advance Your Success—ID Your Strengths

By Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

Attending the last AWIS-SD strategy session, titled “Advance Your Success: ID Your Strengths” changed my perspective of myself quite a lot. Up until then, I found myself mostly focusing on my weaknesses, trying to improve myself, rather than trying to identify my strengths and taking advantage of them to better succeed in my career. In this Strategy Session, AWIS-SD members gathered to discuss how to be more successful at work through learning strategies to identify what we love about our work, and therefore pinpointing what we are good at – our strengths.

Hanne Hoffmann, post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, started off the discussion by giving an example of how important it is to prioritize our strengths for being successful in our fields. Not only will it improve our performance at work, but it will also increase our motivation, increase the enjoyment of what we are doing, will make us happier and pleasant to work with, and will increase the quality of our lives! Also, before any of the negative self-image feelings of us will rise, Hanne reasoned that even if we think that none of our strengths is work- related, we should try to find a way to enjoy our job the most we can by thinking: 1. why did we choose the jobs we currently have? 2. What do we like to do at our jobs? 3. If we do dislike our job – it might be the time to find a new one!

Hanne then discussed different tools that can be used to identify our strengths: 1. using a personal career coach – provides the advantage of one-on-one training and other useful tools that will be personalized for our own needs. 2. SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. These types of analyses, although can be done without the help of a professional coach, might be too general and will require taking multiple tests to get a more complete picture. 3. Taking self-assessments tests. These types of tests I found to be very practical, at least for myself. We got the opportunity to practice some of these tests during the session, and then discussed them in small groups. Taking the time to think and answer some of the questions, even if only for 5 minutes, really helped me realize what I like and do not like about my job. Perhaps most important of all, the discussion with other group members made me realize that I am not alone, and many other members feel the same as I! 4. Ask- a- friend strategy – another helpful tool that can be used to challenge our view of ourselves. 5. Writing a skill-based CV – besides the actual advantage of preparing a CV, you will get the chance to think and express your skills in words, and outline your achievements in a precise way.

At the end of the Strategy Session, we discussed some strategies to improve our work satisfaction by using our strengths. Two main ways to do this include: 1. compiling all the tasks we enjoy to do at work, such as leading, organizing, finishing a particular task, etc. 2. Setting goals and prioritizing actions. What is a better way to build our strengths and use them to promote ourselves then by joining one of AWIS committees? I have joined one; how about you?


The 30-Second Elevator Speech—A Networking Essential

By Linda Manza

What is an elevator speech? It is a clear, concise message that communicates who you are, what you do, your goals, and what you have to offer that benefits a company or organization. Pitches, such as the elevator speech, are used a variety of situations, such as networking events, career fairs, or during an interview in response to the “Tell me about yourself” request. You never know when you’ll find yourself in an elevator standing next to that ideal contact.

Your elevator speech should be no longer 25 to 30 seconds or approximately 80 to 90 words. It should allow the listener to quickly become aware of specific, unique, and impressive attributes you have to offer. A good elevator speech will also provide the listener a summary of your background, strengths, and accomplishments. Practice your speech out loud with a friend or in front of the mirror. You should be comfortable with what you have to say so that it sounds natural and you are ready to deliver it when the opportunity comes.

When developing your elevator speech, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make a list of your strengths and select three or four that you want to include in your speech.
  • Briefly mention your education, work experience, special skills, and current career interests.
  • Use concise, memorable language, without too many details and no rambling.
  • Keep the listener in mind so they get a sense of what’s in it for them.
  • Have a closing statement with one solid reason why you would be a good fit for the targeted organization, company, or job.
  • You may need to modify your speech based on the situation and desired outcome.

Now, are you ready to practice your elevator speech? The “Meet the Board Networking Event” on March 21st (see Upcoming Events for details) would be the perfect place to try it out.


AWIS San Diego’s 2016—2017 Board

Introducing the new and continuing members of the AWIS San Diego Chapter Board

President – DeeAnn Visk                                      

Treasurer – Lori Yang                                            

Secretary – April Cresse                                        

Past-President - Grace Nakayama                                 

Past-Treasurer - Christina Niemeyer

Board Member at Large – Nellie Shaul

Board Member at Large - Kristina Henthorn

Board Member at Large - Supriya Gaitonde

Underlined positions and names indicate the newly elected members.

Member News

Nurith Amitai-Crawford had a particularly joyous start into 2016 with the birth of her son, Dayne Shimon.

DeeAnn Visk continues to build her repertoire of exclusive articles for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News (GEN) with the recent publication of her fourth article, about the return of the phenotypic screen.


Science News Ticker

  • International Day of Women and Girls in Science - The United Nations Member States adopted a resolution to establish an annual International Day to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities, the  International Day of Women and Girls in Science will take place the 11th of February each year.
  • A new study led by Salk scientist Joanne Chory has shown that certain plant proteins can detect a lack of blue light and activate growth-promoting genes. The results of this study could be used to genetically modify crops to produce higher yields.
  • Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn will be starting as President of the Salk Institute early this year. Known for her discovery of telomeres and telomerase, Blackburn hopes to advocate for the importance of basic research and to expand the institute’s access to cutting-edge technologies.
  • Otomoy, a San Diego company that specializes in treatments of ear diseases, had its first drug approved by the FDA in December. The drug, named Otiprio, is an antibiotic to be used in children who are getting ear tubes and have fluid buildup behind the eardrum.
  • San Diego medical device company NuVasive plans to buy Aliso Viejo-based Ellipse Technologies for $380 million. Ellipse is known for magnetically adjustable implant systems, which NuVasive plans to introduce into more products.
  • Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists have shown that loss of microRNA miR-218 may be linked to ALS and spinal muscular atrophy. Mice lacking this microRNA have normal nervous system development, but motor neurons fail in adulthood indicating that miR-218 could be a potential target for RNA-based therapeutics for these diseases.
  • The Scripps Research Institute’s Andrew Su has spearheaded an online citizen science program called Mark2Cure. This program asks volunteers, no science background required, to read sections of scientific articles and identify key terms. Mark2Cure aims to help scientists keep track of new discoveries that could lead to new therapies.
  • UC San Diego Health and Sharp HealthCare have announced a partnership to improve care for San Diego patients with end-stage liver disease. The collaboration aims to lower the cost of care and to spearhead new academic and clinical research on treatments and liver transplantation.
  • Illumina announced the creation of a new spinoff company, Grail, that aims to develop biopsies that screen blood samples for DNA shed by tumors. Grail will be located in San Francisco and has numerous investors, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. The company plans to run clinical trials to evaluate its tests.
  • National University has hired David Andrews, recently dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, as its next president. Andrews looks forward to working at National University because of its commitment to adult learners and affordability, which he hopes to maintain as the San Diego-based system expands.


Upcoming AWIS-SD Events

Speed Mentoring Event

Date: March 2, 2016 6-8 pm

Venue: National University, 11255 North Torrey Pines Road, Room TPS 123

Join us for a night of speed mentoring. Mentees will have an opportunity to network and interact with several mentors throughout the night. Attendees will also be able to network with other individuals who share the same interests. This is a great forum to generate ideas and identify areas for personal career growth.   

Current topics include:

  • Academic job opportunities
  • Industry job opportunities
  • Non-bench job opportunities
  • How to survive graduate school and choosing a post-doc
  • How to volunteer and engage the community
  • Intersection between arts and sciences

Please register online and complete the survey (click here for link) to select your areas of interest.

AWIS Members: Free, register here

Non-Members: $15 - purchase tickets online here

Meet the Board Networking Event

Date: March 21, 2016, 6 to 8 PM

Venue: Hera Hub, 4010 Sorrento Valley Blvd, #400, San Diego

We will be offering brief introductions (30 seconds) per board member, followed by a 2 minute, 2 slide introduction to the various committees by their Co-Chairs.  The rest of the time will be spent with informal networking and mentoring.  Think about how you can help AWIS-SD achieve their goal of ensuring that all women in STEM can achieve their full potential. Don’t forget that we want to hear about how you will benefit from AWIS—think of it in terms of what committee you could join and how you could benefit from contributing to AWIS-SD.

This is a member’s only event. Food and drinks will be provided, so remember to RSVP.

San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day
Our BIGGEST event of the year is Expo Day, which this year is the kickoff event for the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering. AWIS-SD will have a booth, with the goal of encouraging and inspiring students & community members of all ages and backgrounds to pursue or support STEM education and careers! The AWIS-SD booth will be demonstrating our famous "oobleck" activity. We will need volunteers for 2-hour shifts to work at our booth, play with an awesome non-Newtonian fluid and interact with the public! The festival is free to the public, attracts an amazing number of people!
-Where: Petco Park
-When: Saturday, March 5th, 9am - 5pm
-Register to Volunteer:  (10-15 volunteers needed) 

Expanding Your Horizons Workshop (AWIS-SD Booth): 
Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is an annual conference held at the University of San Diego (USD). Approximately 600 sixth- to tenth-grade girls from throughout San Diego County participate in three workshops throughout the day in small groups (approximately 10-15 students), escorted by two female college mentors. Since the first EYH conference in 2002, AWIS-SD Outreach Committee volunteers have developed and lead presentations of up to 5 separate hands-on science workshops.  
This year, AWIS-SD will again be putting on our popular Crime Scene Sleuths workshop, and we need volunteers to help run the different stations of the activity. The workshop will be run 3 times throughout the day, and the conference will provide you with yummy breakfast and lunch!
-Where: University of San Diego
-When: Saturday, March 5th; 9am - 3pm
Register to Volunteer:  (5-10 volunteers needed) 


Other Events of Interest

A Medical Writing Certificate is being offered again by UCSD Extension. "The program is not designed for those intending to communicate scientific information to lay audiences, e.g., science journalism, marketing communications or patient communications. This program is designed to equip scientists and others with a strong biomedical and/or life sciences background to write for scientific audiences in peer-reviewed journals, regulatory documents, medical education materials and/or research grant proposals."


About the Authors


DeeAnn Visk, PhD, is a medical writer living in the San Diego area with her husband, two kids, and one very spoiled hen.  High throughput screens, microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and genetics are her scientific passions.  She specializes in assistance with writing and editing scientific papers.  Please contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in her availability.


Anne Kornahrens is pursuing graduate studies at The Scripps Research Institute in a joint program with the University of Oxford.  Her field of study is organic chemistry and she is focused on developing electrophilic probes to investigate underexplored families of hydrolases. She is active in the Network for Women in Science (NWiS) at TSRI and serves as the Outreach Co-chair for AWISSD.  After completing her PhD she hopes to pursue a career in science policy.


Juliati Rahajeng received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska, Medical Center in 2011. She joined UCSD School of Medicine as a postdoctoral researcher one month after her graduation. Juliati has been a member of AWIS-SD for the past 3 years. She is currently an active member of the Scholarship and the Newsletter committees. She was also a member of the AWIS-SD Open House 2015 committee.


Linda Manza received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona, a M.S. in Toxicology from San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health, and a B.A. inBiological Sciences and Chemistry from the University of California Santa Barbara. Linda works as an independent consultant in toxicologyand quality assurance.Lindaiscurrently servingas Co-Chair of the AWIS-SD Newsletter Committee and is a member of the National AWIS ChaptersCommittee.


Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. To further enhance her research career, she relocated to San Diego for a postdoc at UCSD. She has a strong background in signal transduction pathways, and a broad range of experience in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology techniques. Outside the lab she loves hiking and boogie boarding with her husband and daughter, and enjoys social events with friends.


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