Spring 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 2

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To download PDF version of this newsletter, click here.



Dear AWIS-SD Members and Friends,

Spring is an exciting time for us as we award scholarships to deserving young women to advance their careers in STEM. On May 21st we will be honoring our scholarship recipients at the Scholars Celebration with a High Tea at the UCSD Faculty Club.

If this is not your cup of tea, there are many other events of interest organized by AWIS-SD and other local organizations. All AWIS-SD members are encourage to attend the members-only events put on by our chapter volunteers. Check out the event calendar on our website for the latest information: www.awissd.org.

To add value to your AWIS-SD membership and build new skills, get involved with a committee. For example, consider the Events Committee that organizes events throughout the year, such as the summer Family Event, the Holiday Party, and Happy Hours. Skills developed by joining this committee are:

  • Coordinate with event venues for prices or tours
  • Publicizing the events
  • Develop new ideas for events and venues
  • Budget expenses to maximize benefits
  • Promote communication with AWIS-SD
  • Provide networking opportunities to members
  • Recruit speakers for events

If you really want to maximize benefits of joining the Events Committee, then consider becoming a Co-Chair. Benefits you will receive include:

  • Organize and lead committee meetings
  • Train new members to assist with events

To find out more about the events committee—maybe attend their next meeting—email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Finally, I want to thank you all for your contribution to the chapter. I am amazed at how much all our volunteers accomplish. When I attend events, I am constantly complimented by the quality of our meeting. My typical response is “Thank you. The [fill-in-the-Committee-Name] has done all the hard work. I am just here enjoying the event.”

All the best to everyone,


DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Highlights from the 2016 Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair

By Geetha Subramanian and Kristin Bompiani-Myers

We had the great honor of representing AWIS-SD while judging the annual the Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair held on March 26th. An awesome experience, the AWIS-SD booth was organized by our wonderful Outreach Committee. This year there were over 400 science projects by female students from all over San Diego. A total of 27 judges from local research institutes such as UCSD and TSRI, as well as a mixture of AWIS members and non-AWIS volunteered to judge on behalf of AWIS-SD. Huge efforts were undertaken to fill the Balboa Park Activity Center with students representing many schools and professional organizations who volunteered their lunch hour to talk with the young scientists.

As we entered the Balboa Park Activity Center, we realized how gigantic the event was; there were rows and rows of student’s projects. We were fascinated by the diverse range of topics the students chose, including:

  • using entropy to decipher secure passwords online,
  • determining if people can remember grouped numbers rather than number sequences,
  • studying how responses to gender based ads are used in marketing products, and
  • asking how children and adults get fooled by medicines which are look like candies.

After two hours, we along with the other AWIS judges identified 14 winning projects. The winners, their families, advisers, and AWIS volunteers gathered to view the winning projects and present the awards at a banquet celebration held on Sunday, April 17th at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center. AWIS-SD President DeeAnn Visk with Outreach Co-Chairs Anne Kornahrens and Robyn Wygal, presented the certificates and prize money to the young women as their families and advisers beamed from a packed auditorium. Our celebration on a warm Sunday evening, where each winner was recognized for their efforts and success, culminated in a grand dinner that was enjoyed by all.

In all, AWIS-SD Outreach gave 14 awards to six high school projects and eight middle school projects. Directly supporting the Outreach Committee’s mission of nurturing and educating young women’s interest in science, AWIS-SD gave the most awards of any professional society that judged that day. Congratulations to our 2016 Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair AWIS-SD Award Winners.

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Caption: 2016 Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair AWIS-SD Award Winners


Senior Category

  • Karissa Jackson: “The Predatory and Risk Behaviors of Anolis carolinensis
  • Esther Peluoso: “Chymosin Deglycosylation Affects its Substrate Specificity, Kinetics, and Cheese-Making Efficiency”
  • Noa Dahan: “Identification of MDM2 as a novel antiapoptotic factor in Grade IV Astrocytoma”
  • Araceli Santana: “The Depths of Helping Behavior”
  • Alexandra Kuo: “High Entropy Password Encryption Device”
  • Emerson Alatorre and Emma Rand (joint project): “Bioremediation of Salt Pollution Through Co-Culture of Radishes and Barley”

Junior Category

  • Natalie Ramirez: “The Effect of Filtered Water on Plants”
  • Ashley Kleszewski: “The Effects of Eutrophication on Pond Water”
  • Reem Awad: “Miswak vs Toothpaste”
  • Sydney Gerlach: “The Effects of Positive Vs. Negative Advertising on Generosity”
  • Lauren McKittrick: “Candy or Medicine: Can You Tell the Difference?”
  • Alex Boren: “Fantastic Plastic”
  • Rachana Madhukara: “Devising a Secure and Efficient Hybrid Cryptosystem”
  • Shravya Sanigepalli: “Ocean Acidification vs. Halimeda incrassata


Projecting a Positive Career Transition

by Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

The first AWIS-SD strategy session of 2016 was dedicated to the topic of career transition for all experience levels. AWIS-SD members gathered to hear about the different possibilities to acquire new skill-sets for a successful career transition. Opportunities are available to international professionals regarding immigration status and work visas.

Lin-Chien Huang, a neuroscientist at The Scripps Research Institute, presented Hugo Villar, the director of Science and education program at UCSD extension. Villar then presented an overview of the current skills that are in demand in life science industries. He presented three different sectors in life sciences: industrial, agricultural and biomedical biotechnology, and the skills that are needed in each of the fields.

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Villar presents at Strategy Session meeting.

It was interesting to learn that when looking for a job, one should not focus on only one specific sector of life sciences; otherwise, many other job opportunities might be missed. By learning the skills needed in each sector and locating the areas of rapid change in industry, one can increase her chances of finding the right job opportunity. Current areas of rapid change are automated medical equipment, genomics and biotechnologies, as well as information and communication.

Hiring managers are seeking individuals with cross-functional skills. Therefore, one should always look for opportunities to upgrade her skills. Quality matters, and learning new techniques is important no matter which career level you are. Many companies are merging, and when that happens, individuals with similar skills tend to lose their jobs. By having a unique set of skills, one increases her chances of keeping her job.

“You don’t have a job for life. The life science industry is like Hollywood – you need to have skills that are in demand, otherwise you will be replaced with better actors,” states Villar. It is good to keep in mind that UCSD Extension offers a great variety of classes with certificates in many new trending areas for professional development.

Later in the session, Lin-Chien presented attorney Diana Vellos Coker, from Larrabee Albi Coker LLP, who specializes in immigration. Vellos explained the key points of immigration law and provided insights on the various options available to foreign candidates seeking job opportunities in the U.S. Normally an individual will start with a temporary visa and then transition to a green card. However, the number of green cards issued every year is limited, and depends on your nationality. There are different ways to get a green card, some based on employment requirements; some are not.

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Vellos presenting at the AWIS-SD Strategy Session

Vellos advised job seekers to be honest with prospective employers and notify them whether visa sponsorship is needed. However, by coming prepared and knowing the right options available, you can help your employer find an effective solution. The most common work visa is H1B. Due to the high demand for this visa, there is a lottery each year, and only about 35% of the applicants will actually receive it. Other popular visas include the O1, for individuals of extraordinary abilities; and the J1 for research purposes. This one is limited to 5 years. There are also special visas for Canadians, Mexicans and Australians.

This strategy session emphasized the importance of continuously learning new skills. The session also provided insights into the different immigration options available to international persons seeking job opportunities in the U.S.


Expand Your Horizons 2016: Return of the Crime Solvers

by Diane Retallack

Solving crime using science was the focus of AWIS-SD “Crime Scene Sleuths” workshop at the 14th annual San Diego Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conference. EYH was held at the University of San Diego on March 5th, 2016. Since 2002, EYH San Diego conference organizers have hosted this event for young women to explore numerous hands‐on workshops and learn about career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Scientists from organizations such as the University of California San Diego, Scripps Institute, General Atomics, and others, including members of AWIS-SD and AWIS LA/Ventura, hosted EYH workshops to encourage and empower young women from more than 90 San Diego county schools to explore careers in the STEM fields.

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Caption: Diane Retallack instructs the students in Crime Scene Sleuths at EYH, 2016.

This year’s crime scene, The Case of the Stolen Transgenic Rat, was successfully solved by twelve teams of 6th through 10th grade scientists, representing about 60 of the 317 attendees. Led by AWIS-SD Outreach Committee members and volunteers Jinsha Liu, Anne Kornahrens, Sasha Moola, Kelly Kemp, Miriam O’Duill, Samantha Gonzalez, Jenny Fu and Diane Retallack, the girls worked in teams to analyze a variety of evidence to determine which of the five suspects committed the crime.

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Caption: AWIS-SD member instructs students in the Crime Scene Sleuths at EYH 2016.

The girls analyzed five pieces of evidence: DNA, ink from a ransom note, shoe prints, an unknown liquid and fingerprints. Excited by the hands-on opportunity to perform laboratory experiments, the girls rotated through the five stations, learning about techniques such as electrophoresis and chromatography, the difference between acids and bases, and how to analyze shoe prints and fingerprints.

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Caption: Students at EYH 2016 work on the Crime Scene Sleuths lab.

The students discussed the evidence and their experimental results, eliminating suspects based on those results to come to a conclusion about which of the suspects committed the crime. It was great to see the teamwork, which is an important aspect of solving scientific questions emphasized by our outreach volunteers. We invite you to join us next year for EYH 2017. New workshops are welcome, particularly those focused on STEM subjects highly popular with the students, such as coding and computer science.


Thinking About Transitioning From Academia to Industry?

By Juliati Rahajeng

What are you going to do next after getting your Ph.D.? Become a tenure-track professor in academia? That is the traditional goal for many graduate students and postdocs. However, with limited available faculty positions and funding resources, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain such academic positions. Therefore, the UCSD Postdoctoral Association (PDA), the Salk Society of Research Fellows, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Science Network, and the Scripps Society of Fellows teamed up to organize an event, “What Can You Be With a PhD?” STEM Career Symposium. This year was the PDA’s third year creating such an event helping graduate students and postdocs learn about non-traditional careers outside academia.

The event started with a Keynote Speech by Wolfgang Glaesner, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of Applied Molecular Evolution Division of Eli Lilly and Company Dr. Glaesner described his long journey from the time he got his Ph.D. until his current position, and gave great advice for grad students and postdocs who are looking for a career in industry. During an interview, for example, an interviewee needs to show high level of energy and enthusiasm, demonstrate passion for the position, have a good knowledge about the company, show ambition or initiative, and exhibit listening and people skills. Asking lots of questions about the position and the company shows strong interest in the company and a great way to see whether you will make a good fit in the company. Additionally, when responding to behavioral-based interview questions, he suggested using the Situation Task Action and Result (STAR) method. In this method, you need to describe a situation that you were in or a task that needed to be completed (situation), the objective (task), the action you took (action) and the outcome of your action (result).

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Caption: Panel discussion during UCSD Postdoctoral Association event

The keynote speech was followed by eight different panel sessions: Research and Development in biology and non-biology fields, Clinical and Regulatory Affairs, Scientific Writing and Communication, Consulting and Management, Teaching, Business/Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Law and Science Policy. During each session, there were five to six speakers/panelists who shared their experiences for transitioning into industry. Each session ran for 65 minutes, followed by a 15- minute post-session networking opportunity. During the R&D (Biology field) panel discussion, for example, everyone in the panel emphasized the importance of networking, collaboration and sharpening communication and people skills. Karsten Sauer, the Director of Cancer Immunology at Pfizer, specifically suggested taking some classes to improve skills or gain more knowledge, reading several books and practicing presentations or answering interview questions. He recommended a book “The First 90 Days” by Michael D. Watkins, as a guide for strategies after transitioning into a new role or landing a new position in industry.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in clinical and regulatory affairs, a panel of six clinical and regulatory affairs professionals gave very helpful tips on how to transition to private industry. Taking online classes in regulatory affairs from Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS), UCSD extension or SDSU will increase your knowledge in the field. They also recommend joining San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network (SDRAN) since this group offers many great programs including Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC) a study group, internship and mentoring programs.

The bottom line: regardless of whatever career goal you have in mind after earning your Ph.D, it does not hurt to be familiar with non-traditional career options available. If you are interested in attending such events, you should check out the UCSD PDA events calendar at http://pda.ucsd.edu/events/index.html.


San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering EXPO Day

by Antonia Darragh and Miriam Cohen

EXPO Day is the opening event of the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering. This free city-wide event at PETCO Park brings together students, teachers, industry leaders, parents, and members of the community to explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This year the event took place on Saturday March 5, 2016 and attracted around 25,000 people. EXPO day is full of STEM exploration through demonstrations and hands-on activities including DNA extraction, sticking a stick through a balloon without popping it, and manipulating robots. The festival’s mission is to “engage and encourage kids in science and engineering, and work with parents and teachers to inspire today's students to become tomorrow's STEM innovators.”

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Caption: Participants at the AWIS-SD booth at the EXPO day.


AWIS-SD Outreach hosts a booth at EXPO day annually. This year Outreach Committee members Miriam Cohen, Antonia Darragh, and Outreach Co-Chair Robyn Wygal organized the booth featuring the non-Newtonian fluid Oobleck (cornstarch and water). Visitors played with Oobleck with their hands and animal toys and experienced how it switches between a solid-like state and a liquid-like state.


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Caption: What participants like most about STEM.


AWIS-SD Outreach volunteers explained to visitors how the interactions between cornstarch molecules and water molecules give Oobleck its non-Newtonian fluid properties. At our booth we also included a blank poster board for people to write and/or draw what they like most about STEM. Many wrote “Science is fun!”

Some kids wanted to take Oobleck home with them, many parents requested the recipe, and some educators were interested in incorporating the activity into their classrooms. Other examples of non-Newtonian fluids including body armor and gel shoe soles interested attendees of all ages.


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Caption: Oobleck at the San Diego EXPO Day

The Outreach Committee would like to extend a special thanks to the volunteers and organizers who made this event a truly successful and rewarding experience. Interested in participating next year? Stay posted on AWIS-SD events: http://www.awissd.org/index.php/all-events/events- calendar.
Interested in running this workshop for a different event? Check out http://www.awissd.org/index.php/page/outreach- resources.


And the Winner of the Science-Technology Category of LA Times Book Prize is…

By Lynne Friedmann

Science writer Lynne Friedmann, AWIS Fellow, was a judge in the science-technology category of the LA Times Book Prize. 

On April 9, she moderated a panel on Science, Technology and the Human Condition at the LA Times Festival of Books. Panelists included authors Beth Sharpiro, Ph.D. (How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction), David Morris (The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), John Markoff (Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots), and Michael Hiltzik (Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex).  

The one-hour panel session is available on C-SPAN.

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Caption: Lynne Friedmann sits on the panel at the far left.

Friedmann and fellow category judges considered nearly 100 books in order to arrive at five finalists. The winning science/technology book for 2015 is The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf.  

The Invention of Nature reveals the extraordinary life and myriad scientific discoveries of the visionary naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), and how he single-handedly created the way we understand nature today. During his lifetime, he was the most famous man in the world after Napoleon. There are more plants, animals, minerals, and places named after Humboldt than any other scientist. In California alone, a county, a bay, a college, and a state park all bear his name. He is a founding father of environmentalism, who predicted man-made climate change as early as 1800.

Born into an aristocratic Prussian family, Humboldt discarded a life of privilege and spent his substantial inheritance on a dangerous five-year exploration of Latin America. He ventured deep into the mysterious rain forests in Venezuela and paddled along crocodile-infested tropical rivers. He walked thousands of miles through the Andes, from Bogota, Colombia, to Lima, Peru — climbing active volcanos along the way.

When he returned to Europe, his trunks were filled with dozens of notebooks, hundreds of sketches and tens of thousands of astronomical, geological and meteorological observations, and some 60,000 plant specimens. Over the next 50 years, Humboldt published so many books that even he lost track.

He turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and his writings inspired naturalist Charles Darwin, poets William Wordsworth and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and also President Thomas Jefferson. The book presents evidence that it was Humboldt’s influence that led John Muir to his ideas of preservation and shaped Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

Author Andrea Wulf has done a masterful job in bringing back to life this lost hero to science and the forgotten father of environmentalism.

Take it from Lynne Friedmann: This is a “must read” book.

The LA Times Festival of Books, held annually on the campus of the University of Southern California, is the largest book festival in the United States. This year's two-day event drew more than 150,000 attendees. Read about all of the winners of the 2015 competition.


News Ticker


  • The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has named Representative Scott Peters of San Diego, along with two senators, as biotech legislators of the year. Peters, who represents district 52, was given the award for his support of biotech research funding, patent protection, and economic growth in the biotech industry.
  • Salk Institute researchers from the labs of Michael Downes and Ron Evans have discovered a role for estrogen-related receptor gamma in the post-natal metabolic maturation of pancreatic beta cells. This receptor drives a transcriptional network that stimulates efficient glucose-responsive insulin secretion. This knowledge will assist in the production of beta cells for implantation into diabetic patients.
  • La Jolla and South San Francisco-based startup Ideaya Biosciences has raised $46 million to develop cancer therapeutics. The company focuses on synthetic lethality to treat cancer. This approach uses the genome sequence of tumor cells to find single mutations that would kill cancer cells but not healthy cells.
  • Researchers led by Tariq Rana of the UCSD School of Medicine found that Zika virus targets TLR3 in cerebral organoids grown from stem cells to model the developing brain. This immune response impairs the development of the organoids and causes some cells to die. This indicates that inhibition of TLR3 could prevent microcephaly in fetuses whose mothers have been infected with Zika.
  • UCSD’s Adam Burgasser and coworkers have discovered three planets orbiting a small and faint star about 40 light years away from our sun. Two of these planets orbit within the star’s habitable zone, meaning they receive just enough radiation to allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces. While these planets are not likely to support life, these findings motivate the search for planets orbiting similar stars, which are very common in our galaxy.
  • Five teens from San Diego earned a place in the sixth White House science fair in April. They designed an Android app called Spectrum, which aims to provide a social media support network for the LGBTQ community.
  • Ali Torkamani and colleagues of the Scripps Translational Science Institute published the results of their “Wellderly” study, which sequenced the genomes of hundreds of people who have lived into their 80s and beyond without significant medical problems. These individuals were found to have genetic protections against some conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and heart disease, but were otherwise not significantly different from the average US population.
  • According to statistics from the US Patent and Trademark Office, San Diego area inventors were granted a total of 34,000 patents between 2000 and 2013. San Diego ranks ninth in the nation for number of inventions, a trend driven by the area’s biotech industry, telecommunication industry, and research universities.


Member News

Claire Weston, CEO of Reveal Biosciences, signed a new five year contract with Explora BioLabs and the National Institute on Aging to provide a bank of aged rodent tissue samples for researchers. Read more about it at this link.

Corine Lau, Newsletter committee member, is now a cancer genomics scientist at Human Longevity Inc.

Donna O. Perdue, Ph.D., J.D. gave a talk entitled “Biobased products and potential impacts of the Nagoya Protocol" at 2016 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in a session entitled “What is required to protect research and innovation in industrial biotechnology” on  April 18, 2016. 

Donna O. Perdue recently published a paper in the Biotechnology Law Report entitled “Whither Innovation: The R&D Sector and the Nagoya Protocol at One Year After Entry into Force”. [Ed.Note: This was to appear in the AWIS-SD Winter Newsletter, but was accidently overlooked.]

DeeAnn Visk, published an article on GPCR’s in Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News in April.

Dorothy (Dody) Sears, former AWIS-SD President, was awarded a grant to study heart health among Latinas. Sears’ role in the study will be looking for biomarkers of sedentary behavior-associated cardiovascular disease risk in women of Hispanic origin. More details on the multi-year, multi-million dollar study can be found here.


Upcoming Events

Mid-Career Coffee Club

Thursday May 19, 2016

7:45-8:30 am

Corner Bakery, UTC

4575 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

A small informal group of AWIS-SD members in managerial or equivalent positions that meet monthly. Everything said at the Club is kept confidential.

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for this members only event.


Scholars Celebration 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016


UCSD Faculty Club

9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093

A high tea-style luncheon to celebrate our 2016 AWIS Scholarship winners.

Member, student/unemployed - $25

Member, non-student - $35,

Non-member, student/unemployed - $35

Non-member, non-student - $45,

Children (8-17) - $10

Register here.


Back to Work Coffee Club

Wednesday May 25, 2016


UCSD Extension  

6256 Greenwich Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

Soft skills and inter-personal relationships in our 21st century workplaces—presented by David Frost. Our interactive dialog should reinforce both awareness and importance of "soft skills" to help corporations gain and sustain competitive advantage.

Dave serves as an adjunct faculty member in the University of Redland's School of Business. Additionally, he works with adult learners in the San Diego region to help them develop soft skills as part of their competitive portfolios. He is also recruits and mentors STEM fellows and educators to succeed in high-need middle and high schools.

Once you register you will be provided with a 70 question assessment of personality profiling that will help David "start at the personal level of emotional intelligence for self-realization."

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for this members only event.


Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club

Friday June 3, 2016


Bella Vista Social Club

2880 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

Informal meet-up for women interested in transitioning to Industry from academia. All are welcome to participate. Please RSVP.


Projecting Your Inner Businesswoman

Strategy Session

Monday June 6, 2016


Hera Hub Sorrento Valley

Business 101 for STEM – introduction to business topics that can help people both in industry and academia develop their skills for business. Ideas: This introductory seminar will address questions about business concepts such as business practices, leadership, preparing a business plan, and applying marketing techniques to business and research in STEM.

As part of this AWIS SD Strategy Session, we are pleased to welcome special guest speaker Gioia Messinger from UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering. She will be speaking on current topics in business and sharing her wisdom and experience as a business entrepreneur.

Light refreshments will be served. Remember to bring your business cards

Pre-registration is essential for this members only event.

If you are not currently an AWIS San Diego member please join or renew your membership online (www.awis.org).   Remember to select San Diego as your chapter. We would love to have you join us!

If you register and later discover that you are unable to attend, please notify us by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Mid-Career Coffee Club

Thursday June 16, 2016

7:45-8:300 am

Corner Bakery, UTC

4575 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

A small informal group of AWIS-SD members in managerial or equivalent positions that meet monthly. Everything said at the Club is kept confidential.

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for this members only event.


Project Planning and Management for Academic and Industry Applications

Strategy Session

Monday August 4, 2016


Hera Hub Sorrento Valley

Light refreshments will be served. Remember to bring your business cards.

Preregistration is essential is essential for this members only event.

If you are not currently an AWIS San Diego member and would like to attend this event, please join or renew your membership online (www.awis.org). Remember to select San Diego as your chapter. We would love to have you join us!


Mid-Career Coffee Club

Thursday, August 18, 2016

7:45-9:00 am

Corner Bakery, UTC

4575 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

A small informal group of AWIS-SD members in managerial or equivalent positions that meet monthly. Everything said at the Club is kept confidential.

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for this members only event.


Other Local Events of Interest


Postdoc Individual Development Plan Workshop

Thursday May 26, 2016


Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Building

The Office of Postdoctoral and Visiting Scholar Affairs has partnered with the Career Services Center to design an Individual Development Plan (IDP) workshop. This interactive workshop will provide assistance on creating your IDP, assessing your skills, working with mentors and setting realistic and achievable goals. Each postdoctoral scholar will have the opportunity to develop and present his/her IDP to faculty participants for feedback and by the end of the session have a completed IDP to guide his/her career objectives. This month's faculty member participants are Dorothy Sears, Professor of Endocrinology and Varykina Thackray, Professor of Reproductive Medicine.

This program is free for post-doctoral fellows at UCSD only.

To register, visit: https://postdocidp.eventbrite.com


15th San Diego Bio-Pharma and Bio-Partnering Conference 2016

Saturday June 11th, 2016


San Diego/ Del Mar Hilton

15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014

As one of the nation’s premier innovation centers, San Diego biotech beach in recent years has witnessed mega-deals of mergers and acquisitions, highly successful IPOs, the groundbreakings of multiple state-of-the-art research institutes, and many recent launches of new drugs into the market. All these achievements are driven by many of the forward thinking leaders of our scientific community with great visions and strong determinations to help tackle the most daunting challenges of our time, and to translate scientific discoveries to clinical utilities to benefit mankind. Come to meet some of these visionary leaders at our upcoming Sino American biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SABPA) Bio-Pharma conference to learn more about the latest breakthroughs in science and new trends in our industry, and to network with your peers. It is one of the biggest San Diego biotech events that you don’t want to miss.

Cost and registration information can be found here.


About the Authors

mariam cohen

Miriam Cohen received a PhD from The Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and is currently an Assistant Project Scientist at UCSD. She specializes in glycobiology with applications in cell biology, host pathogen interactions, and innate immunity. Miriam is an AWIS-SD Outreach Committee board member, where she employs her organizational and leadership skills to coordinate and execute fun science activities for the public. She enjoys interacting with the public and teaching.


 Antonia Darragh

Antonia Darragh is a student of molecular biology in the Graduate PhD Program of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. She works in Scott Rifkins lab using molecular biology tools to study the evolution of the genus of roundworms, Caenorhabditis. Antonia has been on the AWIS-SD Outreach committee since 2014. She enjoys community service and playing sports. For more information on Antonia please visit https://portfolium.com/AntoniaDarragh.


 Lynne Friedmann

Lynne Friedmann, AWIS Fellow, is a freelance writer, science communications expert, and mentor extraordinaire. An AWIS member for 30+ years, she has held leadership positions within AWIS-SD and was elected three times to the AWIS national board. In 1993, she conceived and chaired the inaugural Women in Bioscience conference (which continues today as the WIST conference series). She offers custom writing workshops and teaches science writing through UCSD Extension. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


 Ksenya C K

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.


 Juliati R

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.


Diane Retallack

Diane Retallack is Sr. Director of Upstream Processing at Pfenex Inc., a clinical stage biotech company focused on biosimilars. She earned a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Michigan. Diane has been an AWISSD outreach committee member since 2003, and has in the past served both as outreach committee co-chair and as a board member.

Other author biographies were not available at press time.

November / December 2015 Newsletter Volume 23 Issue 6

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,

What a terrific Open House! With almost 200 women and men in attendance, I appreciated the opportunity to network with current and prospective members. Open House 2015 was an excellent occasion to introduce AWIS-SD to the greater community, highlight our committees and activities, acknowledge our long-term members, and recognize the committed volunteers who contribute to our chapter’s success. I was pleased that the silent auction raised over $1100 — more than enough to cover one AWIS-SD scholarship in 2016. Kudos to DeeAnn Visk, Danielle John, and the Open House Committee for organizing a highly successful event. Many thanks to Qualcomm for generously hosting us in their spacious facility.

During Open House, we recognized the recipients of the 2015 AWIS-SD/UCSD Extension Continuing Education scholarships, Joanna Redfern and Rachelle Trial. These $1000 scholarships are intended to help members who have taken a career break to take courses at UCSD Extension. I want to acknowledge the Back to Work Initiative led by Maha Gebara-Lamb, April Cresse, and Ellen Dunn, along with Shannon McDonald of UCSD Extension, for continuing this mutually beneficial partnership for the second year.

My favorite part of Open House 2015 was presenting the annual Volunteer Awards to deserving members. This year’s recipients exemplify how active volunteers can positively impact AWIS-SD. I want to highlight these extraordinary women and thank them for their contributions to our chapter.

The two Rookies of the Year joined AWIS-SD within the past 12 months and have become enthusiastic and committed volunteers of our organization. As new members, Danielle John and Lin-Chien Huang became active immediately, and they also stepped up to co-chair the Open House and Strategy Session Committees, respectively.

Liz Clark is the recipient of the Achievement in Innovation Award. As co-chair of the Website Committee, she was instrumental in rebuilding www.awissd.org in 2014, and she continues to make enhancements to the website to meet the chapter’s needs. In addition, she was a member of the Women in Science and Technology (WIST) 2015 Publications Committee.


Barbara Armstrong and Liz Clark     photo credit: Sophie Muscat-King

The recipients of Achievement in Outreach or Community Service Award are Robyn Wygal and Anne Kornahrens, co-chairs of the Outreach Committee. Thanks to their ongoing efforts, AWIS-SD participates in community science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) events throughout the year. This committee also organizes AWIS-SD-specific activities, such as the semi-annual career panel and the awards banquet for girls with outstanding posters at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair.

The Board recognizes three highly effective committee co-chairs as recipients of the Leadership Service Award. They are: Leslie Crews (Strategy Sessions), Kathy Oglivie (Corporate Sponsorship) and Nurith Amitai (Newsletter). Their leadership strengths have enabled our chapter to continue providing high quality programming throughout the year.


Danielle John discussed public relations with an attendee.       Photo credit: Sophie Muscat-King

The Board Special Award is given to the chapter member(s) whom the AWIS-SD Board recognizes as exemplifying the AWIS-SD mission through excellence in leadership, community service, innovation, and promoting AWIS-SD. Laura Cerviño and Erna van Niekerk co-chaired the Scholarship Committee in 2013-2015, and they helped to select 21 exceptional women to receive AWIS-SD scholarships during those three years.

The Board selected two recipients of the Outstanding Volunteer Award. Kerstin Kirchsteiger is the co-chair of the Corporate Sponsorship Committee. Thanks to the diligent efforts of this committee, our chapter reached our fundraising goals in 2015. Robina Shaheen was a co-chair of WIST 2015, as well as a volunteer on other AWIS-SD committees.


Dominique Lenoir, Dorothy Sears, and Robina Shaheen          photo credit: Sophia Tsai

Last but not least, the President’s Award goes to Linda Manza for demonstrating continued service and enthusiasm and for making immeasurable contributions to the San Diego chapter. Linda has been actively involved with our chapter for many years, with past and present service on the Strategy Sessions Committee, Secretary on the AWIS-SD Executive Board, AWIS-SD Leadership Network, WIST 2015 Committee co-chair, and Newsletter Committee co-chair. She also has a role for AWIS National as Chapters Committee representative for the AWIS-chapters in the western states.

Finally, I want to let you know that my term as AWIS-SD President will end on December 31, and this is my last President’s Letter. These past two years as Chapter President have been professionally and personally rewarding for me. I am humbled by all the amazing people that I have met and grateful for the exposure I have received as the President of this wonderful organization. Thank you all for your support of AWIS-SD and our mission. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.

Most sincerely,


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Water Challenges in San Diego

by Anne Kornahrens


This past August, members of AWIS-SD had the happy opportunity attend an event at the North City Water Reclamation Plant in La Jolla. This interesting event included an explanation of the Pure Water San Diego campaign and a tour of the Advanced Water Purification System. The tour culminated with an opportunity to drink the potable, recycled former sewage water. This might seem like a surprising choice for a treat, but the combination of technology and policy that led to that moment was enough to make all participants anxious to taste the water.

The collaborative effort of the AWIS-SD Events Committee and the San Diego Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE-SD) brought together about 25 participants from both organizations. Meena Westford, Special Projects Manager at the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California, kicked off the presentations.

The MWD is a water wholesaler that was originally created in the 1920s to manage the Colorado River aqueducts. Southern California water is now supplied from a variety of sources: 20-30% from Northern California (originating as snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada Mountains), 25% from the Colorado River aqueduct, and the remainder from local supplies. This last portion can include water from recycling plants, desalination, and groundwater cleanup.


Group shot of attendees on the North City Water Reclamation Plant   photo credit: Anne Kornahrens

This status quo has been disrupted by the drought. Though San Diego has successfully cut water usage in 2015, achieving a 26% decrease, there are still risks in continuing with the current sourcing procedures. Some uncertainties include how long the drought will last, capital financing, impact on endangered species, energy costs, and water quality.

Cathy Peroni, Program Manager at San Diego Public Utilities, spoke further about the need for new local water sources for San Diego. Currently the city obtains less than 15% of its water demand from local sources. A natural disaster could salinate reservoirs and destroy pipes that are key to transporting water from Northern California. This threat lends additional incentive to developing local sources of potable water and methods of water storage. Peroni also expanded upon the regulation challenges faced, including determining the best source of new water, seeking City and constituent approval, and implementing the plan. The city of San Diego has been working over the last decade to surmount these hurdles, and the Pure Water San Diego project is the exciting result.


Tasting cup of pure water.        Photo credit:   Anne Kornahrens

The first two phases of the City’s efforts involved increasing local water reuse and recycling. The North City Water Reclamation Plant now manages 30 million gallons of recycled water per day. This has historically generated non-potable water, used for irrigation for clients such as the Torrey Pines Golf Course. In 2009, the Advanced Water Purification Facility was opened at the La Jolla site to allow the validation of further technology which would generate drinking water.

Results from this trial were positive, which contributed to the passing of the Pure Water San Diego program by a unanimous vote by the San Diego City Council in November 2014. The 20-year program will include three phases to allow the use of reclaimed, potable water throughout the city. This could ultimately provide 83 million gallons per day, or one third of the city’s future potable water needs.

Future hurdles include determining safety standards, energy use evaluations, and cost comparison. A similar sewage-to-potable water system has been successful in Los Angeles for the past eight years. So, if you have been to Disneyland recently, you have likely already tasted this new water source.

For a more detailed look at how the process works, AWIS-SD and SWE-SD were then led on an in-depth tour of the facilities by Aleks Pisarenko, a technical consultant at the plant and a senior engineer with Trussell Technologies, an environmental engineering firm focused on process and water quality. Pisarenko’s consulting work for the city has involved running the model purification system at North City Plant as well as performing over 28,000 tests screening for 140 compounds in the purified water.


The advanced treatment plant has three components: membrane filtration, reverse osmosis, and UV disinfection and advanced oxidation. As we walked through the plant, each stage was clearly laid out and explained to us. We had the opportunity to look at the membranes for the first step, with fiber widths that are 1/300 the size of a hair. The next step – reverse osmosis – uses energy to force water molecules through tiny pores to remove even smaller particles. Lastly, the water is disinfected using UV light and hydrogen peroxide. The resulting water has such low levels of minerals and ions that treatment would be required before pumping the water to the next stage. Surprisingly, the water would otherwise be too pure and could damage the metal pipes!

The demonstration plant currently produces one million gallons of this highly pure water every day. The last step of our tour was to gather around a sink. Small paper cups were dispersed and filled with the purified, recycled water. The group collectively seemed quite happy to drink the refreshing, reclaimed water. And they were certainly delighted see the innovative people and technology working to provide San Diego with a new local water source.

To find out more or to go on a public tour of the plant, visit  http://www.sandiego.gov/water/purewater/


AWIS-SD Strategy Session:Advance Your Goals Through Negotiation

by Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

October’s AWIS-SD Strategy Session was focused on the topic of negotiation. AWIS-SD members gathered to discuss negotiation at the workplace and to practice strategies to become successful negotiators.

Cherie Ng, Scientist at the San Diego biotherapeutics company aTyr Pharma, started off the discussion by explaining how important negotiation is in life. Only 7% of women negotiate for their salary, compared to 57% of men! This is actually a huge disadvantage for women. In face it demonstrates why men earn $4000 more than women per year. This might seem like a small amount; however, if a woman would negotiate for her salary, she has the potential to make almost $1 million more at retirement compared to a woman who does not negotiate at all.


Cheryl Ng presenting at Hera Hub                                                 photo credit: DeeAnn Visk

Actually, we can negotiate everywhere and for everything, not just for salaries. We can negotiate with our cable company, with our landlord, with our kids, etc. Referencing books such as Lean In by Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, Ng pointed out that women are actually very good negotiators, even more so than men, when it comes to negotiating for others. Therefore, it would be useful for women to see ourselves as a product, or a client, and therefore promote ourselves and negotiate for ourselves.

Jennifer Kuo, Graduate Researcher at the University of California San Diego, presented some important steps for ensuring effective negotiation. These steps included: (1) Assess the specific situation – will the benefits of engaging in this negotiation outweigh the costs? (2) Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and assess the situation from their point of view. (3) Always prepare before the actual negotiation by being clear about your own interests, learning the interests of your counterpart, identifying possible questions, and generating ideas and options ahead of time. (4) During the negotiation, always ask your counterpart about their needs, and then offer unique information about yourself that shows how you fit those needs. (5) Finally, always “package” the negotiation: suggest solutions and make proposals to solve the issues. Use statements such as “if/then” to show how you will satisfy the needs of your counterpart with your unique skills.

The most useful part of the Strategy Session for me was the chance to actually practice our negotiation skills with other participants. Every two members received a case in which both of them had to negotiate over one issue that affected both of them. One example was a negotiation between a department chair at a state university and a new faculty hire. Through this kind of negotiation, we learned that both sides have their own, potentially different interests, but by working together, talking, and negotiating correctly, we can accomplish a mutual agreement that makes both sides happy.

It was a fun and exciting night, and I left the Strategy Session with new ideas for better negotiating for my own interests. I also felt a higher level of self-confidence. I highly recommend participating in AWIS-SD Strategy Sessions, where you can learn skills that will help you not only in your work, but also in the rest of your life.


Tale of Two Planets: Red Planet – Blue Planet

by Robina Shaheen

The recent news regarding the discovery of brine on Mars, suggesting liquid water may have existed, or may even still exist, on the Red Planet, have intensified speculations about the possibility of life on Mars. Though water is an essential ingredient for life, the mere presence of liquid water does not mean biological activity. The vignette below, featuring a dialogue between a young boy who loves science fiction and his aunt, a scientist working on actual Mars chemistry, is meant to explain the prerequisites for life as we know on the planet Earth.

There is no end to what humans can achieve with their bold imagination—the sky is not the limit, but rather it is the first stop in space travel. We landed the first man on the Moon in 1969 with primitive electronics that can now fit into the palm of your hand as a modern cell phone.

Bina smiled while enjoying her nephew Ali’s excitement, who was still deeply engrossed in the giant poster of Matt Damon advertising the movie The Martian, perhaps imagining himself in his space suit. She recalled her own fascination with space travel as a little girl. She had watched the Apollo 11 mission hundreds of time, almost to the point that she could hear Neil Armstrong whispering in her ear every morning while getting ready for school: “One step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” She had wanted to be an astronaut one day, and now could tell what little Ali was dreaming about.

“The next destination on our space journey is surely going to be Mars, perhaps soon,” she murmured quietly to herself. Mars is the fourth planet in our solar system and half the size of the Earth. Can we establish a self-sustaining human colony on the Red Planet (its reddish appearance is due to abundant iron oxide on its surface), as shown in the movie? After all, it is our sister planet, formed from the same primitive material as Earth, and it happens to also be located in the so-called habitable zone, the distance from the Sun where water can exist in the liquid state.

The movie, The Martian, is no doubt a thriller—exciting everyone’s imaginations, especially those of teenagers and kids. Bina and her nephew Ali artfully weaved through the tightly packed crowd in the theater lounge full of people ready for the next show. The movie had sparked Ali’s imagination and he was carefully crafting his long list of queries, recalling news from the NASA’s website and comparing them with the movie on his way back home.

Ali: Aunt, I did not see liquid water on Mars in the movie The Martian; however, NASA claim to have found water on Mars. I do not understand this discrepancy.

Bina: Yes, you are absolutely right, present-day Mars does not contain liquid water, flowing in streams and oceans, like we have on our beautiful Blue Planet. It can’t exist as liquid water. Remember the phase diagram from college chemistry? At pressure as low as 7 millibars, water is mostly in the vapor phase.

Ali: Yes, I do remember nice images of the polar ice caps on Mars captured by the Hubble telescope. The Curiosity Rover, during its first marathon on Mars (10 km, April 16, 2015), also confirmed the presence of ice on Mars.

Bina: Thanks to the low temperature on Mars (-55°C, -67°F), water remains frozen that would otherwise be lost to space as vapor. During a summer day, surface temperatures on Mars at the equators can be pleasant (+20°C, +68°F). But still, it is not like living in beautiful San Diego, because Mars has frequent, intense dust storms. As the sun sets, temperatures drop again. The night is really chilly (-73°C, -100°F), causing everything to freeze—even CO2 from the atmosphere freezes along with the water.


Caption: Inhabiting the Red Planet. The shortest distance between Earth (at aphelion, the point furthest from the Sun) and Mars (at perihelion, the point closest to the Sun) is 54.6 million km, and when they are the farthest apart, the distance reaches 401 million km. The size of Earth, Moon, and Mars are approximate to fit in the image.

Ali: What about the 95% CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere, which acts as a blanket? On Earth, we have only 400 ppm of CO2, and yet it keeps the surface of our planet warm.

Bina: Remember, the air on Mars is very thin (about 7 millibars of pressure). If we took one cubic meter of air from Mars and brought it to Earth, it would be compressed to ~ 3 cm3. On earth, we have the greenhouse effect from both the clouds and CO2 gas.

Ali: Does that mean we cannot breathe on Mars? Aha, I remember from my story book, Climbing Everest, that the pressure on Mt. Everest is very low (approximately 360 millibars), and mountain climbers experience great difficulty in breathing.

Bina: Absolutely! The Mars Science Laboratory on the Curiosity Rover and NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Emission) mission have measured very low amounts of oxygen on Mars: only 0.002%, unlike the 21% on Earth. It would be impossible to breathe without a tank of O2 gas on Mars.

Ali: I know plants produce oxygen from water during photosynthesis, but how long would it take to produce enough oxygen for breathing?

Bina: Hmmm, great question. It takes millions of years to change the composition of an atmosphere’s worth of air to add enough oxygen to breathe. But your plants growing on the surface of Mars would not be able to cope with the strong ultraviolet, cosmic, and galactic radiation (millions to billions of electron volts). On Earth, the stratospheric ozone layer protects us from the harmful UV radiation, and Earth’s magnetic field deflects cosmic and galactic radiation. Earth’s magnetic field is relatively weak at the poles, so sometimes these strong cosmic radiations can enter into our atmosphere near the poles. They can react with the oxygen and nitrogen molecules in our air to produce a beautiful green and red aurora, sometimes called Northern Lights.

Ali: Yes, I love these blue-green lights expanding like a curtain across the sky. Aunt, I have already signed up for the first human trip to Mars in 2030. I cannot wait to see the largest mountain in our solar system, Olympus Mons, and to view Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, in the night sky.

Bina: Bear in mind, it is going to be one way trip, unlike the movie The Martian. Neither NASA nor any private firm has developed any technology to bring humans back from Mars.  

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Nurith Amitai and Peter Newbury for discussions on this topic.

Transitioning to Industry: Skills Honed by Working on the Newsletter Committee

by DeeAnn Visk and Nurith Amitai-Crawford

What are the skills beyond writing and editing that are gained by working on the Newsletter Committee? Getting a newsletter published sounds trivial until you actually try to do it.

For starters, if you are a co-chair on the committee, you learn how to work remotely with your fellow co-chairs and the rest of the committee via email. This can be a useful ability in our modern economy, where more and more professional interactions are handled remotely via computers.

Numerous individual tasks need to be completed in order to produce and publish a newsletter, such as: calls for member news, following up with people who have promised to write an article, and compiling the newsletter itself. Keeping careful track of these tasks is a form of project management experience, which is increasingly in demand with many employers these days. Additionally, you will be developing leadership and organizational skills.

Why do we always send out member-wide calls for information via Constant Contact? Why not use a normal email account? Using an email marketing company is important for a number of reasons. Using your individual email address to send emails to a large mailing list can easily get you labeled as a “spammer”—resulting in routine messages to people with whom you want to communicate being shuffled into their spam folders. Also, the law requires that those on email lists must be able to unsubscribe, a feature automatically added on Constant Contact emails. Email marketing companies like Constant Contact also offer additional features, such as statistics on how many recipients actually opened the message. Experience in working within these email marketing systems is another skillset that gets added to your resume as a Newsletter Committee co-chair.

You also learn to think carefully about who your audience is. This is important both in writing the articles to engage your audience, but also in developing the content of the newsletter. Is the article something that will interest your readers? Will the article assist them in furthering their careers? Does the article address women-specific needs in science?

Practicing diplomacy is another skill developed while working on the Newsletter Committee. How do you gently tell someone that the article she is pitching is not a good fit the newsletter? Getting the right tone in emails is tricky, so you learn when to pick up the phone and call.

Developing your vision for the newsletter may lead to the creation of new sections of the newsletter. For example, Visk proposed and instituted the “About the Authors” section to allow our contributors to tell the readers a little about themselves. Such upgrades allow you to demonstrate your imagination, your proactive approach, and your willingness to think and act “above and beyond” your immediately defined duties. All committee members, not just co-chairs, are encouraged to suggest ways to improve and expand the newsletter.

Another aspect not limited to co-chairs is, of course, the writing and editing experience itself. While any AWIS-SD member is invited to submit articles for the newsletter, Newsletter Committee members are expected to submit at least one article per year. The subsequent editing process then provides the authors with useful feedback about their writing, helping them to hone their craft. Even if you are not a master writer, using the editing service provided by the AWIS-SD newsletter will improve your writing ability, no matter if you are a native speaker or if you speak English as a second language. As editors, the committee members are regularly asked to thoughtfully evaluate others’ writing and to provide input both on the grammatical and stylistic level.

Simply writing about a recent AWIS-SD event has benefits. DeeAnn Visk started writing about events that she had attended. She found it promising to compose an article that compelled her to focus on the material presented at a Strategy Session. Writing an article about the event then reinforced her understanding of the content.

As a co-chair, or co-editor, the curation of other events of interest is up to you. What are other events taking place locally that may be of interest to our members? To assemble an informative events section, you need to stay informed about what is going on in your local scientific and professional communities. Identifying and monitoring the various traditional and social media outlets with the best information about suitable events can be another valuable bit of expertise.

Compiling the newsletter takes a surprising amount of time. All the edits suggested by various committee members must be harmonized and incorporated, and a final version of each article with tracked changes sent to authors for their vetting. The Constant Contact version must be assembled. The content of the newsletter must be posted on the AWIS-SD website, so that Constant Contact can link to the rest of the articles there. (This latter task provides the co-chairs with a taste of using HTML and website editing.)

A PDF version of the newsletter must also be assembled in Word and then saved for the archives. The Newsletter Committee co-chairs have learned quite a number of useful document editing skills that way, such as setting up a self-updating table of contents, preserving features from a Word file when converting into PDF, adding hyperlinks to images, managing document headers across section breaks, and much more.

Therefore, joining the Newsletter Committee will improve your writing and editing skills, your marketing skills, your teamwork skills, and your project management and organizational skills. Let us know if you are ready to join the team: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This article is the first of a series about how each individual committee in the Association for Women in Science enables its members to develop skills necessary for the transition to industry.

 Member News 

DeeAnn Visk, Ph.D., has a second article published in the biotechnology publication Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). The piece discusses new directions for bioinformatics that go beyond genome crunching.

Alyson Smith welcomed a new arrival into her family with the birth of her daughter.


The latest addition to Alyson’s family. Photo courtesy of Alyson Smith.

Science News Ticker

  • UCSD held a hackathon to inspire innovation on October 2, 3, and 4. Students gathered and worked to solve problems using collaborative computer programming. Potential employers were also in attendance, recruiting for internships with plenty of free giveaways.
  • According to the journal Nature, the University of California San Diego (UCSD) ranks first nationally and fourth in the world in Earth and environmental research. Nature based the rankings on the UCSD faculty’s contribution to publications in major scientific journals. “This ranking validates our recent strategic planning efforts that identify ‘Understanding and Protecting the Planet’ as one of four key research themes for UC San Diego,” said UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla.
  • The La Jolla-Riford Branch Library has opened the Life Science Collaboratory, a public biology/biotech laboratory. The Collaboratory offers equipment including microscopes and PCR machines, and forms part of the library’s Innovation Space that also includes 3D printers and a 50-person capacity classroom. Access to the laboratory’s resources will be supervised by volunteer scientists, who also offer educational workshops, demos, and talks about the life sciences at the site. While other public biotech laboratories exist in the region, such as the Wet Lab in San Diego’s East Village area, the Life Science Collaboratory appears to be the first to open in a public library.
  • The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla has appointed Peter G. Schultz, an institute chemist and entrepreneur, to be its Chief Executive, and biologist Steve A. Kay to be its President. Traditionally, one person held these two positions at the institute. However, TSRI’s Board of Trustees decided that two leaders were needed to guide the organization, which has struggled with challenges to its financial stability, including a $21 million annual deficit. The former President and Chief Executive of TSRI, Michael Marletta, was pressured to step down last year after TSRI’s faculty rebelled against his controversial plan to have the University of Southern California (USC) acquire TSRI. Schultz is the founder and former Institute Director of the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) and the Founding Director of the California Institute for Biomedical Research (CALIBR), a not-for-profit institute focused on early stage translational research. Kay has previously served as Dean of Biological Sciences at UCSD and as Dean of the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at USC. Both have also founded several biotech companies in the past.
  • On October 23, 2015, the Carlsbad community biotech center Bio, Tech and Beyond held a public showcase featuring nine out of the 25 companies that had been helped into existence by the local incubator. Representatives from the nine companies each had just a few minutes to describe their organization and its products and technologies. Bio, Tech and Beyond offers low-cost lab space and shared equipment to startups and individual inventors looking to launch new biotech companies, and also holds educational events to spread knowledge about biotech. In return, the center leases space at just a nominal cost from the city of Carlsbad, who hopes in turn to benefit from new jobs created by the project. Collaborating with such incubators also offers the promise of access to new partners and technologies to large firms such as the biotechnology product giant Thermo Fisher Scientific, which hosted the public showcase on its grounds.
  • UCSD and the City of San Diego will work collaboratively on problems facing urban areas, specifically traffic flow, urban agriculture, and smart infrastructure. This collaboration is under the umbrella of the MetroLab Network, part of the broader White House Smart Cities Initiative to address urban issues nationwide. A number of other cities and universities are working together on similar projects.

Local Events of Interest

The Genomics of Brewing

Monday, November 30th


Green Flash Brewery Tasting Room,

6550 Mira Mesa Boulevard San Diego, 92121

White Labs is now working with Synthetic Genomics and other partners to sequence and characterize the whole genome sequences of 150 Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains used for commercial beer and wine. The primary goal of these studies is to understand the genetics of each strain in order to improve brewing processes and ultimately make better beer. Additionally, the research will serve as a resource for beer brewers, as the data will be shared in a format suitable for wide use. Whether you’re a beer brewer or a genomics researcher, this event will be both interesting and useful for you.

Cost: $25/20 (Academic), $50 (Recruiters)

Dinner provided; beer and soda available for purchase. Register at http://sdbn.org/register/


French Bio Beach Monthly Breakfast Networking Event

Tuesday, December 1

8:00 - 9:00 am

4901 Morena Boulevard; Suite 501

San Diego, CA 92117

Begin your day, the first Tuesday of every month, with the French BioBeach community to meet new members, network, and enjoy great Starbuck coffee and croissants. The event is free, but registration is encouraged.


About the Authors


Nurith Amitai-Crawford, Ph.D., has a background in behavioral neuroscience and a strong interest in scientific writing. She currently works as a project manager/scientific writer for the contract research organization, Absorption Systems. Nurith has been serving as a co-chair for AWIS-SD’s Newsletter Committee since 2011. In her spare time, she enjoys swing dancing, card and board games, movies, and archery.


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.

Anne Kornahrens is a fifth year Ph.D. student in a joint program between The Scripps Research Institute and the University of Oxford. She studies various organic reactions and is working to develop new probes to explore a family of serine hydrolases. In addition to her adventures of co-chairing the AWIS Outreach Committee, she spends time hiking, rock climbing, and scuba diving.


Dr. Robina Shaheen is a project scientist at the Univ. of California San Diego. She enjoys exploring the evolution of planetary atmospheres and conditions that are conducive to the origin of life. It is like being a member of CSI team where one uses isotopic fingerprinting techniques to establish the origin of tiny space rocks and to find out the condition under which they were formed and traces of any extinct or extant life.


DeeAnn Visk, Ph.D., is a freelance medical writer and editor. She writes a variety of materials including peer-reviewed scientific papers, news articles, abstracts, power point presentations, brochures, white papers, technical notes, web content, case studies, member profiles, and posters.   The San Diego, California area is home with her husband, two kids, and one very spoiled hen. You may contact her at deeann-dot-v-at-cox-dot-net.

Winter 2017 Newsletter Volume 25 Issue 1

This issue of the Newsletter is available as a PDF:

AWISSD Newsletter Winter 2017 1stpg

For archived versions of previous newsletters, click here.



Dear AWIS-SD members and friends:

Politics is a delicate subject.  Unfortunately, it is present in everything we do, from policies that affect women at the national level to the dynamics within a family.  Many have raised concerns about future policies on the national level that disproportionally affects women.  Take, for example, the recent executive order prohibiting refugees from certain countries.  Most of these refugees are women with children.

Living in a free country, political opinions can be expressed safely.  On January 21st, people around the world marched to show support for women.  In San Diego, organizers marched “to strengthen and continue our commitment to work for the protection of women’s rights. We stand firm in agreement that women’s rights are human rights.”   (from the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/1684632678516753/ retrieved Sunday Feb5 8:35am PST).

 presidentsletter womensmarch

Attendees of the San Diego Women’s March, Saturday, January 27th, 2017

Another event on the local level is the upcoming AWIS-SD 2017 Women in Science and Technology (WIST) conference.  The date is Saturday, May 20th from 8am to 5pm at the UCSD Faculty Club.  The theme for this year is:  Explore, Encourage, and Evolve.

The 2017 WIST  theme: Explore, Encourage, Evolve


As always, all genders are welcome at WIST.

What is the WIST conference? In a nutshell, WIST is a one-day symposium focusing on career and personal development, as well as peer networking.  Highlights of the symposium include keynote speakers, concurrent breakout workshops, and AWIS-SD scholarship presentation, accompanied by breakfast, lunch and cocktail hours.

Past workshop topics include negotiation and effective job search strategies, to the business of science, end-to-end drug development, and bioinformatics to research and teaching in the academic setting.  Our keynote speakers are Gillian Wilson, Interim Deputy Director, University of California Observatories and Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of California Riverside; and Homa Akbarian, PhD, Head of R&D, Acclarent, a Johnson and Johnson Company. 

Our chapter has once again been recognized by the AWIS on the national level as a Star Chapter.  This designation recognizes the achievements of our chapter in promoting and encouraging women to achieve the highest level of professional success.  We accomplish this through our excellent programming done only with volunteers.

To all the AWIS-SD volunteers who made this possible, thank you.



DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

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STEAM Maker Festival

by Kina Thackray and Anne Kornahrens

The AWIS-SD Outreach Committee participated in the STEAM Maker Festival at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 3, 2016. AWIS-SD volunteers for this event included Liz Jacobs, Ping Xu, Emerson Alatorre, Charisee Winston, Kina Thackray, and Anne Kornahrens.

The STEAM Maker Festival is an annual San Diego event designed to bridge the gap between STEAM education and the MAKER movement. It is a unique festival for both kids and adults that combines science, tech, and engineering with art and crafts. This was the first year that AWIS-SD participated in this event, and we were impressed with the enthusiasm of the participants and the interesting exhibits.

The outreach committee offered attendees several hands-on activities related to “Invisible Ink”. One activity illustrated how fluorescence works. Kids used yellow highlighters to write on yellow paper. The messages were difficult to see with the overhead lights, but became visible when exposed to UV light. The kids really enjoyed writing “secret” messages and then using the UV light to expose the message. 

STEAMmaker 1

caption: The Outreach Committee setting up the invisible ink experiments at the STEAM maker festival. 

The other activities were focused on pH. One activity involved using acidic solutions like lemon juice to write messages on white paper. Once the paper dried, the messages were revealed by exposure to heat. The students were fascinated to learn that spies in the American Revolutionary war (including George Washington) used lime juice to write secret messages. Another activity used the spice, turmeric. Turmeric is yellow when dissolved in a neutral solution like water, so you can’t see it when it is applied onto yellow paper. However, when exposed to a basic solution like ammonia, it turns bright red! The kids really liked guessing what would happen to the message when exposed to ammonia and what would happen when the ammonia evaporated.

We had a fun time teaching the kids at the STEAM Maker Festival, and enjoyed spreading the word about AWIS-SD. As we embark on our busy spring outreach season, we look forward to performing more demonstrations and to supporting young scientists. Stay tuned for more details and please volunteer for our events: Expanding Your Horizons (March 4), Expo Day (March 4), and Science Fair Judging (March 15)!


 December Strategy Session- Projecting your inner diplomat

by Jennifer Kuo

The Strategy Session held on December 5, 2016, at Hera Hub was an informative workshop presented by guest speaker, Dr. Debra Dupree. Dupree holds a doctorate degree in psychology and is a professional therapist, conflict mediator, and an engaging speaker on enhancing relationships in the workplace. She shared her knowledge on how to strategically communicate effectively, and provided techniques on working through difficult situations. Here are four takeaways from the event!

1. Leverage your position by maximizing your persuasiveness

Research from Dr. Robert Cialdini shows these six factors of influence have the power to persuade others:

  • Reciprocity- People tend to do something for you when you do something for them.
  • Scarcity- People are more likely to agree when they know what they stand to lose.
  • Authority- People are more likely to follow if they see a sign of authority.
  • Consistency- People are more likely to follow through if they have made a prior commitment.
  • Social Proof- People are more likely to follow if others are doing so.
  • Likeability- People are more likely to agree with someone they get along with.

2. Listen, PAUSE, then act

Oftentimes, pausing and even restating what you hear give you time to process and respond. It prevents you from unleashing words or actions you may regret that are spurred on by emotions. Dupree offered some other techniques for dealing with conflict in the workplace.

  • Listen carefully to the other party.
  • Paraphrase what you hear in order to pause and process.
  • Be confident in your response.
  • Keep your answer simple.
  • Be diplomatic when handling negativity.
  • Don’t exclude others in the group conversation.
  • Say “thank you” to curtail hostile comments or acknowledge suggestions.

3. Empathize and engage with different perspectives

When in conflict, phrases such as “help me understand how you see it” show concern and can change the direction from a hostile situation into a conversation. Explain your reasons and invite the other party to consider alternatives and work together to find agreement. Don’t assume how they will act but ask how they would like to have the problem solved.

4. Understand how gender differences can affect communication

There are innate differences in the structure, chemistry, and processing of the brain between men and women. How this plays out in the workplace can affect how men and women listen to each other, converse, interpret the words and body language of one another, and even acknowledge that there is conflict. Here are some key differences between women and men in communication.

  • Women tend to seek out relationships whereas men tend to seek position.
  • Women express themselves more in private whereas men express themselves more in public.
  • Women tend to focus on details of emotion whereas men tend to focus on details of fact.
  • Women tend to want to understand the problem first whereas men tend to be problem solvers.

Dec2016SS photo1

caption: Dr. Debra Dupree engaging the audience during her presentation.  photo credit: Elizabeth Jacobs.  

Understanding that situations can be processed differently by men and women may help in reducing the frequency of conflicts in the workplace based on misinterpretation and miscommunication.

For more information on Debra Dupree, visit her website at http://relationships-at-work.com/

 AWIS-SD Holiday party

by Corine Lau

The Events Committee organized our first AWIS-SD social event of 2017 at the Koi Bar and Lounge on Convoy Street in the evening of January 17. More than 40 AWIS-SD members and non-members gathered in a cozy room next to Emerald Chinese Cuisine. Beer and wine were served at the bar, but the smell of Chinese food lured us to the other side of the room. I helped myself with a heaping serving of stir-fry veggies, beef and vegetables, sweet and sour pork, and fried rice with shrimp and BBQ pork. Although many were not familiar with the sweet red bean paste-filled sesame seed-coated mochi ball, it is one of my favorite desserts, especially when served warm! As we were munching away, we formed small groups around the tables. Many of us caught up with other members on their latest news and expanded our network, while others chatted with women who came to our event for the first time. Seasoned AWIS-SD members helped introduce the organization and our mission to the new faces. We hope to see these new faces becoming familiar faces! What a wonderful way to welcome 2017 for all who support women in STEM!

 Academic to Industry (A2I) coffee club - A Visit with Joanne McNelis, PhD, RAC (US)

by Joanna Redfern

On September 2, 2016, Dr. Joanne McNelis came to the A2I coffee club’s monthly meeting to share her experience transitioning from academia to a regulatory affairs (RA) position in industry.

McNelis’ academic research background was in endocrinology. She focused on polycystic ovarian syndrome as a graduate student, and she worked on Type 2 diabetes as a post-doctorate. She enjoyed participating in clinical studies while in academia, but did not want to pursue an MD. McNelis also wanted to do more than bench work, and realized that industry might be more accommodating for her career interests. Toward the end of her post-doctorate, McNelis began attending meetings for the San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network (SD-RAN). Joining this organization was instrumental to her transition into regulatory affairs. She joined the SD-RAN mentoring program and met with a mentor every 2 weeks to review her CV and read through job postings for suitable positions.

McNelis ultimately joined a contract research organization (CRO)* as a research fellow for one year. The Fellows program at this CRO gives recent graduates on the job training for careers in clinical research and drug development. During this year of training, McNelis had on-the-job training focusing on regulatory affairs, and she also took 3 hours of classes a week. Her duties included writing medical protocols, informed consents, and reports for the FDA. McNelis took on more project management and product strategy roles (helping clients determine how to get a drug to market) after six months in the program. A year after joining Fellowship Program, the CRO offered McNelis a full-time position where she currently works as a Clinical Strategy Scientist.

McNelis outlined what clinical regulatory affairs is, and what her position entailed. Both regulatory operations and regulatory strategy (taking a drug from development to market) are important facets of clinical regulatory affairs. Meetings comprise 2 to 4 hours of her work day, and about half of those are internal and half are with clients. She typically works on more than one project at a time (was working on four at the time she visited with the group!), and the number varies depending on how involved the projects are.

To be successful in regulatory affairs for drug development, you need good analytical skills, project management experience, the ability to learn quickly, and the ability to effectively communicate scientific information. Clinical development also requires reading literature related to the drug treatment or device utility, and communicating with the drug or product developer.

The position also requires one to be able to take over someone else’s project. It is also useful to know how clinical trials are conducted and have good writing skills, especially related to RA. To that end, she suggested for anyone interested in RA as a career to consider taking RAPS an RA writing program.

McNelis’ CRO takes promising drugs and products through clinical studies to get them ready for market. At a CRO, salaries may be less than at a larger pharmaceutical company, but the job stability is higher. This is likely due to there being less pressure than at a large company. McNelis also mentioned that working at a CRO feels more like collaboration with the customers, since they are there to help the drug/product manufacturers get their products to market. She said that some employees remain with the company for a long time whereas others move on quickly.

McNelis’ advice for women applying to jobs in biotech included:

  • Only apply to jobs you are qualified for. This means, if you have a Ph.D., only apply to Ph.D. level jobs. She only got interviews for jobs that required a Ph.D.
  • Research the people who will interview you.
  • A clinical research background is not required to get into RA.
  • Experience in animal research is not necessary to get into RA. About 50% of the people in the Fellowship program were not from an animal research background.

People interested in clinical studies or drug and medical device development may want to explore these areas:

Medical writing – these positions allow the flexibility to work from home, and can be a good cross-over position into regulatory affairs.

Medical science liaison– these positions also require a PhD, and you get to do lots of traveling.

* Please check LinkedIn for McNelis’ page to see the CRO she works at (due to confidentiality)

 Academic to Industry (A2I) coffee club - A Visit with Alessandra Blasina, PhD

by Juliati Rahajeng

On October 7, 2016, Dr. Alessandra Blasina came to the AWIS-SD Academia to Industry Coffee Club at the Bella Vista Cafe to share her experience in transitioning into biotech industry. Blasina received her PhD from the University of Sassari in Italy. She did her postdoctoral training at the University of California San Diego (USCD), followed by a Research Associate position at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).

Blasina’s work at TSRI focused on targets of signal transduction pathways. In early 2000, Pfizer was interested in similar pathways that Blasina was working on, which led to her appointment as a principal scientist in May 2000. At Pfizer, she worked for the R&D unit where she performed biochemical and cell-based assays to screen for compounds that may ultimately be used for cancer treatment. Although her project advanced to clinical trials, it was eventually terminated.

After her employment at Pfizer, Blasina worked as a senior scientist at the Research Process Development of Shire Pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, changes in the company structure led to the group being laid off. In 2014, she accepted a position as principal investigator at the small biotech company called COI Pharmaceuticals. At COI, the groups consist of 2-3 people, which means that her group had to outsource some of the in vivo studies to contract research organizations (CROs). At COI, Blasina was responsible for an antibody program aiming to develop treatments for colorectal cancer.

While working for COI, Blasina became interested in transitioning to the field of regulatory affairs. She is currently enrolled in the Regulatory Affairs Essentials Certificate Program and Regulatory Affairs Certificate Program offered by UCSD Extension and Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, respectively. She is also a member of San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network (SDRAN) and Orange County Regulatory Affairs (OCRA). Additionally, she was enrolled in the Regulatory Affairs Certificate Exam Study Group organized by SDRAN in summer 2016. Earlier this month, Blasina successfully made her transition by joining Agility Clinical, Inc as a Regulatory Affairs Associate.

She gave coffee club attendees some advice on how to successfully transition into biotech industry and/or regulatory affairs field. Networking is key. It is not only about what you know, but also about who you know. Blasina found out about her current position from her former colleague. She encourages people who want to transition into regulatory affairs by applying for positions in biotech companies that have regulatory affairs programs/groups. She also recommends having a resume that matches your LinkedIn profile and updating both regularly. Last, but not least, she recommends writing your profile on the back of your business card, so people who receive your cards can remember you. 


Academic to Industry (A2I) coffee club - A Visit with Melissa Crisp, PhD

by Joanna Redfern

On December 2nd, Dr. Melissa Crisp attended the A2I coffee club meet-up to share her experience transitioning from academia to a research scientist position at Eli Lilly and Company.

Melissa’s academic research background is in molecular/cellular biology. As a post-doc at Scripps Florida, she worked in a translational science lab where she collaborated with people from other labs like a business relationship. That was a good experience for eventually moving into industry. Her first job in industry was with a small start-up company that offered genomic services, such as microRNA and multiplex protein profiling. The position included a lot of bench work, as well as work in sales, marketing, and recruiting potential investors for the company. This experience provided Melissa with a solid understanding of how companies are organized and how products are commercialized.

Melissa began working at Lilly 5 years ago as an entry-level research scientist (she found the job posting through LinkedIn), and currently works in the automation group as a Senior Research Scientist. She works with the group on liquid handlers, automated systems and assays. Her duties focus on optimizing and implementing automated systems to support drug discovery, assay development and supervision of other scientists.  Melissa is also a liaison between the automation group and the scientists developing products in other groups including the antibody engineering groups. While Melissa was familiar with automation from her post-doc, she learned considerably more on the job.

Thoughts on working at a small vs. large company:

At the smaller company, Melissa worked long days and “wore many hats”.

Employees at large companies tend to be more focused and rely heavily on collaborations to accomplish project goals.  In any industry setting, small or large, capitalize on harnessing your skills and knowledge broadly across multiple projects and applications.

At larger companies there is more resource availability. This means you may have opportunities to work on side projects and pitch ideas to management.  As you progress, there may be a shift away from the lab toward strategic thinking and taking on supervisory responsibilities.

Questions/Answers about hiring:

Is it important to have a post-doc if you already have a PhD?

This depends on the company and your research experience. Companies will typically ask for more requirements/skills in a posting than one person may have, but don’t let this deter you from applying.

  • Be sure to have a summary section at the top of your resume/CV that highlights the skills for the job you are applying for
  • In larger companies, resumes may go to recruiters first to be sorted through before sending them onto hiring managers – they will check your publication record as well
  • Knowing someone at the company who can refer you can also help with the hiring process
  • Skills and personality matter – employers want to know that they are hiring someone capable who they can trust
  • Teamwork is very important in large organizations, so emphasize examples that illustrate  your ability to work well with people in different areas
  • If you apply to a position that requires a PhD, you will be asked to come in for a formal interview and give a job talk (presentation) on your research area – this talk can include old research as long as it is relevant to the job

News Ticker

by Alyson Smith

  • The Switzerland-based Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation has donated $10.5 million to UCSD to endow a faculty chair and to provide seed grants for research in studying the composition of human breast milk. This donation, along with the 2014 creation of the Mommy’s Milk Human Milk Research Biorepository, will help to further establish UCSD as a leading center for research in the various compounds found in human breast milk, and their relationship to maternal and infant health.
  • The laboratory of Kim Janda at TSRI has developed vaccines designed to protect against overdose of the addictive opioids hydrocodone and oxycodone. The vaccines consist of a modified drug molecule conjugated to tetanus toxoid protein to elicit the production of antibodies against the drug molecule. In vaccinated mice given lethal doses of either drug, a smaller fraction die from overdose compared to unvaccinated mice. Janda and colleagues are forming a company to commercialize the vaccines and begin human clinical trials.
  • Researchers at UCSD Moores Cancer Center are part of a collaborative clinical trial named DART, which aims to test the efficacy of immunotherapy in treating 50 rare cancers. The trial will use Opdivo and Yervoy, drugs developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which have already proved effective against melanoma and lung cancer. By grouping together 300 patients with rare cancers, the trial aims to test the efficacy of these drugs against diseases that normally don’t make it into large-scale trials of common diseases.
  • At the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Illumina announced the NovaSeq line of sequencers, which are capable of sequencing an entire human genome in about one hour. As opposed to the HiSeq line, institutes can purchase NovaSeq sequencers individually, making them available to a wider base of customers. Illumina aims to bring the cost of sequencing a genome on NovaSeq down from $1000 to $100 over the next few years.
  • Vera Rubin, a pioneering female astronomer, died in December at the age of 88. Rubin’s work focused on the rotation of galaxies, and she was one of the first to find compelling evidence for the existence of dark matter. Throughout her career, she advocated for greater access for women in the male-dominated field of astronomy, and she became the first woman to use the main telescopes at Palomar Observatory in San Diego. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and received the National Medal of Science and the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal.
  • Researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have captured the first video footage of the ruby seadragon off the coast of Western Australia. The researchers discovered this species in a collection of museum specimens in 2015, but it had not yet been seen in the wild. The video revealed that the ruby seadragon does not have leafy spines like other related species, and that its long tail may be used to grasp objects.
  • A team of researchers at UC Berkeley has developed a method of making totipotent mouse stem cells, capable of differentiating into any embryonic cell, as well as the extra-embryonic cells of the placenta and yolk sac. The researchers injected embryonic stem cells from mice with the microRNA miR-34a into normal embryonic blastocysts, where they were able to differentiate into embryonic and extra-embryonic cells (normal embryonic stem cells will only differentiate into embryonic cells). This model can be used to understand the molecular basis of totipotency.
  • A 2015 trial of 11,841 people in Guinea suggests that a recently developed Ebola vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, may be 100% effective in preventing Ebola infection. None of those vaccinated contracted Ebola, while 23 individuals that were not vaccinated did. The technology used to develop this vaccine could be adapted for vaccines against other hemorrhagic fevers such as Lassa fever.
  • San Diego-based Acadia Pharmaceuticals announced the results of a trial suggesting that a drug it developed to treat psychosis in Parkinson’s patients may also be effective in reducing psychosis in Alzheimer’s patients. Patients who took the drug for six weeks reported greater improvements on a clinical scale measuring hallucinations and delusions compared to a placebo group. However, the benefits of the drug beyond six weeks remain unclear. 


  • Jayd Blankenship, psychology graduate student from California State University San Marcos, was accepted into the Psychology doctoral program at Brown University and she will start her PhD studies in Fall 2017. She also submitted her master’s thesis as a paper for publication.

"I want to thank you so much for this scholarship. It has raised my self-esteem and was definitely a step towards helping me achieve my dream."


  • Speed Mentoring Event on March 2, 2017 at 5.30 pm at National University in Torrey Pines.


See more AWIS-SD events here.



  • UCSD Postdoctoral Association STEM Career Symposium on March 25, 2017 from 8 am until 5.30 pm at Bella Vista Café. 


About the Authors

 Kina headshot

Varykina Thackray (Kina) is an Associate Professor of Reproductive Medicine at UC San Diego. She has a comprehensive background in hormone signaling, regulation of gene expression in reproductive tissues and the role of the gut microbiome in polycystic ovary syndrome. She received her PhD at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and completed her postdoctoral studies in reproductive endocrinology at UC San Diego. Her research accomplishments were recognized with the Endocrine Society Early Investigators Award and the Women in Endocrinology Young Investigator Award. She is an active member of the Endocrine Society, Women in Endocrinology and the AWIS-SD Outreach Committee.


Anne Kornahrens moved to San Diego to complete graduate studies at The Scripps Research Institute. She is a part of a joint program with the University of Oxford. Her field of study is organic chemistry, and her current work is focused on developing electrophiles to be used as new probes to investigate previously underexplored families of hydrolases. Since moving to town in 2014, she has been involved with the Network for Women in Science (NWiS) at TSRI as well as AWIS, and she is excited to contribute to the outreach initiatives through her co-chair role.  After completing her PhD she hopes to pursue a career in science policy.


 Jennifer Kuo headshot

Jennifer Kuo is a graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences program at UCSD studying mechanisms of neurodegeneration. She has been an active member of the Strategy Session Committee since 2015 and is currently serving as co-chair. In her free time, she can be found training for triathlons, hiking, or watching Big Bang Theory. After completing her PhD, she hopes to pursue a career in the biotech industry.


 Corine Lau  received her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and her B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington, Seattle. She pursued her post-doctoral training at the University of California, San Diego. She is currently a cancer genomics scientist at Human Longevity Inc. Corine has been involved with AWIS-SD since 2006, and held various AWIS-SD leadership roles including Treasurer, Board member, and Website Committee co-chair. She currently serves as Newsletter co-chair. 








Joanna Redfern studied molecular evolution of Ocotillo plants and their relatives during her doctoral studies at the University of New Mexico (UNM). As a post-doc at UNM, she employed next-generation sequencing of soil samples to search for novel ligase enzymes with potential applications in biofuels. Presently, she teaches Introductory Biology at both Miramar and Cuyamaca Colleges. Joanna also started the AWIS-SD Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club in January 2016.



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 the co-chairs for the Newsletter committee and the Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club. She is also an active member of the Scholarship committee and she was a member of the AWIS-SD Open House 2015 committee.















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