Winter 2018 Newsletter Volume 26 Issue 1

For previous newsletters, click here.




Dear AWIS-San Diego Family and Friends,

The theme of this letter is simple:  Step Up.

If you are not yet a member, step up and join.

If you are a member and not yet on a committee, step up.

If you are on a committee and not yet a co-chair, step up.

If you are a co-Chair and not yet on the board, step up.

Membership in AWIS-San Diego opens up almost all the local chapter events to you for free. AWIS-San Diego has a very generous definition of a student.  Our chapter-only, student memberships are only $25. Follow this link to join.

Joining an AWIS-San Diego committee involves you more with the planning and implementation of our various events. For example, the Outreach Committee will give you opportunities to share your passion for science with the greater San Diego community. The Newsletter Committee will improve your writing and editing skills. The Public Relations Committee will make you familiar with the tools for promotions. Here is the full list to choose from:

Moving to a leadership position within a committee permits you to develop leadership and organizational skills.  We welcome those with new ideas and visions. Co-Chairs regularly attend the board meetings.

Finally, by serving on the board you get a real idea how all the parts of AWIS-San Diego come together to form a vibrant community.

So, step up!



DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

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Academia to Industry (A2I) coffee club - A Visit with Irit Rappley, PhD

by Takako Noguchi and Juliati Rahajeng


A2I coffee club held on Friday, November 6, 2017, had 13 attendees which was the most since the start of this group in January 2016. Average attendees of our group is about 5 in these 2 years, but new recruits from two company tours (Vertex and Dart Neuroscience) and Open House in October boosted the number of attendees. We had a guest speaker, Dr. Irit Rappley at Celgene, for this meeting.


Rappley received her B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, PhD in Neuroscience at Harvard University, and has done postdoctoral training in Dr. Jeffery Kelly’s laboratory at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). In Dr. Kelly’s group, she studied protein folding/misfolding causing protein aggregation and degenerative diseases.

Transition into the Industry

During her PhD training, Rappley felt that she did not want to pursue a career in academia. She started looking into what was a good area to study to transit into the industry and found the trends that many companies focus on protein misfolding as a cause of diseases. So, she contacted Dr. Jeffery Kelly, who is one of the few experts in this field.

At TSRI, Rappley joined Network for Women in Science, and was actively engaged in networking events. When she found a job opportunity that was a good match for her, she connected to scientists in the department of the company through LinkedIn and requested for an informational interview. Rappley met a researcher at Celgene through the informational interview. Although the position she was interested in initially was filled, the researcher later contacted her for a contract job.


Rappley A2I

 caption: Dr. Rappley giving advice to A2I attendees.


Career at Celgene

Rappley started working at Celgene as a contract bench scientist in 2014. She worked as a member of a Discovery Biology team that focused on novel therapeutics for hematologic cancers. The field was not an exact match to her background, but her background in protein homeostasis helped position her to contribute to her team. In addition, she took advantages of opportunities that became available at Celgene, such as developing high-throughput screens for several projects. After a while, she was hired for a regular position that opened up at Celgene. 

In early 2016, Rappley joined Celgene's Neuroscience Working Group. In this newly formed group, she helped the company to develop strategies to target neurodegenerative diseases and communicated with the preclinical and clinical teams in the company. She no longer works in the laboratory, but she appreciates the exceptional professional development provided by the company and enjoyed her responsibilities.

Advice to A2I members

Rappley emphasized the importance of networking. When we find a job that matches our qualifications, we should not hesitate to connect with people in the company through LinkedIn and request for informational interviews. She pointed out that it is important to find a job that matches one’s career level. She also recommended industrial postdoc as a good bridge to the industry. Rappley also encouraged A2I members to maintain a positive attitude during the job search, in spite of the slow process and frequent obstacles.


Member Profile - Dorota Skowronska-Krawczyk, Ph.D.

Assistant adjunct professor at UCSD, AWIS-SD Scholarship co-chair, and co-creator of Project Visions

By Corine Lau


Corine (C):  Tell us a little about yourself.

Dorota (D):  I was born in Lodz, Poland. I studied at the University of Warsaw where I got my Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology and then moved to Geneva, Switzerland to get my PhD degree in Biochemistry. Following graduate school, I made the long move to San Diego to work on nuclear organization and regulation of transcription for my postdoctoral training. There, I published several papers allowing me to write a grant proposal for my own laboratory and research. In 2017, I received my first R01 and started my new lab at UCSD in the Ophthalmology department.


(C): During your rise to professorship, did you experience any setbacks as a woman in academia? If so, how did you overcome gender bias? What was/were the breakthrough moment(s)?

(D): The gender bias in science nowadays is quite subtle. There are a lot of women in laboratories; therefore, we think that we all have equal access to everything. However, when I started applying for professorships, writing grants, looking for support, I realized that I was expected to deliver much more than my male colleagues. It sounds cliché, but I was asked to do 110% and prove myself again and again, whereas my male colleagues were consistently receiving the benefit of the doubt. It is extremely frustrating and hard to work through. However, I had one thought in my mind: if I ever want to change anything, I must first obtain a faculty position and be “inside the system”, so my voice will be heard. Fortunately, I had a huge support system from many women in my life. I had endless discussions from the members of AWIS, great support from my husband, and encouragement from other scientists who liked my work and supported my pursuit. Having said that, this is just my first step in overcoming the gender bias in science. Hopefully, by joining the leadership ranks at AWIS-SD, it will help spread the message.


(C): What is your advice to inspiring women scientists pursuing a professorship?

(D): My major advice is to find the group of people that will support you “no matter what”, and go for it! If you truly love what you do, you will get there.


Dorota headshotJan2018

caption: Dorota Skowronska-Krawczyk, Ph.D., assistant adjunct professor at UCSD


(C): Tell us about your latest creation, Project Visions. What is it and what is the goal of Project Visions?

(D): Project Visions is a new initiative that I decided to put together in order to tell people about my science. I noticed that today everyone wants to be well informed. The audience is more and more educated, but there is still very little knowledge about how basic science can advance our understanding of the diseases and help in designing new approaches for cure. 


(C): How did Project Visions come about?

(D): The project started serendipitously. I was talking to my artist friend Eva Henry about my work, and I was showed her images I obtained with microscope. She loved the story that came with the colorful images so much that she painted the images! I was amazed by the talent of my friend and realized that those images were much easier to “digest” than my microscopic images. I used her images in my talk for the first time in the Downtown San Diego Library and was blown away by the audience’s reaction. Even before I began to speak about the science, everyone was already captivated by the story. This is how Project Visions came about. We have our first presentation of the project on January 28, and we cannot wait to see how will be received.


(C): Where can we find out more about Project Visions?

(D): You can visit project Visions website at


(C): Thank you Dorota for sharing your experience!

p.s. On January 28, Dorota presented her research and Project Visions in the beautiful setting of the Leichtag Family Foundation Biomedical Research Building at UCSD. The presentation of both Dorota’s research and Eva’s artwork were captivating and educational for over 75 non-scientists and scientists. We hope you will spread your words to an even bigger audience in future events!


December Strategy Session - What is Your Leadership Spirit Animal?

by Leslie A.Crews

Last month, at AWIS-San Diego’s final Strategy Session of 2017, I learned that my personal leadership survival strategy is that of an “Enterprising Crocodile.” You might be wondering, why a crocodile, and how might this information help anyone become a better leader? Well, as we learned from our very own past-president of AWIS-SD and special guest speaker of the evening, Dr. Grace Nakayama, a key step to “Creating Powerful Leadership Skills” for yourself is to first know yourself.

With the aid of an engaging self-quiz called What Animal am I? (, based on the book Surviving Your Serengeti by Stefan Swanepoel, we each had the opportunity to increase awareness of our personal leadership styles. It turns out that some features of the Enterprising Crocodile include the “ability to think outside the box” and the “tendency to spend a lot of time working alone” – both characteristics that have surely served me well during the long process of obtaining a Ph.D. and continuing on the academic career track. You may instead be a “Strategic Lion,” whose strengths include problem-solving and charting a course for others, or a “Communicating Elephant,” skilled at listening and hearing what others are saying, to establish a true dialogue. Whatever your leadership spirit animal may be, understanding your own intrinsic qualities is an important step towards creating powerful leadership skills.

Through an interactive presentation and breakout session, Nakayama shared with us her past experiences as a leader in several capacities in AWIS-SD, as well as in research and development and project management fields in various pharmaceutical companies and consulting opportunities. She also imparted to us her insights on what makes an effective leader, of which communication, mutual respect, and team building emerged as common themes. We learned that, through the continuing process of knowing our own personal leadership styles, we can better understand how we can work best with others (who often have different styles themselves).

One memorable point was that the importance of soft skills and emotional intelligence cannot be overstated! Through better communication and powerful leadership, we can each create a vision to inspire enthusiasm and bring out the best in others. As Nakayama so poignantly implied with her closing remarks of the evening, we each should be able to find our inner Daenerys Targaryen (the ultimate girl-power leader from Game of Thrones, in case anyone doesn’t follow the series) if we listen to our inner survival strategy and communicate clearly with others. But please don’t be disappointed that “Detail-oriented Dragon” isn’t one of the options on the What Animal Am I? quiz. I suppose the “Enterprising Crocodile” is a close second!


Helen Mao Visit to AWIS-SD A2I Coffee Club

by Juliati Rahajeng

Helen Mao, Chief Science Officer (CSO) and founder of Moradec, LLC, spoke to the Association for Women in Science, San Diego chapter on Friday, December 1, 2017. She shared her experience as an entrepreneur of a biotech company servicing the antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).

Mao received her PhD in Biochemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998. During her last year of graduate school, her PhD advisor moved to The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego. Through her PI, she found her postdoctoral position at AbbVie. Since then, she has gained her industrial experience as a scientist at various biotech companies, including GNF and Biosite, and several small biotech startup companies.

About six years ago, she decided that it was no longer satisfying for her to work at either a small or large biotech company anymore. To her, working for a large company was not rewarding due to lack of impact on the final pharmaceutical products. On the other hand, there are always financial as well as management issues when working for small companies. Mao wanted to do something that makes her happy, which was to have controls of how she works, how to turn her own ideas into something useful, and be ultimately responsible for the decisions made. So she started her own company and gave herself one year to test out the ideas. Lucky for Mao, her husband is very supportive of her.

Instead of looking for outside funding, Mao used her own money to start her company. She needed a lab space to start. One of her industry connections in the past let her rent a lab space for a very reasonable price and let her use some instruments. To bring in immediate income for her company and figure out how to sell products to customers, she made competent bacterial cells (a reagent used in molecular biology cloning techniques) and looked for clients who were willing to give them a try. It was not easy for her at the beginning. She did not have any experience in selling products. However, some small companies that were on tight budget tried her cells and were very satisfied with her high quality competent cells. She found her first client one month after she founded her company.

To advance her ideas and skillsets in the ADC field, Mao worked with a local chemistry company who specialized in custom toxin-linker synthesis. In the meantime, she conducted her own research and development for the new ADC reagents. After six months, she got her reagents ready and started looking for clients. Through networking, including from LinkedIn, she was able to find clients. Within the first year she was able to start getting positive revenue.

Here are a few things she learned starting and running her own company:

  1. Willing to forgo some security and take a risk.
  2. Set up a goal and give yourself a time limit to reach that goal.
  3. Try everything possible to survive the first year. Success comes after making every little detail work.
  4. Stay focus towards the initial goal.
  5. Reach out to the science network.
  6. Realize the importance of friendships and supports and have a thankful heart.
  7. Figure out what the most important thing is in your career and life, and embrace the decision you made.

Being an entrepreneur is not for everybody, but if you are not happy with your current job and want to start your own company, then don’t let anything or anyone to stop you.


AWIS Outreach at Chem Expo 2017: How to Solve a Mystery Using Science?

by Laure Kayser

On Saturday, October 28, the 30th Annual ChemExpo was hosted for the third year in a row by San Diego Miramar College. The beautiful and inspiring campus welcomed hundreds of middle and high school students. More than 20 booths from local scientific companies, non-profit organizations, and universities were set-up to promote this year’s central theme: Chemistry Rocks! The American Chemical Society celebrates National Chemistry Week by organizing the ChemExpo to showcase how chemistry is applied at work and in everyday life by holding hands-on demonstrations.

AWIS-SD did not miss this opportunity to share some fun chemistry with the local community. Volunteers at the AWIS-SD booth offered students the opportunity to solve a “crime” using science. Students were given both a mystery liquid and solid that had been left at the “crime scene” with the goal of identifying the mystery compounds. The students performed a series of experiments including the analysis of pH, the determination of starch content using Lugol’s Iodine test, the observation of solubility, and the reactivity of solids in vinegar. Through these basic chemical tests, they scientifically determined the identity of the mystery compounds.

The volunteers also introduced the following key concepts to the students: chemical vs physical properties, acid-base reactions, and the transformation of starch into sugar. The transformation of starch into sugar was demonstrated by testing green and ripe bananas for their respective starch content. Acid-base reactions were illustrated by making an at-home pH solution using cabbage juice. The juice changes from red to blue to indicate acidity, and from red to green to indicate basicity. The booth was very popular and AWIS-SD received excellent feedback. At the end of the demo, one high school girl said: “it was a great activity and I actually learned something!”


caption: AWIS-SD booth at the ChemExpo 2017.


The organizers of the AWIS-SD Outreach booth, Anita Pottekat and Laure Kayser, wish to thank the wonderful volunteers, without whom this event would not have been such a success: Melba Nuzen, Kamala Janiyani, Carlos Avila, Isabela Avila, Cyrus Rustomji, Jennifer Ngolab, Sue Lowery, William Strube, Bridget Kohlnhofer, Diane Retallack and all the student and staff volunteers from Miramar College. We also wish to acknowledge the American Chemical Society and Paul Bruinsma for organizing ChemExpo. We are already looking forward to next year’s event!

Ringing in the New Year at Calibanzo

by Ray Seraydarian

On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, the San Diego AWIS chapter celebrated its annual New Year’s event at Calibanzo, a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern family-style restaurant in Scripps Ranch. The venue was bright and friendly, the food was satisfying, plentiful, and delicious, and everyone seemed to have had a great time. The sold-out crowd of over 40 AWIS members sitting around a U-shaped arrangement of tables was a lively and cheerful group.


caption: AWIS-SD attendees enjoying dinner and conversations at New Year's celebration.  


At the tables were fresh salad fixings, flat breads and hummus, and dolma (stuffed grape leaves, served cold as an appetizer). The self-serve buffet included rice, chicken kebobs, and lula kebabs (grilled ground beef or ground lamb with spices). Congratulations to the Events Committee for putting on such a successful event.

Opening Doors to New Opportunities- Finding A Job after Getting a Ph.D.

by Annie Rathore

About 8 years ago, I started my journey as a scientist with a B.Tech. degree in biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India. Currently, I’m a Ph.D. candidate at UC San Diego/Salk Institute.

I am coming close to the end of my Ph.D. and like every other professional, I faced this daunting question – What’s Next? Traditionally, Ph.D.'s stay in academia and continue research as post-doctoral researchers before applying to faculty positions. However, in this day and age, Ph.D.s have many opportunities beyond conducting research due to the training and specific skill set we developed as Ph.D. candidates. When I started networking and meeting new people at career conferences, on LinkedIn, or through friends, I realized that having a Ph.D. opens up numerous unconventional and extremely exciting opportunities in the non-academic job market; from management consulting, biotech startups, investment banking, market research, medical writing, medical science liaison, IP/Law and more.

Management consulting firms utilize the problem-solving skills Ph.D.'s develop to work on solving the toughest scientific problems in the world. Banking offers several positions to Ph.D.'s; Ph.D.'s can work as equity research analysts and investment banking associates, both of which require strong data analytical skills and an ability to ask right questions under pressure. Business investors without a scientific background may need a subject matter expert to consult with regarding companies performing similar research before investing his or her venture capital. As most people in the industry have told me, “We can teach business to a Ph.D., but can’t really teach a Ph.D. to a person with a business background.” As more and more Ph.D.'s have made a successful transition into similar roles in the past and contributed immensely to the companies, firms are getting more comfortable recruiting and investing in more Ph.D.'s.

I am excited about management consulting as a profession for multiple reasons. I would like to share the three critical things that I learned throughout the entire process of networking, preparing, interviewing, and meeting people from firms.

  1. Build a strong resume

It’s strange but true; you will be judged by that one sheet of paper. Having a good GPA and a degree from a good university will not be enough. Most of your peers who are applying for the same position will also be a Ph.D., M.B.A., or Masters students from top universities. How to make sure you stand out then? It is important to start building a strong resume as early as possible. It might take an hour or two to write and edit your resume but it takes from one to two years to build one. To differentiate yourself from other applicants, you must have experience holding positions of responsibility outside of research and academia. For example, consider working with a top pharmaceutical firm or biotech startup in a business development role. You could take up pro bono consulting projects, start or lead clubs on campus, write opinion articles on industry, venture capital/startup news, attend consulting workshops and competitions, etc. These activities do not just look great on a resume, but more importantly, they help you gain an understanding of the industry from a broader perspective and develop skills essential for the transition.

  1. Learn to pitch yourself

The acceptance rate into a top management consulting firm in the highly competitive job market is less than 5%. It is crucial to differentiate yourself from the other highly accomplished peers. Being smart and having a strong resume helps, but unfortunately it is not enough. You have to learn to pitch yourself. As Ph.D. students, we do not do this often and I too believe in letting our work and experience talk for itself. We have to train to pitch for ourselves. When you meet someone, think of what would excite them to learn about and why they should remember you. Leave an impression that you could add value to the team in the brief conversation you have by emphasizing the well-rounded experiences you have, and the ability to complement the existing skill set of the group. Another important thing for Ph.D.'s to learn is how to explain their research to a non-scientist and get the audience excited about the future application of your research. So the next time you are with your siblings or parents, practice by telling them what you are working on and make it interesting.  

  1. Network extensively

Since most firms do not recruit Ph.D. students from campus job fairs especially in the life sciences, networking extensively is the key to land a job at your dream firm. Start by researching the firm via their company website or using websites like, Glassdoor, etc. Next, reach out to people at the firm through networking events, friends, or LinkedIn. In the first few conversations, try to familiarize yourself with the firm, the work culture, type of projects, their day to day work routine, and seek their advice. The purpose should not be to ask for a job, but to honestly understand if you’d like to work at the firm in a similar role. After you have identified the places you are interested in, it’s best to have your resume forwarded to the company recruiter by an employee. Recruiters receive thousands of application for each job posting and it is highly likely that your resume will not be read unless you are referred by an employee. Also, remember to evaluate the company as much as the company is evaluating you. Determining the right fit for you is crucial to finding the right position that will help you realize your career goals.

Finally, I would like to end by saying that taking a step outside research into an unconventional job market for a Ph.D. can be intimidating, but start one step at a time. Take the initiative to develop an edge in your field of interest and it will prove to be the best strategy for transitioning.

Wishing everyone all the best for the next steps in your career!


 Academia to Industry Coffee Club Visit to Dart Neuroscience

by Juliati Rahajeng


Association for Women in Science San Diego Chapter (AWIS-SD) visited Dart Neuroscience, LLC on Friday, October 27, 2017. Thirteen AWIS-SD Academia to Industry (A2I) coffee club members attended the tour that was organized by Karsten Baumgartel, Ph.D., a scientist at Dart Neuroscience, and the A2I coffee club. Five scientists, including Baumgartel and Nicola Broadbent, Ph.D., hosted the tour. Each one of them took turn in talking to tour attendees about how they transitioned into industry and their roles in the company. Below we highlight one of the scientists.

Dart 20171027

caption: A2I members visiting Dart NeuroScience.

Broadbent is a Scientist II in the Behavioral Pharmacology group at Dart Neuroscience. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology/Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Otago in New Zealand where she investigated the function of the hippocampus in memory. Then, she received her postdoctoral training with Drs. Larry Squire and Robert Clark at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) in the field of learning and memory. She continued this work as an Assistant Project Scientist at UCSD. Broadbent’s first industry position was with Helicon Therapeutics where she was hired for her expertise in the neurobiology of memory. At Dart Neuroscience, Broadbent designs and validates complex behavioral assays with the goal to provide better translation of preclinical results to clinical trials. Broadbent also serves as the lead Behavioral Pharmacologist for a several drug discovery teams. She enjoys working for Dart Neuroscience because it allows her to collaborate with scientists from variety of disciplines and because of the opportunity for continued training and professional development. Thank you, Dart Neuroscience for the inspiring and educational tour!


Academia to Industry (A2I) coffee club - An evening with Karen Sylvester

by Aime Lopez Aguilar


The first A2I coffee club of the year was held on Friday, January 12, 2018, testing a new location at the Corner Coffee Bakery of the UTC Westfield mall. We had 14 attendees ranging from senior students to experienced professionals. Our guest speaker was Ms. Karen Sylvester from Vertex Pharmaceuticals.


Sylvester is the Director in Human Resources at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a rapidly growing pharmaceutical company focusing on speciality drug development. Sylvester, a graduate from San Diego State University, has been with Vertex Pharmaceuticals for 20 years and therefore has a wealth of experience with hiring practices, and the transition from academia to industry from the employer’s perspective.

General job hunting advice

Sylvester mentioned that San Diego is one of the big biotech/pharma hubs in the USA, and therefore there are lots of potential employers. Jobs are usually posted on websites such as LinkedIn or Indeed, however there are other resources such as and that in addition to job postings provide lists of employers in the area. Directly checking an employer’s career website can also provide information about open positions.

Sylvester also mentioned that the use of recruiting agencies has become common practice for the biotech/pharma industry. While it is understandable most people want a permanent full-time job, short-term contracts or part-time jobs can be useful to gauge a company’s culture and our own interest in a particular job. Furthermore these contracts can provide valuable industry experience and contacts for future job searches, and in occasion they can serve as a foot-in-the-door for more permanent contracts. Sylvester mentioned that recruiting agencies such as Biophase, Aerotek, or Kelly often work with different employers and therefore it can be useful to join the talent pool of more than one recruiting agency.

Resume and Cover letter advice

Sylvester mentioned that she can receive hundreds of applications for a single opening, and therefore an initial screen of an application can take as little as 30 sec, therefore it is important to be concise and careful with details. Cover letters should be customized for each position, proof-read to be free of typos and grammar errors. Any contacts within the company or recommendations should be mentioned, as well as a description of why you fit the job description. Regarding resumes, Sylvester recommended keeping the length to 2 pages, and mentioning your best assets first. For example, for early career scientists, education might be at the top of their resume but more established professionals might want to move their work experience to the top. Ms. Sylvester also mentioned that she personally is indifferent to being addressed by name on a cover letter, or including detailed addresses in resumes or cover letters, and that she appreciates when a personal detail, such as a hobby or interest, is mentioned in the cover letter, however these are subjective issues that might bear different weight with other hiring managers.

The hiring process

Sylvester described the general hiring process at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, stating that while some elements might be translatable to other companies, each company maintains their own particular policies and practices. For example, while Vertex considers applications of Ph.D.s for Associate positions (as long as they are happy doing the work), other companies might not.

At Vertex, Sylvester and her team at the HR department review every incoming application and forward candidates meeting the criteria to the hiring manager. The hiring manager then selects possible candidates, which are then given a phone interview with someone from the HR department (~30 mins). Successful candidates are then invited for an on-site interview (often ~3 candidates/ position are invited) which is often a panel, area-focus style interview with people from different levels and positions. Interviewees are often asked a mix of behavioral questions to determine whether they are a cultural fit for the position, team, and company. At Vertex, Sylvester tries to schedule on-site interviewees within 1-2 weeks, however she mentioned that some positions can be hard to fill and postings remain open for months at a time.

She highlighted that researching a company and job description is key for being successful, especially at the interview stage. And that sometimes, excellent candidates are not selected because of external factors such as timing, specific profiles being sought, or even a different cultural balance within the group. Finally, Sylvester emphasized that while job hunting can be a grueling process, everything is in place to find the best match for each opening, benefiting both the employers and employees.


Member News

  1. Wendy Knowlton announced the arrival of her first child, Hannah Elaine Tsuji, on December 23, 2017. Mom, dad, and baby are all doing well.
  2. A recent study co-authored by board member Leslie Crews (Assistant Professor in the Division of Regenerative Medicine at UC San Diego) was published in Nature Communications in December 2017. In this paper, co-senior author Crews and colleagues identified a previously unknown role for the RNA-recoding enzyme ADAR1 in promoting disease progression and drug resistance in the second most common blood cancer in the US, multiple myeloma.

News Ticker

by Alyson Smith

  • The National Cancer Institute has awarded San Diego’s Aethlon Medical a contract to adapt the Hemopurifier, its blood-filtering device, to detect cancer. Aethlon plans to use the Hemopurifier (originally developed to filter viruses from Ebola patient blood) to detect oncosomes: small particles shed by cancer cells. Because oncosomes may aid cancer cells by suppressing the immune system, the company ultimately plans to use the device in cancer immunotherapy.

  • The Salk Institute has appointed geneticist Rusty Gage as its interim president following the retirement of Elizabeth Blackburn. Gage, who also served as interim president during the medical leave of former president William Brody, will continue to run his laboratory while the Institute searches for a new president. Following her retirement, Blackburn will serve the Institute as a paid consultant for strategic planning.

  • A team of researchers including UC San Diego scientists have genetically engineered CAR T cells to attack cancer cells when activated by the mechanical force of an ultrasound. This technology allows for targeted CAR T cell activation deep within the body (up to four inches), avoiding the need for risky global activation of these potent – and sometimes deadly – immune cells. In the future, scientists could apply this method to activate other disease-involved cell types.

  • Last fall, four Jamaican iguanas hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bringing the total successful hatchings of this critically endangered reptile at the park to 11. Once thought to be extinct due to predation by invasive species, the iguanas were rediscovered in 1990. San Diego Zoo Global is working to maintain an assurance colony with healthy, strong genetic lines protected from threats faced in the wild.

  • Ozanimod, a multiple sclerosis drug invented by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, has proven more effective in reducing relapse rate than the current standard of care in two large Phase 3 clinical trials. The biopharmaceutical company Celgene will soon apply to sell the drug in the U.S. and the European Union. Ozanimod is also being developed to treat other autoimmune disorders, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

  • UC San Diego and Scripps Memorial Hospital recently participated in a nationwide trial using imaging data to build computational models of blood flow in stroke patients’ brains. These models helped surgeons make educated guesses about the location and extent of brain damage in newly admitted stroke patients, which guided treatment decisions. The quantitative data produced by these models will allow doctors to help some patients more than six hours after the onset of symptoms, which is otherwise risky.

  • UC San Diego Health has joined 11 other centers across the country in piloting a new iPhone-based medical records access system developed by Apple. The new system can store medical records from different health care providers, send medication reminders, and allow other iPhone apps to access select medication data.

  • Scientists at the Birch Aquarium and UC San Diego used a 3D-printed piece of plastic to fill a gap in the shell of a young, rescued loggerhead sea turtle. As the turtle grew, the shell gap began to cause spinal curvature, which the scientists hope the plastic brace will correct. Until the turtle reaches full size at about 250 pounds, they will continue to print larger and larger pieces of plastic.


Upcoming AWIS-SD Events

Scholarship 2018

Applications due Sunday, Feb 27, 2018

Open to female students actively engaged in a degree program in the 2017-2018 academic year.


Speed Mentoring 2018

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 05:30 PM - 07:30 PM

at National University, register here


STRATEGY SESSIONS: Decoding the Resume
Monday, April 02, 2018 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM

at Hera Hub, register here


See more AWIS-SD events here.


About the Authors

 TNoguchi1Crop 170403

Takako Noguchi received her PhD in Biological Science from Osaka University. She is a Project Scientist at the Center for Circadian Biology at UCSD, studying cellular and neuronal mechanisms of circadian rhythm using innovative bioluminescence imaging technology. She joined AWIS-SD in 2017 and is currently serving as co-chair of Academia to Industry Coffee Club. She hopes to transition into the biotech and pharmaceutical industry.



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.



Laure Kayser is a post-doc in the department of NanoEngineering at the University of California San Diego. After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Strasbourg, she obtained a PhD degree in Chemistry from McGill University in Canada. She is currently an active member of the AWIS-SD Outreach Committee and the NanoEngineering representative for the UC San Diego Post-Doctoral Association.

Annie salk cropped

Annie Rathore is a Ph.D. candidate at Salk Institute and UC San Diego. She was awarded the AWIS-SD Scholarship 2017 honoree mention and Salk Women in Science 2017 award for her high impact research in uncovering the role of microproteins in human biology and disease conditions.  Prior to this, she completed her B.Tech. degree in Biotechnology from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and research at University of Iowa as a Khorana Program Scholar. Annie is a global traveler, enjoys running and cooking innovative dishes that combine different cuisines. After completing her Ph.D., she plans to transition to life science management consulting in New York.


Corine Lau Headshot 2016

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. 



Aime Lopez Aguilar is currently finishing a post-doctoral researcher position at The Scripps Research Institute in the Department of Molecular Medicine, where she focuses on developing chemoenzymatic tools for the detection and engineering of glycans in clinically-relevant environments. While originally from Mexico City, Aime obtained her BSc in Biotechnology from Brock University, Canada and later received her DPhil from Oxford University in the UK. Aime joined AWIS in 2017, and is currently a co-chair for the Academia to Industry Coffee Club.


Ray S headshot

Ray Seraydarian earned his BS and M. Eng. degrees in Engineering Physics from Cornell University, and has spent his entire professional career in San Diego working in visible spectroscopy and areas closely involved with nuclear fusion research at General Atomics (GA) and UCSD. He is currently employed by UCLA at GA working on a microwave instrument for the large ITER fusion experiment being built by an international consortium in southern France. Outside of work, Ray enjoys theater, movies, bicycling, downhill skiing, and small boat sailing. Ray is a long standing AWIS-SD member, and he currently serves as a co-chair of the Events Committee.




Fall 2017 Newsletter Volume 25 Issue 4

For previous newsletters, click here.




Dear AWIS-San Diego Family and Friends,

This will be my last letter as President of AWIS-San Diego for the AWIS-San Diego newsletter.  It is a good time to reflect on what we have accomplished in the last year. I am extremely proud of all that we do, especially since we are all volunteers. In the spirit of thankfulness, there are many heartfelt thanks that need to be said.

Here are some of the fantastic volunteers that were recognized at the end of last month‘s Open House. We (the AWIS-San Diego board) have a lot of exemplary volunteers, so deciding on the ones to recognize is a challenge.

Here are some photographs taken at the 2017 Open House:

Sigrid DeeAnn

Sigrid Katz still looks surprised at her award, the Achievement in Innovation Award; it was a challenge to keep her from finding out ahead of time, but trust me, the initial look on her face was totally worth it; (l to r: Sigrid Katz and DeeAnn Visk).


DeeAnn Barbara

Barbara Armstrong, one of our long-term members who has devoted many hours to the website, received her 30-year membership milestone award; (l to r: DeeAnn Visk and Barbara Armstrong).


Liz Juliati DeeAnn

Elizabeth Jacobs and Juliati Rahajeng were recognized with the Leadership Service Award; (l to r: Elizabeth Jacobs, Juliati Rahajeng, and DeeAnn Visk).


Abbie DeeAnn Radhika

Abigail Ferrieri and Radhika Gopal both received the Board Special Award; (l to r:  Abigail Ferrieri, DeeAnn Visk, and Radhika Gopal).



The beautiful Open House venue was provided by Qualcomm.


DeeAnn Sabrina

Sabrina Treadwell was awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Award; (l to r: DeeAnn Visk and Sabrina Treadwell).


DeeAnn Alyson

Alyson Smith was given the Achievement in Outreach or Community Service Award; (l to r: DeeAnn Visk and Alyson Smith).


DeeAnn Diane

Diane Retallack received both her 15-year membership milestone award and the President’s Award; (l to r) DeeAnn Visk and Diane Retallack.

Saranya Canchi was one of the two winners of the UCSD Extension Scholarship.


Corine Newsletter OH2017

Corine Lau gives out information about the Newsletter Committee at the Open House.


While there is not room to recognize every volunteer who received an award, please know that your work is valued.

A big thanks to all the 2017 board members who have worked very hard this year to maintain all of our programming. In addition to selecting which stellar volunteers to recognize at the Open House, the AWIS San Diego board finalized our strategic plan for the next three years. The document was derived from all the input we received during our annual leadership retreat in January. Here is the 2017 to 2020 AWIS-San Diego Strategic Plan in its entirety:


AWIS-SD strives to promote gender equality across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at all career levels. By promoting STEM equality through equal pay, respect, opportunity, representation, value, and responsibility, we envision a professional future where all individuals can achieve their full career potential and attain job satisfaction.


To provide insight, tools, skills, resources, networking, and knowledge to aspiring STEM professionals, particularly women. By providing a safe environment to discuss future missions, AWIS-SD allows all individuals to cooperatively approach addressing STEM gender equality.

What we do

Our mission is to support women in all stages of their STEM careers by creating seminars, providing networking opportunities, crafting educational programming, and offering scholarships. By organizing science-themed events, we seek to engage the local community and provide visibility to our members as STEM role models. Membership in AWIS-SD also affords the opportunity to discuss goals and visions in a safe environment, attain leadership skills, and be part of a diverse team dedicated to STEM career equality.


We seek to continue and expand our excellent programming to support gender equality at all stages of career development, from young children to STEM leaders. By maintaining our current membership base and expanding to new demographics, we hope to increase our visibility and promote our vision. Creating new partnerships, reaching out to our sponsors, and promoting member involvement will allow us to continue our star chapter programming.


Finally, a thank you to all of our sponsors are in order. Our Gold Level Sponsors are ThermoFisher Scientific, UC San Diego Extension, and Hologic. Our Silver Level Sponsors are Celgene, Beckman Coulter Foundation, and Hera Hub. Our Bronze Level Sponsors are FEI Company, General Atomics Science Education Foundation (GASEF), Kyowa Kirin Pharmaceutical Research Inc., Qualcomm, Quidel, Sony Interactive Entertainment, TriLink BioTechnologies, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and WD-40 Company.

To sign off, here is my tag line:

Thanks so much for all the hard work you do for AWIS-San Diego.




DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

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Creating Career Success- August Strategy Session Recap

by Jennifer Kuo

Take a moment and think about what you want to do. For some, the answers may come easier than for others. Knowing what you want is the first step and arguably the most important step. The next step is figuring out a career path and how to transition from point A to point B. At our August Strategy Session on August 7, 2017, four working professionals shared their career experiences with us. This included how they navigated their careers and what each of their current position entails.

The panelists included the following four speakers:

Amy Duncan, MBA, CEO and Chief Marketing Consultant at Goldfish Consulting, Inc.

Dr. Elena Dimitrijevic, Ph.D., Medical Scientific Liaison at Allergan, Inc.
Dr. Soni Sankapal, Ph.D., PMP, Project Manager at BD Biosciences
Dr. Shreyasi (Shelley) Das, Ph.D., Technical Writer at Thermo Fisher Scientific


SS Aug 2017

Caption: (From left) Amy Duncan, Elena Dimitrijevic, Soni Sankapal, Shelley Das share how they got to their current jobs and the challenges they face in a panel discussion moderated by Lin-Chien Huang.


For a career in the consulting field, a candidate needs not only technical expertise but also value-added skills and experience for clients. Duncan began her career with scientific training in a lab and later moved to tech support and project management. She then obtained her MBA degree.

Duncan’s experience in sales allowed her to deeply understand the needs of customers and market trends. Through Goldfish Consulting, Inc., she now offers her knowledge as an independent consultant and a valuable resource for C-suite executives. She advised us to choose high-visibility projects that will showcase your success. Duncan added that we should think daily how our work projects are adding to what we can place on our resumes.

Dimitrijevic shared with us her life as a medical science liaison (MSL). Her scientific training helps her understand medical products well, and she shares her expertise with healthcare practitioners, physicians, and clinical development teams. In addition, Dimitrijevic is able to help answer off-label use questions, communicate findings from conferences and literature research, recommend sites for clinical trials, and manage complications that physicians encounter when using her company’s product. The perks of her job include the ability to travel and be in control of her schedule and meetings. While most MSLs have a clinical background, there are certificate training programs one can take to gain knowledge in clinical trial management.

Sankapal, a project manager at BD Biosciences, said if you are considering project management, you should learn the terminology. Sankapal advised us to read job descriptions and understand the language that project managers use in order to network well. Her day consists of prioritizing requirements in order to keep a project timeline on schedule and understand how project team members are doing through reading status reports, holding meetings, and managing resources. Since it is a people-oriented job, the challenge is learning how to manage conflicts and keeping people on schedule with their projects.

As a technical writer, Das explained that there are different types of writing such as copywriting, scientific writing, and marketing-oriented communication. She started at an advertising agency to get into the field and was then recruited by Thermo Fisher. “Once you have experience and connections, it is much easier to move around and try different kinds of writing styles,” Das explained. Her advice is to embrace switching jobs rather not fearing such changes. Das also emphasized the different choices available as one builds her career. This could mean advancing as a technical writer or moving into marketing or business development. Another option is freelance writing. Regardless of your choice, there are many opportunities for those who are skilled in technical-scientific writing and editing.  


Happy Hour at Rough Draft Brewery

by Melissa (Missy) Scranton

This past September, AWIS-SD hosted its biannual happy hour at Rough Draft Brewery in Mira Mesa. The brewery has become a go-to venue for AWIS-SD events due to its convenient location, tasty food, and refreshing beers. In addition, its laid-back tasting room setting provided a great space to mingle with old friends and make some new connections as well. Many current, new and returning AWIS-SD members exchanged interests and information over cheese platters, warm flatbreads and cold beer tasters. Happy hours are great places to find scientists at all stages of their careers who work in a variety of fields. Every happy hour is an opportunity to meet someone with a unique occupation or career path. It is always interesting to see where a background in science can lead!

Happyhr Sep2017 2 smaller

AWIS-SD happy hours are held every September and April. The Events Committee invites every AWIS-SD member to participate at one of these happy hour functions. You’re sure to hear an interesting story or perhaps share one about yourself with your fellow members.


Book Review: Mehendi Tides

by Linda L. Manza

As scientists, we are always reading some articles. Usually, it’s to remain current in our field.  However, sometimes we are able to read just for the pleasure of it. This was the case when I had the opportunity to read an early release of Mehendi Tides written by Dr. Siobhan Malany. 

Malany bookcover MehendiTides

Mehendi Tides is the story of Kate and her two best friends, Nasreen and Krishna.  At sixteen, Kate traveled to India and Pakistan with Nasreen and Krishna, who are visiting extended family. Ten years later the lives of the three women have gone in different directions, but the impact of their experiences during the trip and the bonds of their friendship remain strong. The description of the sounds and sights of the bustling bazaars, colorful silks, aromatic spices and the relationships between the people bring the culture of these faraway lands to life. This is truly enjoyable reading!


SiobhanMalany headshot2017

Malany is the Director of Translational Biology in the chemical genomics center at Sanford Burnham Prebys’s East Coast facility. Malany’s team, working closely with medicinal chemists and screening automation scientists, focuses on receptor target pharmacology. It also develops phenotypic cell-based models merging human stem cell-derived cell biology, imaging platforms, and genomic approaches for target pathway and therapeutic discovery for cardiometabolic and liver diseases.

Malany completed a postdoc at UCSD and served on the AWIS-SD board from 2008-2009. Prior to being a board member, she was the Co-chair for the chapter’s newsletter and is credited with converting the PDF version of the newsletter into the online, clickable Constant Contact version. An avid writer, Malany also wrote articles for the San Diego Woman Magazine and took a creative writing course at Mesa College that persuaded her to write Mehendi Tides, her debut novel inspired by her travels to Asia as a teenager.


Kristin Bompiani-Myers Visit to A2I Meeting

by Juliati Rahajeng and Joanna Redfern

On Friday, October 6, 2017, Kristin Bompiani-Myers, a Board member of AWIS-SD, visited with Academia to Industry (A2I) Coffee Club members at Bella Vista Cafe to share her experience in transitioning to industry. Bompiani-Myers was hired as a research scientist at InhibRx about one year ago (2016).

Bompiani-Myers earned her Ph.D. from Duke University in Genetics and Genomics in 2012. Upon receiving her advanced degree, she became interested in applying for jobs at pharmaceutical or biotech companies. Still, Bompiani-Myers’ advisor recommended that she gain additional experience with a postdoc position. As a result, Bompiani-Myers started work as a postdoc at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in June 2012. At TSRI, she utilized high-throughput screening to identify inhibitory small molecules toward botulism enzymes. In addition, she collaborated with chemists and pharmacologists to synthesize and identify lead small molecule compounds and tested them for ADME properties.

In August 2014, Bompiani-Myers became a Cancer Therapeutics Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSD. She studied the role of copper homeostasis in cancer cell growth, metabolism, and chemotherapeutic drug sensitivity. To deliver on her stated goals, she performed genome editing in human cancer cell lines using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. The fellowship program at the UCSD Moores Cancer Center focused on training postdocs in drug discovery and development. For that reason, Bompiani-Myers obtained funding to take classes at the UCSD Extension, including Epidemiology, Patient Oriented Research, and Biostatistics.

Through her postdoctoral mentor at UCSD, Bompiani-Myers was introduced to the CEO of InhibRx where she currently works as a research scientist. She had two very casual interviews at InhibRx before she was offered the position. InhibRx was established about six years ago, and currently employs about 40 people. The company is primarily funded by the government, the Small Business Innovation Research (SIBR) program, and other private sources. Currently, the company consists of several departments, including Molecular Biology, Protein Engineering, and Antibody Discovery, Cell Biology, New Technology Development, and antibody humanization.

Unlike many larger companies, InhibRx does not have annual reviews of employees, and generally has a very relaxed atmosphere. There is an emphasis on encouraging scientists who work at InhibRx to pursue ideas they develop regarding the research the company is involved in.

Bompiani-Myers started at the Molecular Biology department when she joined the company. Her duties included managing the DNA preparations and managing people who have different scientific backgrounds.

Currently, she works in the Infectious Disease department where she spends more time at the bench. Bompiani-Myers also writes progress reports and grants, and as the chemical hygiene officer, manages chemical waste. She enjoys the variety of her responsibilities. While Bompiani-Myers did not come to the company with a background in antibody research, she learned all about the field as it is a major part of the research and development at InhibRx. The company focuses on developing single-domain antibodies from llamas that are known to only consist of heavy chains. Bompiani-Myers said that these nanobodies are better than other antibodies because they are more thermostable, easier to express, and can recognize unique epitopes compared to traditional monoclonal antibodies.

Bompiani-Myers’s advice for women looking to transition from academia in to industry is to make sure you let your advisor(s) and others you work with know that you are interested in industry while still a graduate student/post-doc. This allows advisors and others who may have industry connections to keep you in mind when they hear about suitable openings.


Outreach at the Maker Faire

by Vanessa Langness

The AWIS-SD Outreach Committee organized an activity for the October 2017 Maker Faire, which allows makers of all types including artists, scientists, and engineers to showcase their creations. During this two-day event, our volunteers demonstrated chemistry concepts to community members by making art with shaving cream and food coloring. First, the volunteers demonstrated how food coloring, which is polar, diffuses quickly in water, which is also polar. However, when food coloring is dropped into oil, it does not diffuse because the oil is non-polar and hydrophobic.

maker farie 1

These same concepts were used to create shaving cream art. Hydrophobic ingredients in shaving cream prevent diffusion of food coloring, so designs can be drawn with food coloring by dragging a toothpick through the shaving cream. The design can be transferred to a piece of paper, which volunteers explained is made of cellulose and has polar hydroxyl groups.

Kids and parents alike were amazed when the shaving cream was wiped away, and they could see that their food coloring design was transferred to the paper. Similar techniques were used for centuries by artists to create beautiful marbled patterns. This activity was a great demonstration of the STEAM movement, which is a major focus of the Maker Faire. The STEAM movement integrates STEAM subjects with the arts for a deeper, richer interdisciplinary connection.

maker farie 2

AWIS-SD Outreach Committee members Vanessa Langness and Mary Swinton were co-point persons for this event. Outreach Committee Member Laure Kayser, Outreach Committee Co-chair Kina Thackray, and past AWIS-SD president Grace Nakayama participated as did many other AWIS-SD members and community volunteers.


Annual Open House highlights: volunteer awards and silent auction

by Christina Niemeyer

AWIS-SD hosted its 2017 Open House on Thursday, October 26 at Qualcomm, our Bronze Sponsor. The event ran from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Sandwiches, hors d'oeuvres, and drinks were provided. This free annual event gave individuals an opportunity for networking with others in the scientific community as well as a chance to learn more about our volunteers and volunteer opportunities. Each AWIS-SD committee had a member at a table who described the mission, goals, and opportunities for new members. Hera Hub, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and UC San Diego Extension, all Sponsors of AWIS-SD, were also represented.

openhouse2017 1

Caption: AWIS-SD Treasurer Lori Yang and board member Kristin Bompiani-Myers welcome guests at the membership table.

During the event, several of our outstanding volunteers were recognized. The Achievement in Innovation Awards went to Sigrid Katz and Takako Noguchi. Rookie of the Year Awards went to Myan Do and Maria del Pilar Martinez Viedma. Varykina Thackray and Alyson Smith were given Achievement in Outreach or Community Service Awards. Outstanding Volunteer Awards were bestowed upon Sabrina Treadwell and Miriam Cohen. Leadership Service Awards were presented to Lin-Chien Huang, Juliati Rahajeng and Elizabeth Jacobs. Abigail Ferrieri and Radhika Gopal were granted the Board Special Awards. The President’s Award was conferred to Diane Retallack and Raymond Seraydarian.

In addition, UC San Diego Extension awarded $1,000 Scholarships to two of our members: Saranya Canchi, who plans to take courses in statistics for big data sets and data analytics, and Rhiannon Killian, who plans to use this scholarship for courses in project management and process improvement.

Also recognized during the Open House were our longtime members.  Sandra Slivka and Barbara Armstrong have been AWIS-SD members for 30 years, Judith Finlay for 25 years, Christina Niemeyer and Jan Gates for 20 years, and Karin Lucas and Diane Retallack for 15 years. Michelle Temple-Wong, Linda Manza, April Cresse, Christine Federovitch, DeeAnn Visk, Kellie Church, and Lihua Wu have been members for 10 years. Individuals honored for five-year membership included Cheryl Eisen, Christine Pham, Tobey Tam, Gloria Lefkowitz, Laura Ruff, Ana Laura Guerrero, Virginia Hazen, Kerstin Kirchsteiger, Aleksandra Baranckzak, Lori Yang, Castle Funatake, and Eva Goellner. We hope to honor all of them in another five years, as well as a whole new set of five-year members.

A silent auction was held during the event. Several companies and AWIS-SD members donated items. The donated items included a children microscope, a painting, guest passes to the Japanese Friendship Garden, Legoland, the Maritime Museum, the USS Midway Museum, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the New Children’s Museum. Also included in the auction were credits towards Masan NYC Portrait Artwork, makeovers and photo shoots with Jesse Angel, Picaboo gift certificates, a gift basket from Dream Diners, a bottle of St. Petersburg vodka, and a bottle of Wilson Creek sparkling wine. Hera Hub provided one full month access to tits co-working space and two free hours of meeting room space. Curves donated two months of fitness membership.

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Caption: Annual AWIS-SD open house provides an opportunity for members and non-members to learn more about how the organization supports women in STEM.

Overall, approximately 125 individuals attended the Open House. We would especially like to thank Qualcomm for sponsoring the venue. The event was considered a success due to the enthusiasm of attendees, interactions at the various tables, and the networking that transpired.


At Vertex, Science Leads the Way

by Pat Rarus

AWIS-SD members explored the exciting world of drug discovery on Friday, October 6, as several of us visited Vertex Pharmaceuticals in the Torrey Pines area of San Diego. Headquartered in Boston, Vertex is a global biotechnology company developing transformative medicines for the severely ill.

Vertex’s tagline is, The Science of Possibility,” and the company has demonstrated that leadership by launching two cystic fibrosis (CF) medicines between 2012 and 2015. The company’s goal is to treat the underlying cause of CF for the vast majority of people with the disease.

The informative tour on October 6 was arranged by the AWIS Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club. As its name implies, the group introduces AWIS-SD members who work in university labs to the business side of scientific research and development.  Kudos to Co-Chairs Takako Noguchi, PhD., Juliati Rahajeng, Ph.D., and Joanna Redfern, Ph.D. for overseeing this interesting outing and ensuring that every detail was handled flawlessly.

Vertex tour 001

The tour consisted of visits to four key areas of Vertex: The Discovery Core lab, Instrumentation Research and Development (IR&D), Chemistry and Biology. The departments work closely together at every turn. “We have an incredibly collaborative environment and excellent teamwork from beginning to end,” said Sandie Lechner.

Vertex’s Amy Arthur led the tour that I attended, beginning with the Instrumentation Research laboratory. The department has 15 engineers and scientists who build and design instruments that cannot be purchased “off the shelf.” The department even has its own machine shop, according to Minh Vuong, Ph.D., senior director of IR&D., who described his innovative lab. “Sometimes we need to measure biological parameters that otherwise cannot be measured using commercial equipment. That is why we need to build the custom equipment,” Vuong explained. “This might include specialized optics for detection, for example.”

“Drug discovery is greatly speeded up by automating industrial scale biology,” Vuong continued. He added that his work is always challenging, and he enjoys the fast-paced atmosphere. “Often we don’t even have the luxury of time to build a prototype.”

My particular tour continued on to the Chemistry, Biology and Cell Core areas. AWIS-SD attendees asked questions of the scientists who included Juliana, Fabrice and Yi-Lin in Chemistry, and Ji Young and Sheena in Biology. Adrienne Neal explained the functions of the Cell Core area.

After the tour, we all convened in the training room for additional questions. Later, lunch was provided in the cafeteria, and AWIS-SD attendees were encouraged to network with Vertex employees.

After witnessing the business side of drug discovery, some AWIS-SD attendees wondered about transitioning from academia to private industry. Karen Sylvester, Director, Human Resources, said that temporary employment was a good way to make such a transition. “For the next step in your career, you might consider one of our temporary opportunities,” she explained. “It’s a great way to get your foot in the door.”

Sheena Saayman, Research Scientist II, who guided the Biology Department part of the tour, told an inspiring story. “I’ve worked at Vertex for a year and a half,” she recalled with a grin. “Before that, I was part of a similar tour that all of you took today. I was impressed with the company and hoped that one day I might work here. Now I do!”  

Saayman then added: “People here are passionate about their work. The company is highly collaborative, and people work together well. I’m so glad to be here.”

Vertex is consistently recognized as one of the industry’s top places to work by Science Magazine, The Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal and the San Diego Business Journal. The company’s research and medicines have also received esteemed recognitions, including the Robert J. Beall Therapeutics Development Award, the French Prix Gallian and the British Pharmacological Society awards.

Thanks to Vertex for its great hospitality, and thanks also to AWIS-SD’s Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club, who made this such a successful and informative tour!


Member News

  1. Dorothy (Dody) Sears, UCSD Associate Professor of Medicine and former AWIS-SD President, is a Project Lead on a newly awarded, 5-year program grant from the NIH’s National Institute of Aging (P01 AG052352). Sears and her colleagues, Jacqueline Kerr, Andrea LaCroix, and Loki Natarajan, will use this $9 million grant to study the short-, medium-, and long-term effects of sedentary behavior interruptions on biomarkers associated with age-related, chronic disease in postmenopausal women as part of their Sedentary Time & Aging Research (STAR) Program.

  1. Dorota Skowronska-Krawczyk, UCSD Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, and AWIS-SD Scholarship Committee co-chair, together with artist Eva Henry, have created PROJECT VISIONS to combine science and art to illustrate images of the eye under the microscope.

  2. Ping Xu embarked on her first industry position as a QC manager in cell line production at ScienCell Research Laboratories in October 2017.

  3. Leslie Crews, Board Member at Large and longtime Strategy Sessions committee member of AWIS-SD, recently joined the faculty in the Division of Regenerative Medicine at UC San Diego as an Assistant Professor. She is excited to have the opportunity to expand her studies on multiple myeloma biology and therapy, and looks forward to building a program in multiple myeloma translational research with her clinical collaborators at the Moores Cancer Center. For more information about research in the Crews Lab, please visit

  4. Mai Khuong, member of the Newsletter Committee, started her new position as a Technical Applications Scientist at Thermo Fisher Scientific in September 2017.


News Ticker

by Alyson Smith

  • A team of researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have found that during Alzheimer’s disease-related inflammation, mouse models and human patients express a protein called CTGF in the brain’s blood vessels. As inflammation is one of the first steps in Alzheimer’s progression, the researchers are developing a method to image the CTGF levels in living human brains to provide earlier diagnosis and to specify which regions of the brain to target with future therapies.
  • The Scripps Institution of Oceanography has received a $2.8 million NSF grant to develop the Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator (SOARS). This large ocean simulator, or flume, will allow researchers to study the biology, chemistry, waves, wind, and temperature at the surface of the ocean. This will provide insight into the interactions of these factors in various climates, and how they are affected by pollution and climate change.
  • Broadcom Ltd., a Singapore-based electronics company, has offered to buy Qualcomm Inc. for $130 billion in an unsolicited takeover bid. Qualcomm, one of the largest private employers in San Diego, has not yet decided whether to accept the proposed takeover, which would be the largest in the electronics industry to date.
  • KPBS Radio has sponsored a new podcast entitled “Rad Scientist,” which features San Diego scientists and their research, with a goal of bridging between San Diego’s scientific community and non-scientists. Margot Wohl, the host of the podcast and a neuroscience Ph.D. student at UC San Diego, has hosted UCSD pathology professor Pascal Gagneux and Salk plant researcher Liang Song.
  • Qualcomm has given UC San Diego $200,000 to build an outdoor cage for test flights of unmanned aerial vehicles. The facility will allow for testing of drone control, altitude control, and collision avoidance. The facility will become a part of UC San Diego’s expanding robotics systems research program, which also includes development of driverless cars.
  • The National Institutes of Health has awarded $25 million to researchers at the Salk Institute, UC San Diego, and the University of Southern California to identify all cell types in the mammalian brain. This project, part of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, will focus on distinguishing neurons in the mouse brain based on differences in gene expression and epigenetic modifications and on tracing connections between neurons.
  • UC San Diego has reported a record in undergraduate enrollment for the fifth straight year. The total undergraduate population is currently 36,624, and is expected to rise to 40,000 within five years. To accommodate this increase in the student population, the university is investing $1.7 billion in expanding student housing and classroom space.
  • Collaborating with researchers at the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil, scientists at the UC San Diego School of Medicine have discovered how the Zika virus is transmitted from a pregnant mother to a developing fetus. They found that microglia cells in the yolk sac can become infected with the virus early in development. When these microglia later move to the brain to perform immune functions, they can infect brain cells and cause neurological damage. This discovery indicates a potential therapeutic target for Zika infections in pregnant women.


Upcoming AWIS-SD Events

See more AWIS-SD events here.


About the Authors

 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.



Melissa (Missy) Scrantonreceived her PhD in Plant Biology from University of California, Riverside. In 2013, she moved back to her home town to study algal biotechnology at University of California, San Diego as postdoctoral researcher. She is currently a researcher at BASF Enzymes, LLC and a Co-Chair of the AWIS-SD Events committee.


Pat Rarus 4.7.11

Pat Rarus is a long-term contributor of the Newsletter committee. As the owner-founder of Marcom Consulting Group, Pat has assisted clients with marketing communications projects. The goal:  increase visibility, market share and ultimately sales for profit-making companies. Increase visibility and donors for non-profits. Pat specializes in writing and editing a wide variety of online and print marketing materials: Website copy, including SE0, press releases, blogs, social media, biographies, marketing plans, speeches, ad/brochure copy, taglines/slogans, PowerPoint presentations and much more.



LindaManza received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona, a M.S. in Toxicology from San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health, and a B.A. in Biological Sciences and Chemistry from the University of California Santa Barbara. Linda works as an independent consultant in toxicology and quality assurance. Linda is currently an AWIS-SD Newsletter Committee member and is a member of the National AWIS Chapters Committee.


 Joanna Redfern

Joanna Redfernstudied 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.

 Vanessa L

Vanessa Langness  moved to San Diego after completing her BS at MSUDenver where she double majored in chemistry and biology. She is now a PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Program at UC San Diego. She is using neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to study the role of cholesterol in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. Vanessa is an active member of the AWIS San Diego Outreach Committee.


christina Niemeyer 

Christina Niemeyer  is Associate at i2 Grants Associates, a woman-owned and operated, California-based team with years of experience identifying and securing grants for emerging companies and non-profit organizations in the life sciences. Christina has served as Laboratory Director at both Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and Salmedix, where she played a critical role in developing the approved oncology drug Treanda. Christina earned her Ph.D. at Bayor College of Medicine in cell biology and her B.S. from Texas A&M University in microbiology, where she graduated magna cum laude.





Summer 2017 Newsletter Volume 25 Issue 3

This issue of the Newsletter will be available as a PDF soon.

For previous newsletters, click here.




Dear AWIS-SD members and friends:

As you read this newsletter, you will get a taste of the AWIS-SD community. Our committees do excellent work, ranging from putting together this newsletter, offering career workshops, to reaching out to the greater San Diego community with STEM events.

Why not take full advantage of your AWIS-SD membership by joining a committee? Visiting the committee page ( and learn about all the different committees. Find one that interests you and join. You will expand your leadership, communication, and organizational skills when you join an AWIS-SD committee.

Our annual Open House is coming up in late October. The Open House needs Co-Chairs and members to organize this local STEM community event. Interested? Email DeeAnn at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Are you a social media person? Consider joining the Public Relations Committee. Learn how to use Hoot Suite to coordinate postings on social media. Email the committee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Still want to find out more about AWIS-SD? Attend the Meet the Board Event on Tuesday, September 19, to hear the AWIS-SD Board and each committee present their way to continue providing the diverse programming that AWIS-SD has to offer.

August is the month to relax, regroup, and strategically plan ahead. Build your skills by joining an AWIS-SD committee.



DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

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


From Academia to the Executive Suite: Meet Lori Yang, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Lectenz® Bio and AWIS-SD Treasurer 

by Pat Rarus

Lori Yang, Ph.D.’s gracious smile and quiet demeanor disguise a scientific Wonder Woman. Our AWIS Treasurer possesses formidable scientific credentials, impressive business savvy and boundless energy. Perhaps most important to AWIS, Lori serves as a role model for female scientists of all ages—particularly young women – who wish to transition from academia to industry.

Recently, Yang, co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Lectenz® Bio, served as a featured panelist at San Diego Startup Week.  Attendees were impressed by how enthusiastically she shared her experience about transitioning from the bench to the C-Suite. Lori also emphasized the importance of women leadership in biotech.

Yang was working as a bench scientist at La Jolla Bioengineering Institute, when she began a long-distance collaboration with Robert J. Woods, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Chemistry, at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center, University of Georgia. Woods focuses on exploring the relationships between the conformations of carbohydrate molecules and biological recognition and activity. Eventually, Woods and Yang decided to co-found Lectenz® Bio (then known as Glycosensors and Diagnostics or G&D), where Yang leads vital scientific discoveries.

Lori Yang

“Lectenz® Bio is developing novel products that employ our unique Lectenz® reagents and GlycoSenseTM technology, to speed up and simplify the detection and discovery of disease biomarkers,” explained Lori.

“These products enable targeting glycan biomarkers of clinical significance for investigation and leveraging them for advancing human health.”

Advancing human health has always been Yang’s mission. Specifically, her expertise involves protein engineering, molecular evolution, and flow cytometry. A graduate of University of Virginia and Yale University, she holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry. Yang was a co-leader of Women in Science at Yale and completed her post-doctoral research at the La Jolla Bioengineering Institute. She was also a Research Fellow at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

One of Yang’s foremost career accomplishments was establishing G&D’s satellite operations at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS in San Diego in 2013. This milestone enabled the beginning of commercialization efforts and rebranding to Lectenz® Bio this year. The company recently received approval of its first patent for a carbohydrate-like small molecule inhibitor.

In her spare time, Yang enjoys yoga, tennis and swimming. Most of all, she loves spending quality time with her husband Andreas Goetz, an Assistant Research Scientist at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD. Yang said she joined AWIS because, “I wanted to get to know other scientific women. I ran for Treasurer so that I could give back to this great organization.” Yang is not only giving back to AWIS, but also to the community, as she mentors and inspires future female scientists. Thank you, Yang!


Academia to Industry (A2I) Coffee Club: A Visit with Whitney Whitlow

by Joanna Redfern

Whitney Whitlow is a Strategic Solutions Account Executive at Ultimate Staffing in Washington D.C. She met with the A2I coffee club on February 3, 2017. At that time, she was a Senior Account Executive with one of the largest staffing firms in San Diego. As a Senior Account Executive, Whitney partnered with local biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to assist with their staffing needs. Whitney specialized in the recruiting and staffing efforts of both clinical and non-clinical professionals. Staffing companies typically fill many positions in the second and third quarters of the calendar year (June through October) as companies are looking to fill positions and use up their fiscal year budgets. During the end and beginning of the year (November through April), hiring tends to be slower, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear anything back during those times of the year. Staffing companies fill 60-70% of the vacant positions in the companies they represent.

Recruiting agencies fill three different types of positions for companies. These positions include:

  • Contract – Contract positions are typically for short periods of time (2-3 months)
  • Temp-to-Hire – These posts generally start as 6-month trial positions that are converted to permanent hires if the company likes the contract person’s work.
  • Direct Hire- These positions are for full permanent employment. Companies pay recruiters to find employees. Potential employees do not pay recruiters to find them the jobs.

Employee is in a temporary position when he or she is paid through the staffing agency. In a temp-to-hire position, the employee is paid through the staffing agency until he or she is hired as a permanent employee.

Transitioning from industry to academia is an uphill battle since companies want employees with industry experience, and potential employees in academia want industry experience too! Whitney emphasizes staying up to date on trends in the market. She suggests keeping an eye on industry news and updates in areas such as orphan drug research and medical devices.

Networking is very important for moving from one arena to another.  Having 150+ connections is good, but having connections to people in industry and especially people at the companies you are interested in is even better. If people in your network know people working at companies you are interested in (second level contacts in LinkedIn), reach out to your connections and ask for an introduction. Joining some professional groups in areas that are related to the type of work you would like to do in industry is also a useful way to make contacts with people at companies you are interested in. For example, if you want to move into regulatory affairs, then you should join SDRAN. Other biotech networking groups Whitney listed include Women in Bio, SD Entrepreneurs, SD Life Science Network, Athena, ConnectSD, BIOCOM, and Healthcare Businesswomen Association. Mentorship programs are also valuable for networking.

“Persistence is key to finding a job! “

Questions from A2I Members to Whitney:

  • Is it important for the recruiter to know the applicant (for a position they are working on filling)? Yes, very. The recruiter needs to sell the candidate, so they need to know each other.
  • Does the applicant pay to be represented by the recruiter?

            No, the company pays the recruiter for finding the talent.

  • How important is it to match the skill set of the applicant to the position?

            Usually, the recruiter needs to match 3 or more of the “skills requirements” for a candidate to be considered.

  • Temporary positions are usually more flexible about work experience when hiring.
  • Larger companies can be more flexible with respect to skill sets (especially if you don’t have every skill they are looking for). If you are just starting out in Industry (trying to get your foot in the door), you need to apply for jobs in big companies since they are more flexible with respect to skills.
  • Smaller companies usually want more experienced people.
  • A good personality goes a long way too.
  • How does the recruiter find candidates for positions?

They use records of people they have contact with, but also source candidates from Indeed and LinkedIn. These would-be people who are not in the company system already, but look to be a good fit.

  • What kinds of services will the recruiter provide for candidates in addition to looking for jobs?

A recruiter will help with CVs, go through job postings, and match key words from the job description to the CV.

With respect to CVs, the position you are interested dictates the length of the CV.

  • For a research scientist position– 2 pages
  • For regulatory affairs, it is very important to include any research papers and writing samples you’ve done.
  • Don’t go too far back in job history for work experience (for example, early 90’s may be too far)
  • Bullet point important functions in a given position (for example instrument-use experience, protocol experience)

Recruiting companies will sometimes submit cover letters for the candidate (check with the company to find out their policy on this!)


AWIS-SD Science Awards Dinner

by Alyson Smith

On April 30, 2017, AWIS-San Diego hosted an awards dinner for female students selected from hundreds who presented projects at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair in March. In total, five high school and nine middle school students received awards. Students completed projects in a range of disciplines including: biochemistry, plant sciences, mathematical sciences, engineering, behavioral and social sciences, and health sciences.

At the start of the awards dinner, students had the opportunity to present their projects and discuss their results with other students, their families, and AWIS-SD members who were in attendance. Following the poster sessions, members of the AWIS-SD board and outreach committee presented each winner with a certificate and a cash award recognizing her achievement. Then, students and their families had dinner with AWIS volunteers. The awards dinner was an excellent opportunity to fulfill AWIS vision by recognizing female students for their scientific achievements and providing them with the opportunity to meet role models.

Through presenting these awards, AWIS-SD hopes to encourage female students interested in science to continue to pursue STEM careers. Numerous AWIS-SD volunteers worked together to make this event possible, and the Outreach Committee is looking forward to another awards dinner next year!


Academia to Industry (A2I) Coffee Club: A Visit with Jeff Orr, Ph.D.

by Gabriela David-Morrison

On May 5, Dr. Jeff Orr came to the AWIS-SD Academia to Industry (A2I) coffee club’s monthly meeting to share his experience in transitioning to the biotech industry in the field of computational biology.

Orr’s academic research background is in biochemistry. As a biochemistry undergraduate and Ph.D. student at Indiana University (IU) Bloomington, he studied the function and interactions of Protein Kinase C (PKC) in Dr. Alexandra Newton’s laboratory. Towards the end of his Ph.D. studies, the structure of a related protein, Protein Kinase A, was published by another laboratory. This research led to Orr’s interest in computational biology, and he started applying computational modeling to determine the effects of mutations on the structure of PKC. A graduate student in a different laboratory at IU Bloomington engaged him in extensive discussions about ribozymes. These discussions piqued his interest in RNA architecture. After finishing his Ph.D. program, Orr decided to pursue a post-doctoral fellowship at Dr. James Williamson’s laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study RNA folding through computational modeling. As the field of computational biology grew, the amount of research data expanded exponentially. To address the data analysis challenges in the field, Orr taught himself how to code from O’Reilly books along with help from other members of the Williamson lab. Three years after joining the Williamson laboratory, the laboratory moved to San Diego and joined The Scripps Research Institute.

Orr’s entrance into the biotech industry was facilitated by his conversations and interactions with scientists who already worked in industry, and he emphasized the value of networking for academics seeking to transition.

His first industry position out of academia was as a Computational Scientist in San Diego-based Aurora Biosciences, which specialized in providing fluorescence cell-based assay development and high-throughput screening services and instruments to pharmaceutical companies. Seven months into his position, Aurora was acquired by Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Vertex combined its chemical informatics specialization with Aurora’s biological expertise to build an extensive drug discovery platform. Within Orr’s first two and a half years with Vertex, he was promoted to a Group Leader position. Now as a Senior Director for Scientific Computing, he leads an international team of scientists and software developers in developing custom software for Vertex’s research facilities. The software that his team develops is used for a wide variety of applications, including research and screening databases, as well as inventory management and order processing.

Orr’s experience in academia and in biotech industry has shown him that, contrary to the impressions of some academics, a person can still do very interesting science in industry. He specifically likes the corporate culture of accountability in setting, achieving, and evaluating goals. He stressed the value of having two-way conversations in informational and job interviews to determine whether or not industry or a specific company would be a good fit for a person, and he reiterated the importance of networking in taking the next step from academia to industry.


A Magical Outreach Event at the Fleet

by Elizabeth Jacobs

One of the most significant aspects of being a scientist was not taught to me by any of my school teachers, but by the first scientist I ever met – my dad. In addition to managing an academic research group, writing grants and teaching courses, he always managed to squeeze in a few hours of the week to visit my second-grade classroom with a hands-on science experiment. Often, after an exhausting hour of excitement and questions which only a group of 9-year olds could generate, he would return to his university teaching obligations and wonder what happened to scientific enthusiasm between grade school and the PhD. Scientists are not strangers to the daily grind of life, desperately dividing the 24 hours in each day between teaching, research, fundraising, meetings, conferences and often family obligations.   It is no surprise that many of us lose sight of why we pursued these careers in the first place. For my father, visiting my school classroom was a reminder that science is more than just grants and papers – science is enchanting!

To live by my father’s example, I seek out volunteer opportunities which focus on STEM education for elementary and middle school students. I was thrilled to be invited back for the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s ‘Women Scientists in Action’ camp. This week-long program delivers local female scientists straight from the lab into the classroom, a place many of us last visited at least a decade ago. Each day is filled with hands-on experiments and discussions about women in STEM to some of the most enthusiastic future female leaders from across San Diego County. My goals for this session were to remind the girls how magical science can be, and that women are very much a part of scientific discovery. In a chemistry lesson focused on the magic of Harry Potter, the girls were transported to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for potions class. 

‘’Potions lessons took place down in one of the dungeons. It was colder here than up in the main castle, and would have been quite creepy enough with the pickled animals floating in glass jars all around the walls.’’

From this scene, the young muggle chemists explored the reactivity of acids and bases and learned about molecules which act as pH indicators (amphoteric compounds). In our first experiment, each participant created their own original Marauder’s Map.  

‘’He took out his wand, touched the parchment lightly and said, ‘I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.’

And at once, thin ink lines began to spread like a spider’s web from the point that George’s wand had touched. They joined each other, they criss-crossed, they fanned into every corner of the parchment…’’

Each girl was given a blank map (construction paper) on which they were to write their favorite thing about science using a pot of Basilisk’s Venom (ink) and a quill pen (Q-tip). Once dry, each map was sprayed with a Revealing Solution which developed the science-themed message. The magic (and chemistry) can be explained in terms of acids and bases. Reaction of the Basilisk’s Venom (baking soda solution) with the Revealing Solution (purple cabbage juice) revealed each message in a green ink. Unlike the real Marauder’s Map, this irreversible chemical reaction provided a permanent reminder of the wonderful science we can find in our kitchens.

Our second experiment explored the states of matter (solid, liquid, gas) and how to define their properties and distinguish between materials which exhibit characteristics of several states. Students mixed a solution of Troll Essence (dilute PVA with green food coloring) with Wizard’s Brew (borax solution) to create gelatinous goo resembling the aptly described troll bogies experienced by Harry and Ron during their first year. 

‘’Harry bent down and pulled his wand out of the troll's nose. It was covered in what looked like lumpy grey glue. Urgh! – troll bogies!’’

This classic experiment takes advantage of the properties of borax (detergent) and its ability to interact with PVA (school glue) to form a cross-linked structure more closely resembling a solid. Despite performing this demonstration to numerous audiences, the slimy feeling of mixing glue and borax with your hands and the spontaneous formation of matter with a different property never gets old! The girls could take home their Marauder’s Maps and troll bogies as a reminder that magic often reveals its true nature through chemistry.

My short time with these girls finished with a short question and answer session focusing on the role of women in all areas of science and my own personal experiences which helped me along the way. I was surprised at the creativity and sophistication of each question and, like my father, have been reminded that what I do every day is incredible. I feel that the future of science is bright and that these girls will undoubtedly play a huge part in the advancement of STEM research and education.

‘’Mischief managed.’’

 Liz Jacobs July2017event



Academia to Industry (A2I) Coffee Club: A Visit with Ewa Lis, Ph.D.

by Juliati Rahajeng

Ewa Lis, PhD, CEO and Founder of Koliber Biosciences, came to AWIS-SD A2I meeting on Friday, June 2, 2017 to share her experience in transitioning to biotech industry. Lis obtained her undergraduate degree in organic chemistry from Cornell University in 2002 and her PhD in genetics and molecular biology from The Scripps Research Institute in 2008. For her PhD dissertation, she used budding yeast as a model organism to identify and characterize novel DNA damage proteins.

Upon receiving her PhD, she worked as a Senior Scientist in Biolight Harvesting leading the R&D group in developing algal fuel. Additionally, she co-authored a proposal that resulted in series A funding by CMEA Ventures. In 2010, she became a Staff Scientist at Life Technologies. She was the R&D lead of a team in the Synthetic Biology Division. Then, in 2011, Lis joined Genomatica as Research Scientist II. At Genomatica, a biotech company of about 100 employees, she was responsible for multiple tasks and one of them was to act as the technical lead on a high risk proof of concept project geared towards improving product yields through engineering of methanol oxidation into microorganisms. Lis really enjoyed working for the company because she did very exciting research, the environment was collaborative, and she knew everybody that worked for the company.

In 2014, Lis had an opportunity to start her own company, Koliber Biosciences. The company provides services to accelerate biological research through the use of machine learning and data science technologies. For example, she worked on developing novel ways to analyze histopathology data or designing proteins with improved properties.

When asked about the differences in working for a big biotech company versus a small/start-up company, Lis said that both have pluses and minuses. When working for a big biotech company, one does not have the freedom to work on the most desired type of research, but he or she does not have to worry about funding. However, it is possible that once a person can prove to the company that his or her idea will bring great profit for the company, management may allow him or her to act upon those ideas. On the contrary, working for a small biotech and/or start-up often requires an employee to have good grant writing skills, just like in academic institutions. However, the employee will be able to perform research based on his or her interests.

Lis recommended that A2I attendees to create a LinkedIn account. She thinks that it is a great way to connect with people working in the same research area and also with recruiters. She suggested that people who are currently looking for a job request informational interviews through their LinkedIn networks. Another piece of advice was to take extra courses to increase knowledge. Lis said that she learned about data science from Coursera, which is both very informative and inexpensive. Applying for an industrial postdoc position is one way to gain experience in drug discovery. Many companies, such as Pfizer and GNF are constantly looking for postdocs, which in general last between 2-3 years. Regarding resumes, she emphasized the importance of tailoring one’s resume to the job description. Finally, in addition to LinkedIn and Biospace, she recommended looking for job advertisements at 


News Ticker

by Alyson Smith

  • A team of scientists including Jun Wu at the Salk Institute has reportedly used CRISPR to genetically modify single-cell human embryos. The embryos were not allowed to develop beyond a few days. As this is the first study of its kind, biomedical ethicists and scientists such as Jennifer Doudna, one of the developers of CRISPR, are calling for more public debate on whether and how CRISPR technology should be applied in the clinic. 

  • Scientists Vicki Lundblad, Katherine Jones, and Beverly Emerson of the Salk Institute have separately sued the Salk, alleging long-term gender discrimination, including lower pay and fewer promotions and benefits. The institute responded by denying any gender discrimination, claiming that Lundblad and Jones have poor publication and funding records, and releasing statements from other Salk scientists denying any discrimination. The scientists are asking for recovery of lost wages and benefits, punitive damages, and an injunction preventing future discrimination.

  • A group of researchers at the Scripps Research Institute published a study reporting that cows can rapidly produce broadly neutralizing antibodies against fragments of HIV, a process that can take years in humans. The cow antibodies have very elongated target recognition domains, making it possible to target regions on the virus not accessible to human antibodies. The researchers hope to develop these cow antibodies into drugs to treat or prevent HIV infection, and to develop drugs for other viral infections. 

  • The federal government has awarded $14.9 million to a team of scientists at UC San Diego, UC Irvine, and UC Riverside to continue to develop a genetic technology called gene drives, which can rapidly spread genetic alterations through mosquito populations. This technology has been tested extensively in the lab against malaria-bearing mosquitos, and the researchers hope to extend its application to other mosquito-borne illnesses and to wild populations, which could more easily develop resistance to the technology.

  • Connect, a local nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship, has named Jay Flatley, executive chairman of Illumina, as the 16th member of its Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. While Flatley was CEO of Illumina from 1999 to 2016, the company’s sales grew from $1.3 million to $2.2 billion. Connect recognizes business leaders such as Flatley to inspire the next generation of San Diego entrepreneurs. 

  • Human Longevity Inc. of La Jolla has developed a faster and more accurate method for genotyping the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) locus. This locus is important for immune matching before organ transplants, but it contains many short repeats, making it more difficult to sequence. Human Longevity’s method, which accounts for the amino acids coded for by the DNA, will now be offered as part of its standard genome sequencing service.

  • Salk and UC San Diego researchers have developed a technique for imaging DNA inside the nucleus in 3D at high magnification. The technique paints DNA in a living cell with a metal polymer cast, giving the DNA strands enough contrast to be visualized with an electron microscope at 29,000x magnification. The results show that DNA strands are organized very differently than expected based on previous work, and could be used to better understand and treat diseases such as cancer. 

  • Researchers at UC San Diego have developed a smart glove that uses sensors to transcribe sign language into text and wirelessly transmit it to mobile devices. The device, which costs less than $100 to manufacture, could also be used in virtual reality and in human control of robots.

  • A small clinical trial led by researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Michigan found that amlexanox, a drug approved for asthma in Japan, reduced blood sugar levels and liver fat in some patients with Type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease. Patients with higher inflammation in their fat tissue tended to respond better to the drug. More research is needed to confirm these results and identify more reasons why only some patients respond. 

Member News

We are very pleased to announce that three of our members have recently embarked upon their new careers:

  • Ellen Dunn, co-founder and co-chair of the Back-to-Work Coffee Club, started her new job as Laboratory Analyst at Quadrants Scientific, Inc in April 2017.
  • Juliati Rahajeng, co-chair of the Newsletter Committee and Academia to Industry Coffee Club, as well as member of the Scholarship Committee, began working as a Fellow at Cato Research in June 2017.
  • Gabriela David-Morrison, member of the Newsletter Committee, started her new position as Biosciences Account Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific in July 2017.


Upcoming AWIS-SD Events

  • Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club

    Friday, September 1, 2017, 4:30-5:30 pm
    Bella Vista Café (Sanford Consortium)
    2880 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, Torrey Pines, CA 92037

    Guest speaker Dr. Helen Mao will talk about her experience transitioning from academia to industry. 

  • Meet the AWIS-SD Board!

    Tuesday, September 19, 2017, 6:15-8:00 PM
    Hera Hub
    4010 Sorrento Valley Blvd #400, San Diego, CA 92121

    This town hall meeting will provide information on local STEM activities that the AWIS-SD Board and Committees organize all year round. Whether you are new to AWIS-SD, thinking about volunteering for AWIS-SD, or just want to voice your opinion about AWIS-SD programming, stop by and chat! Snacks will be provided.

See more AWIS-SD events here.


About the Authors


Pat Rarus 4.7.11

Pat Rarus is a long-term contributor of the Newsletter committee. As the owner-founder of Marcom Consulting Group, Pat has assisted clients with marketing communications projects. The goal:  increase visibility, market share and ultimately sales for profit-making companies. Increase visibility and donors for non-profits. Pat specializes in writing and editing a wide variety of online and print marketing materials: Website copy, including SE0, press releases, blogs, social media, biographies, marketing plans, speeches, ad/brochure copy, taglines/slogans, PowerPoint presentations and much more.


 Joanna Redfern

Joanna Redfernstudied 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.


GDM LinkedIn

Gabriela David-Morrison received her PhD in Developmental Biology in 2016 from Baylor College of Medicine, where she studied the mechanisms of neuronal development. She moved to San Diego two months after graduation and became a scientific editor for BioScience Writers and a member of the Newsletter Committee. She is currently a Biosciences Account Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, where she applies her technical background to provide solutions and services for the promotion of biomedical research. She is passionate about advancing scientific research and gender and racial equality, and she enjoys dancing and exploring San Diego’s hiking trails and beaches.



Elizabeth Jacobs is a postdoctoral research associate at The Scripps Research Institute, where she develops antibody-drug conjugates of Duocarmycin SA in collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb. She received her Bachelor’s degree through the College Scholars Program at The University of Tennessee in 2009 and completed her PhD at The University of East Anglia in 2014. She has been an AWIS member since 2015 and serves as the San Diego Chapter Outreach Committee Social Media Manager and Public Relations Committee Co-chair. She would like to use her experience in research to promote positive change in early STEM education.



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.


Alyson Smith








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