Spring 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 2

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To download PDF version of this newsletter, click here.



Dear AWIS-SD Members and Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best to everyone,


DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

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


Highlights from the 2016 Greater San Diego Science & Engineering Fair

By Geetha Subramanian and Kristin Bompiani-Myers

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

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

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

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

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

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


Senior Category

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

Junior Category

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


Projecting a Positive Career Transition

by Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

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

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

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Villar presents at Strategy Session meeting.

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

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

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

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

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Vellos presenting at the AWIS-SD Strategy Session

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

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


Expand Your Horizons 2016: Return of the Crime Solvers

by Diane Retallack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thinking About Transitioning From Academia to Industry?

By Juliati Rahajeng

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

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

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Caption: Panel discussion during UCSD Postdoctoral Association event

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

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

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


San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering EXPO Day

by Antonia Darragh and Miriam Cohen

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

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


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


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Caption: What participants like most about STEM.


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

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


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Caption: Oobleck at the San Diego EXPO Day

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


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

By Lynne Friedmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


News Ticker


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


Member News

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

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

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

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

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

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


Upcoming Events

Mid-Career Coffee Club

Thursday May 19, 2016

7:45-8:30 am

Corner Bakery, UTC

4575 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

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

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


Scholars Celebration 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016


UCSD Faculty Club

9500 Gilman Dr, La Jolla, CA 92093

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

Member, student/unemployed - $25

Member, non-student - $35,

Non-member, student/unemployed - $35

Non-member, non-student - $45,

Children (8-17) - $10

Register here.


Back to Work Coffee Club

Wednesday May 25, 2016


UCSD Extension  

6256 Greenwich Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

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

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

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

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


Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club

Friday June 3, 2016


Bella Vista Social Club

2880 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr, La Jolla, CA 92037

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


Projecting Your Inner Businesswoman

Strategy Session

Monday June 6, 2016


Hera Hub Sorrento Valley

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

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

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

Pre-registration is essential for this members only event.

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

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

Mid-Career Coffee Club

Thursday June 16, 2016

7:45-8:300 am

Corner Bakery, UTC

4575 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

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

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


Project Planning and Management for Academic and Industry Applications

Strategy Session

Monday August 4, 2016


Hera Hub Sorrento Valley

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

Preregistration is essential is essential for this members only event.

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


Mid-Career Coffee Club

Thursday, August 18, 2016

7:45-9:00 am

Corner Bakery, UTC

4575 La Jolla Village Dr, San Diego, CA 92122

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

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


Other Local Events of Interest


Postdoc Individual Development Plan Workshop

Thursday May 26, 2016


Skaggs Pharmaceutical Sciences Building

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

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

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


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

Saturday June 11th, 2016


San Diego/ Del Mar Hilton

15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar, CA 92014

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

Cost and registration information can be found here.


About the Authors

mariam cohen

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


 Antonia Darragh

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


 Lynne Friedmann

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


 Ksenya C K

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


 Juliati R

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


Diane Retallack

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

Other author biographies were not available at press time.

Summer 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 3

This issue of the Newsletter is available as a PDF:

1stQtrAWISNewsletter2016 pg1

For archived versions of previous newsletters, go here.









Dear AWIS-SD Family and Friends,

I hope you have all been able to take some well-deserved time off this summer to relax. Unplugging and unwinding can be very renewing given the hectic pace of life in the modern world.

We had a wonderful family event on July 23rd at the Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park. Delicious food at the potluck and cool marine clouds from the ocean kept us content and comfortable. Kudos to the Events Committee for putting on such a wonderful event.










 Happy Family Event participants.


Also, a big thanks to the Scholarship and Scholars Celebration Committees that put on a fantastic high-tea event in May. AWIS-SD awarded nine scholarships to deserving young women. A panel of three female scientists in industry and academia shared their stories, wisdom, and insights to the challenges faced by women and answered questions from the audience. The event was enjoyed by all.











Some members of the Scholarship and Scholars Celebration Committees along with scholarship recipients at the Scholars Celebration in  May 2016.


Looking ahead to the fall, we have a Happy Hour on Wednesday, September 14th, at 5:30pm at Saint Archer Brewery with beer tasting and a tour.

You can also join us for another networking opportunity at the Meet the Board Event on Monday, September 19th, 2016 at 6:00pm at Hera Hub in Sorrento Valley. This is a great place to come and meet the leadership of AWIS-SD. Additionally, there will be brief presentations by each AWIS-SD Committee, so you can see how our wonderful volunteers work together to provide all of the AWIS-SD programming. If you have not joined a committee yet, I urge you to do so to get the most out of your membership.

At the end of October, we will have our annual Open House. Recruitment for the organizing committee is now open. Please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

Finally, we are also ready to gear up for our flagship event, the 2017 Women in Science and Technology (WIST) conference. This event will be held on May 20, 2017 at the UCSD Faculty Club. We can use your talents in the design and planning of this day-long event. Please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

I look forward to seeing you at upcoming AWIS-SD events.



DeeAnn Visk, AWIS-SD President

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

AWIS-SD Speed Mentoring

by Melissa Scranton

This past spring, AWIS-SD members joined in a night of mentorship and community at National University in Torrey Pines for the Annual Speed Mentoring Event. Mentors from various fields in academia and industry shared their insights and gave advice to AWIS-SD members looking to advance their careers. Topics of discussion included surviving grad school and how to transition to academic or industry careers.

Participants gathered in small groups of three to five mentees with a mentor for a Q&A session on a specific topic of interest. Each speed mentoring session consisted of a 20-minute block. A total of three sessions were completed in the evening. The night ended with an open networking session to exchange contact information and follow up with further questions. It was a great opportunity for all participants to interact with individuals with diverse background throughout the night. Some mentors even swapped places to become mentees in topics outside of their areas of expertise during different sessions, allowing them to benefit from both roles.

Both mentees and mentors found the experience very rewarding. Attendees enjoyed having honest conversations in a more personal setting. Mentees and mentors were also able to make meaningful connections with peers in the San Diego science community.

The next AWIS-SD Speed Networking Event is coming in March 2017 at National University. If you are interested in the 2017 Peer Mentoring Workshop, please take this 5 minute survey. Whether you would like to be a mentor, a mentee, or both, all AWIS-SD members can benefit and contribute to this enriching event.


AWIS-SD Strategy Session: Projecting Your Inner Businesswoman

by Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

June’s AWIS-SD Strategy Session was presented by a special guest, Gioia Messinger. Gioia is the founder and CEO of LinkedObjects, Inc., a new firm specializing in wireless internet-enabled devices. She is a remarkable businesswoman who is both an entrepreneur and executive. Gioi’s passion is to create new things from just an idea into life-changing products. Behind her is a remarkable career that supports this premise.

She was the founder and CEO of Avaak, Inc., the leader in wire-free video home monitoring products, which was acquired by NETGEAR. Gioia was also a principal investigator and project manager for a program under a Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) grant. In addition, she was a major contributor in the development of PillCamᵀᴹ, a wireless endoscopic capsule for medical diagnostics. The products she created won numerous awards.

After graduating from UCSD with a BS/MS in electrical and computer engineering she worked as the only woman in a startup company as a project lead. This later became her first costumer as she became an independent consultant. The startup company not only gave her an opportunity to shine, but also a lot of freedom to create new ideas.

Gioia’s career path was fascinating, and she gave us some insights into her success.

“Always maintain good relationships with your current and former bosses because they can help you significantly in future career endeavors.”

“An important thing to remember is marketing. When becoming a lone consultant, if you don’t market yourself enough, you won’t get enough customers, and that is very important. Therefore, hiring more people and delegating some of your tasks to them helps you a lot. Sometimes you need to take risks.”

“Surround yourself with people that are in a similar situation as you, they might not always be helpful but at least they will be willing to listen.”

“Get out of the house every day and have lunch with a different person, do a lot of networking and talk about what you want to do. Most importantly, ask people to refer you.” All Gioia’s first customers were from word-of-mouth and extensive networking. In order to become a successful individual consultant you will need to be self-motivated, self-disciplined and focused.

“Put yourself in situations where you are uncomfortable because that will make you think the best and will challenge you the most.”

Commit to doing the best work possible. Recognize the patterns that occur in your life. Develop mutually beneficial relationships with leaders in your field, and you will eventually climb to the top of your profession!

Inspiring and Connecting NextGen STEM enthusiasts - AWIS Outreach Spring 2016 Career Panel

by Sigrid Katz

What inspired you to follow a career in a STEM field? What does a physical oceanographer do? If I’m not good at math, can I still become a scientist?

What better way to find answers to these questions than to talk to someone who has been in the same shoes? The Spring 2016 AWIS Career Panel in April provided such an opportunity. The AWIS Outreach Committee-run event was held at the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at San Diego Mesa College, thanks to the generous support of Dean Saeid Eidgahy. We welcomed twelve exceptional women who held fascinating careers in STEM fields and 30 young women and guests from various San Diego County high schools, colleges and STEM organizations.

At check-in, our young women participants were able to pick up resource booklets (sponsored by Celgene, designed by Outreach Committee co-chair Robyn Wygal ), a career information packet (donated by Gloria Banuelos, Deputy Sector Navigator Life Sciences/Biotechnology San Diego and Imperial County Region), and a tasty breakfast provided by Expanding Your Horizons. The morning session opened with a mini-talk by a representative from our sponsor, Celgene: Laure Escoubet, Head of Epigenetic Drug Discovery at Celgene. Laure took us on a quick tour of epigenetics and her role as scientist at Celgene. This was followed by a whirlwind session of inspiring stories and life-lessons from our panelists who covered topics ranging from koalas to sea turtles, jumping continents for field work in Africa, deploying instruments to study ocean waves, and the highs and lows, the challenges and benefits of being a woman in STEM. Our panelists this spring were Camryn Allen, Biologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Kristin Bompiani-Myers, Postdoctoral Fellow UCSD Moores Cancer Center; Jennifer Carmichael, Associate Professor of Biology, San Diego Mesa College; Karyl Carmignani, Science Writer, San Diego Zoo Global; Sharon Hughes, Associate Professor of Mathematics San Diego Mesa College; Kamala Janiyani, Intellectual Property & Licensing Consultant, UCSD; Liza Porterfield, Quality Engineer, Solar Turbines Inc.; Victoria Raymond, Director of Medical and Scientific Affairs; Kelly Spoon, Assistant Professor Mathematics Miramar College; Iren Stojimirovic, Astronomer San Diego Mesa College; Lisa Tsai, Scientist, NAT Diagnostics; Amy Waterhouse, physical oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

outreach careermentoring

Though some panelists expressed concern over being able to talk for six minutes about her career path, this apprehension quickly dissipated. The opposite; namely, how to possibly fit all the events and influences shaping her career into the given time slot, became the true challenge. The morning session flew by as all present were immersed in twelve inspiring and entertaining stories. Each woman had her individual story, however, some common themes emerged:

- Find what interests you - it can take a while to find out what you are truly interested in and it can also change – and that’s OK!

- Communicate – with your peers, fellow STEM-nerds and friends with different interests and careers. Talking with your friends with the same interests will solidify your knowledge, inspire you and create opportunities in the future. This will expand your horizon and will keep you grounded.

- Choose a good mentor.

- Work with people you like. You will dedicate many hours to your career and spend many hours working with other people, whether you pursue a job in industry or in academia. While a love and passion for a subject are essential, working with people you get along with is probably equally essential. Nothing can take the fun out of work as quickly as difficult colleagues and an unsupportive environment.

outreach careerpanel1

outreach careerpanel2

Mentoring sessions during the AWIS Outreach Career Panel Event

During the well-deserved lunch break, the girls from Dragons 5229, a robotics team from The Boys and Girls Club of Greater San Diego, had a chance to demonstrate their solar-powered robot to the other attendees. The lunch break was also an opportunity for panelists to connect and network with each other before heading into the afternoon student mentoring session. Debra Kimberling, a mechanical engineer at Solar Turbines Inc., long-time member of the Society of Women Engineers San Diego, and a passionate advocate for empowering girls and for the creation of inclusive learning environments, kicked off the afternoon with an enthusiastic motivational speech. Her address to the girls on courageously defying the “good girl” stereotype and diligently pursuing their STEM interests resonated with all present, including the panelists, volunteers, and organizers, and sparked discussions which extended beyond the allotted time for the event. During the student mentoring session, girls had the chance to rotate through two rooms and speak to each of the panelists, with time keeping by Anne Kornahrens, Outreach Committee Co-chair. The girls also spoke to volunteers, organizers and representatives from EYH about additional opportunities and how to carry their passions forward from the event.

outreach robot











A busy day came to an end with a STEM prize drawing for gifts including tickets to the San Diego Zoo, a pass to join a turtle scientist in the field, and an invitation to a Star Night with a Mesa College professor. Thanks to the helping hands of volunteers Lorah Bodie, Liz Ferguson, Elizabeth Jacobs, and Charisse Winston, another successful AWIS Outreach Career Panel is in the books and many of those pressing questions were answered. Of course, we STEM enthusiasts always leave with more questions, but our young women left with a sense of belonging, feeling inspired, and ready to take on their own STEM career paths.

AWIS-SD 2016 Scholars Celebration

by Juliati Rahajeng

Association for Women in Science San Diego Chapter (AWIS-SD) held its biennial event to honor this year’s scholarship recipients on May 21, 2016. The Scholarship Committee selected nine scholars from a total of 93 eligible applicants. The 2016 AWIS-SD scholarship recipients are Alexia Consuelo Gee (Palomar College), Katya Echazarreta (San Diego Community College), Anika Ullah (UCSD), Anachristina Morino (San Diego State University), Vera Smirnova (UCSD), Jayd Blankenship (CSUSM), Tristin McHugh (SDSU), Michelle Dow (UCSD), and Jessica McCurley (SDSU/UCSD).

More than 40 people attended the high-tea style luncheon for the Scholars Celebration. Among the attendees were the scholarship recipients, the recipients’ families and friends, AWIS-SD members and volunteers, and invited panelists who shared their success stories in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. The panelists were Anna-Maria Hays Putnam, Ph.D. (Director of Analytics and Formulations at Halozyme), Alison Coil, P.hD. (Associate Professor of Physics Ingrid and Joseph W. Hibben Chair at UCSD), and Rebecca Broyer, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Chemistry at University of Southern California).

All three panelists have interesting paths throughout their careers. Putnam started hers as a joint postdoc in crystallography at The Scripps Research Institute and California Institute of Technology after receiving her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California Riverside in 1999. She worked for Ambrx for nine years as the Associate Director for Analytical and Formulation Development. Then, she joined Halozyme in 2012 as the Director of Quality Control and Product Development. She advised us to always network and develop new skills. For example, through volunteering at AWIS-SD, one can build a viable network and develop communication and leadership skills.

Coil was a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona after receiving her PhD in astrophysics in 2004 from the University of California at Berkeley. During her doctoral program, Coil served as a mentor to younger graduate students in her lab when her advisor had a stroke and had to find another professor to be her mentor. Coil said that we should not be afraid to ask for help when we need it. In addition, she said we should be tenacious in achieving your goals.

After receiving her BS in Biochemistry at UCSD, Broyer went to work for the biotechnology industry for several years before going for her Ph.D. at the University of California at Los Angeles. She was then awarded with an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she developed polymeric materials to preserve modern art works. Broyer learned the importance of acquiring communication skills while working for the museum, since she had to communicate with curators and art collectors. She also developed her communication skills through teaching organic chemistry at Glendale Community College. Broyer encourages young scientists to be persistent in reaching their goals and to think outside the box. For example, she called the Chair of the Chemistry Department at University of Southern California for an informal interview and as a result, she was hired as a teaching faculty in the department.

The 2016 Scholars Celebration event overall was a huge success. The attendants enjoyed the luncheon as well as the opportunity for networking. Nighat Ullah, Anika Ullah’s mother and a clinician at Stanford University, suggested inviting panelists from underrepresented minority groups to the next Scholars Celebration in two years. Her rationale was that they may face bigger challenges in their careers.

Meet Our 2016 Scholars

by Juliati Rahajeng

This year, Association for Women In Science San Diego Chapter (AWIS-SD) Scholarship Committee received 93 eligible applications for a total of 112 applications received competing for nine $1000 scholarships available for female students majoring in STEM field in San Diego County. The scholarships were divided into four major categories, Community College, Undergraduate, Masters, and PhD categories. On May 21, the scholarships were awarded during the Scholarship Celebrations Event that took place at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Faculty Club. Each one of the recipients shows amazing achievements in her field.

Alexia Consuelo Gee is an AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipient for the community college student category. She majors in Biology at Palomar College. Alexia has great passion for wildlife and conservation biology. She is working in Dr. Thomas Spady laboratory at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) studying polar bears behavior that is crucial for its captive breeding program in collaboration with the Milwaukee Zoo in Wisconsin. Alexia is will transfer to CSUSM in the fall of 2016 to finish her BS in Ecology. She hopes that she will receive her PhD and become a research scientist in Wildlife Conservation.

Katya Echazarreta is another community college student scholarship recipient. She is majoring in Electrical Engineering at San Diego Community College. Katya is currently working with a Senior Engineer at Raytheon Company that specializes in defense, civil government, and cyber security solutions. Additionally, she has been involved in various activities, such as volunteering as the Commissioner of Academics and Scholarships and the Vice President of the Society of Women Engineers, and hosting demonstration labs at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to teach both children and adults about basic circuits, optics, friction, etc. Katya is going to begin her PhD program in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 2016.

Anika Ullah is an AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipient for the undergraduate category. She is majoring in Human Biology at UCSD. One of her research projects was to understand the difference between men and women in terms of their susceptibility in gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. She used mice as her animal model and found that female mice have significant less relaxatory neurons compared to male mice, which explains why females are more susceptible to GI motility diseases. She was awarded for the “Best High School Science Project by a Female Student” during the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship Regional Science Fair in 2013. Anika is also a staff writer in UCSD’s scientific communication journal, Saltman Quarterly, and has written a few articles about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) Healthcare. She believes that there are not enough research conducted on health issues that disparately affect women, and wishes to use the AWIS scholarship towards funding her research project on neuronal gender differences in the GI tract. Ultimately, Anika hopes that she will be able to create a novel, targeted clinical therapy for women who are afflicted with GI motility diseases.

Anachristina Morino is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University (SDSU), majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Inspired by her dream to work for NASA oneday, Anachristina decided tosecure an internship at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, where she was the Lead Operations Engineer for a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. In the summer of 2015, she also obtained an internship for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and worked on the Mars 2020 Rover Compute Element. Anachristina is also active as the President of SDSU’s Society of Automotive Engineers, where she oversees the design and build of off-road cars.

Vera Smirnova is another undergraduate scholarship recipient who majors in Chemical Engineering at UCSD. She did a research internship in the Stable Isotope Lab at UCSD to examine aerosols found on earth atmosphere and how it affects human health. She is the Outreach Chair of the student-run Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. For one of the outreach events, Vera manufactured and designed the Zinc-Air Battery used in the ChemE car. She performed a demo of the ChemE car during a competition with other universities. Vera will pursue her PhD in renewable energy upon completion of her undergraduate study. Ultimately, she hopes to solve the problem of climate change by finding sustainable energy sources.

Jayd Blankenship is AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipient in the Masters program category. She is majoring in Psychology at CSUSM. For her thesis, she is looking at children’s ability to distinguish sources, and whether children allocate resources according to sources’ different traits. She is planning to use AWIS-SD scholarship to support her current project. Jayd has had numerous experiences working as research assistant. These included working at a military sexual trauma clinic and at the UCSD Social, Cognitive, and Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory. She also volunteers at a Children Discovery Museum to promote education and wellness in underprivileged populations. She wants to pursue her PhD in Developmental Psychology.

Another recipient in the MS category is Tristin McHugh. She is studying Marine Science at SDSU. For her MS thesis, she is characterizing the pre- and post-disturbance conditions of kelp forest communities to better understand how changes in temperature and irradiance alter species composition. Upon starting her graduate study, Tristin launched a community outreach program called the “Hometown Heroes.” This innovative program allows alumni to share their education and research experiences with high school students when they go back home for their winter or summer vacations. This program is useful not only in helping high school students in transitioning to college life, but also in inspiring them to pursue their future in STEM fields. For her PhD, Tristin is planning to study on how climate patterns affect species interactions in coastal ecosystems.

In the PhD category, Michelle Dow was selected as one of AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipients. She is currently working on her PhD at UCSD in Biomedical Informatics. Her passion for bioinformatics was developed while working as an intern in the Laboratory of Personalized Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She conducted comparative analysis of copy number variation detection methods from breast cancer patients. Additionally, she was involved in many volunteer activities. These included hosting bi-weekly lunch discussions on current research projects at the Focus on Women in Computing Society, volunteering as a physical therapist at the Vancouver Coastal Health, and hosting guest lectures for the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering.

Jessica McCurley is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program. For her dissertation, she is examining risk factors for type-2 diabetes in immigrants, deportees, and other low-income individuals on the US-Mexico border, where the prevalence of type-2 diabetes is 2-3 times higher than the Mexican or American national average. As a PhD student, Jessica has been involved in epidemiological study of Hispanics/Latinos’ health across the US to study the psychosocial and socioeconomic influences on Hispanic health. She also has worked for her doctoral program’s community mental health clinic and in the Integrated Primary Care Mental Health and Behavioral Medicine services at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Jessica also volunteered for the United Women of East Africa Support Team to develop brief and culturally appropriate psychosocial interventions for refugee women. Additionally, she collaborated with the UCSD student-run free medical clinic program, where Jessica provided mental health evaluation and treatment services for two years to immigrants, deportees, sex-workers, and other individuals living in resource-poor areas of Tijuana’s Zona Norte. Jessica is planning to apply for postdoctoral fellowship at an academic institution to conduct research that focuses on diabetes, obesity prevention, and health disparities reduction in the US and Mexico.  

Vertex Tour

by Anne Kornahrens

The Corporate Sponsorship and Outreach Committees collaborated with one of AWIS-SD’s sponsors to provide an exciting new opportunity: A tour of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. This bronze-level sponsor has a prominent presence in the San Diego STEM community as an innovator creating new therapies for diseases such as cystic fibrosis and as an community partner offering internships, fellowships and participating in fundraising events.

Thanks to the help of the Vertex STEM and community outreach coordinator, Tracy Bychowski, and the scientists working at the La Jolla site, we were able to offer a tour to young women who attended some of the AWIS-SD outreach spring events. The tour was held on a nice June afternoon and involved an introduction of the company and facilities, a tour of the site including the cell core, biology, and chemistry centers and lots of insight and fascinating stories about the work performed by the scientists and engineers at Vertex. The core facility was a hit – an automated center containing a library of millions of chemicals, and robots that dispense precise amounts of compounds of interest through ultrasonic technology and send the plates to be tested by scientists on site or around the world! Talking with Vertex scientists and learning about their different career paths was inspiring to both the young and old(er) attendees. This helps to fulfill the AWIS-SD Outreach Committee’s mission of supporting young women as they expand their horizons and imagine their future in STEM.

It was a great experience that the Outreach Committee definitely hopes to repeat. We are also excited that the Back to Work committee will be utilizing this great sponsor resource – keep an eye out for details of their tour in the fall!

AAAS Forum

by Anne Kornahrens

Last spring, I excitedly boarded my flight out of San Diego, leaving the bench behind to head to Washington, DC and entered the world of science policy for a few days. I attended the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy on April 14th-16th and left inspired to share what I had learned about the issues currently being debated, the great effort of scientists engaging in advocacy, and the exciting work that advocacy groups such as AWIS perform to advocate on scientists’ behalf on a national level. What is advocacy and what can it achieve? How are scientists involved in policy making on a national level? What can I do to contribute? These questions churned in my mind as I headed to DC to find the answers.

Before the forum, I was able to arrange an informal meeting with an AWIS National Intern, who helped me understand what our parent non-profit can do as an advocacy group to inform and shape the decision-makers in DC and support more inclusion in STEM careers. AWIS National shapes legislation about grant funding or pay equity, executes and disseminates analysis of relevant current statistics and provides workshops on unconscious bias for organizations and companies. Unlike lobby groups, AWIS does not directly fund or influence the outcome of policy through donations, but instead uses their research and analysis, public engagement, and advocacy to champion the interests of women in STEM. One theme I took from this meeting, and found repeated throughout my foray into science policy, was that change is not pursued during head-to-head, polarized fights, even though this is how some debates are reduced from a distance. Instead, working through allies who are willing to engage in scientific discourse and utilizing a quality network again and again allow for a step-by-step positive transformation.

The AAAS Forum held many more lessons. Speakers provided summaries of recent efforts, including a report of successful NIH and NSF budget increases and a review of the Obama administration presented by John Holdren from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). Other sessions discussed pressing policy questions such as the use of big data, the Moonshot cancer project and the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our communities. Many conversations revolved around the continued challenges – a desire to keep scientists in the debate at their current levels, regardless of the outcome of the next election, a continued push for increases in funding to return to pre-sequestration levels, and an awareness that predictions and preparations will be required to meet future science policy challenges.

One breakout session at the forum discussed whether advocacy could ever hurt the credibility of science. Discussions of how to get scientists involve always seem to balance the objectivity of the science and the difficulty of the true nuances of many of the problems and policies. A powerful example of this was debated in an engaging roundtable on gun violence research. Mark Rosenburg, a gun violence expert and former head of the CDC’s Injury Prevention Program, and Former Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas have formed an unlikely team to discuss the need for increasing levels of gun violence research. The former member of the House of Representatives was behind a measure in 1996 forbidding the CDC to spend funds “to advocate or promote gun control.” In the 20 years since, CDC directors have chosen to disengage from the entire field leading to a dearth in the understanding of the causes, effects and possible preventative measures of gun violence. It was amazing to hear that Former Rep. Dickey regrets part of the role he played in eliminating this research, and the lessons Mark Rosenburg says he learned from Rep. Dickey and from his involvement in this debate. Dickey claimed that “smart people aren’t always practical, but policy is about making science practical”. The live interplay between these two characters showed a lot of the excitement and the difficulty of creating results that support both the science and the desired policy.

I had immersed myself in this world and had seen some of the ways the government approaches issues related to science, and how scientists working at the federal level were shaping policy decisions. I still wondered: how can I help to promote evidence-based policy? How can I shape the policy that enables scientific research and the continued education of great scientists? How can I help others in San Diego to recognize their power to influence these issues? I turn to the lessons I learned from AWIS National and understanding the power we have as an organization on a national level to enact change. I think of the strength of the AWIS-SD chapter and our ability to start conversations, connect scientists and advocate for positive change.

Regardless of how each individual scientist feels about politics, we can agree that many specific policies are hugely influential. We need to keep “making science matter,” as keynote speaker Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan (NOAA Administrator) emphasized, and keep scientists in the conversation. When we think of the next wave of progress and innovation, discussed by Steve Case (AOL co-founder and former CEO), we recognize that we need broad awareness, representatives from many backgrounds, and vibrant conversations to solve the complex problems of tomorrow. This requires the participation of scientists in policy, the involvement of innovators and researchers from all STEM fields in scientific conversations, and the increased inclusion of women in the STEM pipeline. Increasing the voice of science in our society requires us to include and raise the voices of all scientists. I am more aware than ever before that the advocacy of AWIS and the support of AWIS-SD helps me to raise mine.

If you would like to learn more or engage in advocacy, I would recommend the great resources at www.awis.org including fact sheets sharing their data on the state of women in STEM, and their advocacy tool kit allowing scientists to call for members of congress to support funding for science research.

Member News

  1. Dorothy Sears, PhD (Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, UCSD) recently gave a presentation for the Doris Howell Foundation luncheon on May 20, 2016. The title of the presentation is “Simple Lifestyle Changes for Improving Women’s Health”. The event was featured in the La Jolla Light newspaper. Here is the link to the article:http://www.lajollalight.com/news/2016/jun/01/howell-speaker-touts-lifestyle-changes/
  2. Hanne Hoffman, PhD (Past co-chair of AWIS-SD Strategy Session and postdoc in Reproductive Medicine, UCSD) recently received the Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from NICHD to study how disrupted rhythm generation in the brain affects reproductive function.
  3. Miriam Cohen, Ph.D (co-chair of AWIS-SD Outreach Committee) recently accepted a medical writer position at Arbor Scientia Group.

News Ticker

  1. The FDA has recently approved Absorb, a plastic, biodegradable cardiovascular stent developed by Abbott Vascular and tested at several San Diego medical centers. Unlike traditional metal stents, Absorb dissolves about three years after implantation, allowing for greater freedom of vessel movement and making it easier to re-treat affected areas. However, Absorb has not been as thoroughly tested as metal stents and may not be safe for certain patients.
  2. Scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have developed a new underwater microscope that can be operated by divers to observe microscopic marine organisms in their natural habitat. The researchers used the microscope, which is operated by an underwater, handheld computer, to capture micrometer-scale images of coral polyps, both in healthy and bleached reefs.
  3. A study conducted by BestColleges.com found that 33% of female students at UC San Diego choose majors related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the highest percentage of the 100 schools included in the study. UCSD also has a relatively high number of student majoring in STEM fields overall, with 22% studying biology, 11% studying economics, and 9% studying computer engineering. UCSD admits more female than male students, but men outnumber women on campus 52 to 48 percent.
  4. Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, UCSD, and Stanford have identified the protein RBPJ as a master regulator of genes that control blood vessel growth in the adult heart. As a negative regulator of blood vessel growth, RBPJ could be a potential therapeutic target for drugs treating patients with cardiovascular disease. Having more blood vessels in the heart could help reduce the tissue damage from vessel blockage during a heart attack.
  5. In an effort to foster collaborations and partnerships with Japan’s life science industry, UC San Diego will open an office in Tokyo on July 26. The office will represent the entire campus and focus on digital health, bioengineering, computer science, pharmaceuticals, and biotech.
  6. Select San Diego schools have been testing new standards for K-12 science education known as the Next Generation Science Standards. These guidelines emphasize core ideas, practical applications, research practices, and relationships between disciplines. They suggest organizing courses around interdisciplinary concepts rather than discrete subjects such as biology and physics. The draft guidelines for California schools will be available for public comment until August 29.
  7. As part of the Obama administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative, the NIH has awarded $120 million to Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI). STSI will be responsible for recruiting 350,000 of the one million volunteers for the study. Participants will use a mobile app to record health information such as blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, sleep, and exercise. They will also be asked for blood and urine samples for genomics, proteomics, and microbiome studies.
  8. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) will soon open an office in San Diego to foster collaborations with local scientists. CASIS, a nonprofit group that manages the US National Laboratory, is helping NASA to commercialize parts of the laboratory run by astronauts on the International Space Station. This will be the first CASIS office to open on the west coast.
  9. Astronomers from San Diego State helped identify the largest planet to orbit two stars identified to date, Kepler-1647b. This planet, a gas giant with similar mass and radius to Jupiter, takes three years to orbit its two stars, which made it difficult to identify. Current astrophysics theory suggests many more planets similar to Kepler-1647b exist.

AWIS-SD Upcoming Events

  1. Academia to Industry Coffee Club. Guest Speaker: Dr. Joanne McNellis (Cato Research). Time: September 2, 2016 4.30 pm. Location: Bella Vista Café (2880 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037).
  2. AWIS-SD Brewery tour and happy hour event. Time: Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 5:30 pm-8:00 pm. Location: Saint Archer Brewing, Co. (9550 Distribution Ave., San Diego, CA 92121). Free for AWIS-SD members, $15 for non-members.
  3. AWIS SD members have been invited to join the UC Riverside and LA/Ventura Chapters in an AWIS Summer Networking Brunch on the 21st of August, 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM. Location: Malibu Wines, 31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265. Cost $15 includes food and wine. RSVP through the secured PayPal checkout button. Add your name, title, and institution in the "special instructions" section.

Other Events of Interests

Qualcomm Women in Science and Engineering (QIWISE) conference. Time: Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 8 am – Friday, Sep 23, 2016 8 pm.

About the Authors





Melissa Scranton received 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.


Ksenya C K

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


 Juliati R

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



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



Sigrid Katz completed her PhD and master’s degrees at the University of Vienna, Austria, studying invertebrate-bacterial symbioses in marine chemosynthetic environments. She moved to San Diego to pursue her research as a postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and at the Moores Cancer Center. Sigrid is an active member of the AWIS San Diego Outreach Committee.


Winter 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 1

This issue of the Newsletter is available as a PDF:


For archived versions of previous newsletters, go here. 

Letter from the President

Dear AWIS-SD Members & Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that thought, I invite you to look at all the committees that comprise AWIS-SD (http://www.awissd.org/index.php/about/committees), find one that interests you, and join it.

All the best,


DeeAnn Visk

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

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

By Juliati Rahajeng

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

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

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

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

November Focus Session

By DeeAnn Visk

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

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

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

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

AWIS Outreach—Exploring Careers in STEM

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

By Anne Kornahrens

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

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

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

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

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

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


AWIS Strategy Session: Advance Your Success—ID Your Strengths

By Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

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

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

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

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


The 30-Second Elevator Speech—A Networking Essential

By Linda Manza

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

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

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

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

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


AWIS San Diego’s 2016—2017 Board

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

President – DeeAnn Visk                                      

Treasurer – Lori Yang                                            

Secretary – April Cresse                                        

Past-President - Grace Nakayama                                 

Past-Treasurer - Christina Niemeyer

Board Member at Large – Nellie Shaul

Board Member at Large - Kristina Henthorn

Board Member at Large - Supriya Gaitonde

Underlined positions and names indicate the newly elected members.

Member News

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

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


Science News Ticker

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


Upcoming AWIS-SD Events

Speed Mentoring Event

Date: March 2, 2016 6-8 pm

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

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

Current topics include:

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

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

AWIS Members: Free, register here

Non-Members: $15 - purchase tickets online here

Meet the Board Networking Event

Date: March 21, 2016, 6 to 8 PM

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

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

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

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

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


Other Events of Interest

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


About the Authors


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


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


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


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


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


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