Trainee Session Selections


All Trainee sessions at the 2020 Cancer Biology Virtual Retreat will be held on Tuesday, October 27 from 12 noon to 5pm EDT, (There are no Trainee Sessions scheduled for Monday, October 26.) Zoom registration, including your selections from Sessions Three and Four below, is due by midnight on Saturday, October 17. Poster videos are due by midnight on Thursday, October 22.

Session One: Trainee Poster Presentation Videos

All Trainees are asked to provide a 3-minute video presenting their scientific poster accompanied by a PDF version of their poster. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three graduate student and three postdoc videos. Please go to the POSTER PORTAL for more information and submission.

Session Two: Grant Writing for Trainees

Jennifer Black, University of Nebraska and Tullia Bruno, University of Pittsburgh, along with Maggie Chasse of the Van Andel Institute will lead a session on grant writing.

Session Three: Speed Mentoring

Trainees will be matched with Mentors to discuss the following topics. Please be prepared to select your three top interests in the ZOOM registration:

As a woman in science, do you have advice on how to manage work-life balance?
Career Paths: Academia vs. Pharma vs. Biotech
Does work-life balance get easier or harder as one advances?
Grant writing: What do you wish you had known before writing your first grant?
How can scientific communication and writing during graduate school help to improve critical skills for more traditional career paths?
In establishing a lab, what are the most important first steps to building a strong, organized environment and culture?
Navigating difficult relationships
Networking: How to reach out for collaboration, advice, etc.
Why should I switch my research topic for my Postdoctoral fellowship?
Strategies for finding and selecting a Postdoc position
Strategies for negotiating a tenure-track faculty position
Strategies for staying motivated
What is the most important thing for someone at my career stage to do within the next 6 months? (for grad students)
What is the most important thing for someone at my career stage to do within the next 6 months? (for postdocs)
What qualities do you look for in potential mentees
What to anticipate for a postdoctoral fellowship interview (for grad students)
What to anticipate for a post-training job interview (for postdocs)

Session Four: Career Round Tables

Meet former cancer-track trainees and learn how they navigated to their current careers. Please be prepared to select your three top choices in the ZOOM registration:

Paul Akhenblit, PhD – Pathology Diagnostic Liaison, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Paul connects unmet clinical needs in diagnostics and the immuno-oncology biomarker landscape with the strategy and decision makers at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Kristen Balogh – Senior Scientist, BioNTech US
Kristen received her PhD in Experimental Pathology from the University of Virginia in 2018 and entered the workforce skipping the postdoctoral fellowship training period. She currently holds the position of Senior Scientist at BioNTech US, a subsidiary to the larger German company BioNTechSE. The company has a robust pipeline focusing on strategic combination therapies in the Immuno-oncology space. She works in the Translational Immunology group, where they are analyzing patient’s immune responses to various treatment modalities coming out of the clinic. She has a strong interest in understanding biomarkers in both the peripheral blood and the tumor microenvironment that will aid in predicting which patients will benefit from a given therapy, and my work at BioNTech US has focused heavily on studying this question.

Chanelle Case Borden, PhD – Program Manager, Center for Cancer Training, National Cancer Institute
Chanelle is the science education program manager specializing in recruiting and retaining scientists in the biomedical workforce.

Leah Cook – Assistant Professor, Pathology & Microbiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center
After completion of her PhD (focused on breast cancer metastasis research) at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL (2012-2017) where she began developing my research program. She moved to Omaha, Nebraska in Sept. 2017, to start her lab; her research program is focused on examining the contribution of neutrophils in bone metastatic prostate cancer and the tumor metastasis microenvironment.

Casey Droscha, PhD – Associate Director of Research & Development, CentralStar Cooperative
As Associate Director of R&D and Graduate Adjunct Faculty Member within the Dept. of Large Animal Clinical Sciences at Michigan State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Casey advises CentralStar research personnel as well as mentors MSU MS, and PhD students, through state, federal, and private industry funding in their projects investigating various aspects of dairy science, molecular genetics, and biomarker discovery. His lab specializes on the development of molecular diagnostic assays, genetic tests, and population (herd) level epidemiology of economically important diseases.

Luke Drury, PhD – Laboratory Director, PreventionGenetics
Luke joined PreventionGenetics in 2013 as a Human Molecular Geneticist and is currently the director of the sequencing laboratory. His portfolio focuses on red blood cell disorders and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He is also certified as a High Complexity Clinical Lab Director through the American Board of Bioanalysis and as a Diplomat of Laboratory Management through the American Society of Clinical Pathology.

Mike Humphries – US Scientific Director, Lung Cancer at Takeda Oncology
Mike is a medical affairs professional with experience in pre and post launch activities. Expertise in precision medicine and small molecule therapeutics in oncology.

Douglas Hurst, PhD – Associate Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pathology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham
Prior to receiving his degrees, Dr. Hurst served in the US Navy as a SCUBA diver and nuclear mechanic. After completion of his PhD in Biochemistry, he moved to the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2010, he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology where his current studies are focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis.

Fiorella Magani, PhD – Project Leader, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
Fiorella has been working with BCG since graduating in 2018. She lives in Washington DC, and through her job in consulting she has helped government agencies tackle global health related issues, and has helped multiple pharmaceutical companies improve their drug discovery processes for oncology and rare diseases, distribute global vaccines, and evolve their commercial strategies.

Jenean O’Brien, PhD – Assistant Professor, Biology, College of St. Scholastica
Jenean has been teaching and doing research with undergraduate students in a tenure-track position for over five years. Subjects taught include upper division electives (Cell Biology, Genetics, Cancer Biology), first year courses for biology majors (Global Challenges – Climate Change), and courses for non-majors in all formats (face-to-face, hybrid, synchronous online, asynchronous online). Her R15-funded research program utilizes zebrafish to study muscle development and rhabdomyosarcoma. She has served on many committees, from participating in faculty searches to chairing the IACUC.

Laura Sullivan – Senior Marketing Manager, Genentech
Laura has worked for ClearView Healthcare Partners as a Senior Consultant with project leadership spanning a wide variety of therapeutic areas for pharmaceutical companies to inform strategic decision making and business decisions. She also worked at Genentech as a Principal in Market Analysis & Strategy where she led teams as strategic advisors that leverage secondary data analysis, forecasting, market research, and competitive intelligence to drive decision making across the company. In her current marketing role, she leads development of patient support programs and strategic launch planning for pipeline products.

Kedar Vaidya, Associate Director, Pharmacology and Early Development, Jazz Pharmaceuticals
Following post-doctoral studies in metastasis biology, Kedar joined Abbott Laboratories in Chicago as Senior Research Pharmacologist with a focus on biologics therapeutics directed towards metastatic disease. During his tenure at Abbott Laboratories/AbbVie as a Senior Scientist, his work encompassed the development of small molecules, antibodies, antibody drug conjugates resulting in the approval of venetoclax for CLL and another 9 agents currently in various stages of clinical investigation. Following AbbVie, he joined Ideaya Biosciences in San Francisco as Principal Scientist working on the development of small molecule therapies exploring synthetic lethality. In his current role as Associate Director, Pharmacology and Early Development at Jazz Pharmaceuticals his focus is on targeting liquid tumors with novel small molecules and biologics leveraging emerging targeting technologies.

Ken Valkenburg – Senior Scientist, Development Lead at Personal Genome Diagnostics
Ken leads a team of scientists to build and develop Next Generation Sequencing assays to report mutation profiles for cancer tissue and plasma. He serves on a cross-functional project team as the liaison between Research & Development and other departments, including Marketing, Regulatory, Quality, and Project Management.