​Spotlight Archives

Molly Gibson

Molly Gibson alumni spotlight.jpg

Molly Gibson

Computational & Systems Biology, 2015; lab of Gautam Dantas
Associate at Flagship Pioneering 

What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University?

Throughout my time at WashU, I had always been drawn to entrepreneurship and the idea of building innovative communities of people around a unique and bold mission. Following grad school, I had the opportunity to join a new venture that was just being formed out of Flagship Pioneering, which is now known as Kaleido Biosciences. Kaleido was taking a unique approach to microbiome therapeutics. While most companies at this time were focused on either microbial “bugs-as-drugs” approaches or full microbiome transplants, Kaleido was developing novel chemistries to target and modulate the metabolic output of the microbiome, initially focused on oligosaccharides. At Kaleido, I built out and lead their computational and data science efforts for microbiome drug discovery. In addition, as one of the first scientists at Kaleido, I was also able to contribute to the overall growth of the company, including team building, intellectual property, fund raising, indication selection, and anything else that was needed. Through that experience I began to train as both a data scientist and an entrepreneur - which just fit. I eventually moved to Flagship Pioneering, a venture creation firm, to continue to develop and grow in these areas and to help conceive, create, and develop the next wave of innovative life science companies.

Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
The community. The research at WashU and its reputation speaks for itself, but the real differentiator is the training environment. Hands down some of the most innovative, thoughtful, and inspiring faculty and students. The faculty are truly invested in the students and their success and demonstrate that through action. Because of this, I built lasting mentors, colleagues, and friends that I will continue to maintain, support, and lean on throughout my career. 

How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?

At

WashU, I was never without opportunity. My current career requires the ability to rapidly learn new areas of science and embrace the uncomfortable, inspire and lead others, and effectively communicate science to any audience. I had an amazing thesis lab and program that truly valued each of these facets of development and growth. For example, I remember for thesis updates and other important talks, colleagues from my lab and others across the CGS (Center for Genome Sciences), would come together for up to 4 hours at a time providing feedback and instructive critique on how to improve the story and make the science and results more clear. Looking back, this culture was so important and really helped shape how I think about scientific communication. Gautam was also the king of opportunity. We used to joke in the lab to watch out for when he would come to you with an “opportunity,” as it was usually code for more work — however, it also demonstrated an extreme amount of trust on his part and professional development for us. For example, I co-wrote and served as representative on several large grants, including multi-center grants that required meeting and coordination among several prominent labs at WashU and externally. Through this, I learned to embrace feeling uncomfortable (I'd often find myself the only student in a room of tenured faculty), learn quickly, and ultimately write about science in new and novel ways — I guess it was trial by fire, but ultimately one of the best ways I have found to learn. Finally, through my role as co-director of the Young Scientist Program, I was responsible for leading an organization of 100+ volunteer scientists, which came with the responsibility of ensuring there was sustained funding and support for the outreach that had become a staple at the university and St Louis public schools. Through this, I developed skills necessary to represent YSP to university leadership and potential funders, organize and convene board meetings with community leaders, as well as lead and engage volunteers in the mission. It was a transformative experience. 

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?

The DBBS retreats — especially the Genetics/Comp Bio retreat. It's hard to describe these events if you haven't had the opportunity to attend, but they are definitely a highlight. I hope they haven't changed at all! Much of my love for the greater St. Louis experience came from the Ultimate Frisbee community. These people are amazing — it was so fun to come together multiple times a week and compete with them, but also to learn more about their diverse experiences and backgrounds. One of my closest friends came from this group and has taught me so much about education and social justice — perspectives that I wouldn't have gotten had I not expanded outside of the research and science communities. 

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Ultimate frisbee, hiking, running, cocktails, exploring, traveling, and really any opportunity for a little competition! 

What is your favorite quote?
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
That's a hard one. I guess I'm always wishing I had more time or could be in two places at once  so either the ability to time travel, move lightning fast, or split myself so I could be, for example, simultaneously sleeping and reading a paper. Oh, maybe it is just the ability to get 8 hours of sleep in 10 minutes?! You get the goal. 

Who is your biggest role model?

That's a great question — I've been incredibly lucky to have had many mentors and role models throughout my career, so it's hard to say just one. If I think about my time at WashU, Gautam Dantas is at the top of the list. He is brilliant, but there are a lot of smart people out there, what really stands out is his dedication to the people in his lab, including his openness and unique ability to make everyone feel welcome and valued, which created a culture where everyone felt ownership in the success of the lab as whole. It's this people-centric view, combined with extreme creativity, fearlessness, and ambition — all with a healthy dose of fun — that I hope to emulate. 

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
Don't get caught up in plans —  embrace the unknown and just continue to take the most interesting opportunity in front of you at any moment. If you fixate too much on one path, you are likely to miss the unexpected, which I have found to be the most challenging and transformative experiences. The most exciting version of the future to me is one where my future career doesn't currently exist. Also, build community! I can't say this enough, but the people around you are brilliant, kind, and fun —  you should take every opportunity you can to get to know them as individuals and learn from them.​​

Marcie Glicksman

Marcie Glicksman


Neural Sciences, 1986; lab of Mark B. Willard
Chief Scientific Officer at Orig3n

What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University?
I did two parts for my postdoctoral fellowship. I first went to the University of Arizona to work with Danny Brower on the role of homeotic genes in fruit flies, then transferred my NIH postdoctoral fellowship to the University of Washington in Seattle to work with Jim Truman on the role of homeotic genes in the nervous system of flies. It wasn’t until I started to look for my first research job that I decided I wanted to go into industry because I liked the intersection between science and medicine.

I took my first job at Cephalon in Pennsylvania working on developing therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases. I then worked at 3 other pharmaceutical companies for a total of 13 years. I then got recruited back into academics and was a professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I ran a drug discovery center for 10 years working with others in academics at Harvard and associated hospitals as well other universities around the country. I worked with other scientists who were interested in developing new therapeutics. As part of this effort 8 start-up companies were formed. I also co-founded the Academic Drug Discovery Consortium to facilitate interactions between the multiple academic drug discovery centers and also to promote opportunities with biopharmaceutical companies looking for academic partnerships.

After 10 years in academics, I moved back into industry through an introduction from a colleague of mine to the co-founders of Orig3n.

Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
After undergraduate education at Brown University, I worked in research settings for 2 years. When I was applying to PhD programs, I asked professors and other neuroscientists the question (in 1980): if you were to apply to graduate school now, where would you go? I got lists of schools to apply to, but one person said Washington University because they said that WashU had a large critical mass of neuroscientists. Neuroscience was a new field at the time and there were not many programs that your degree was in neuroscience. Washington University had one of the first programs and was building a strong faculty across multiple departments. I was certain of the area of my thesis and so had identified a faculty member who I wanted to do my PhD work. In the end, I switched to a different faculty member and different area. This is probably not uncommon.

How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?
I learned the critical elements of scientific method and thought as a graduate student and grew as a scientist. It was a great environment with a lot of collaboration and openness across labs and departments. This collaborative nature of science stuck with me throughout my career. I also established strong relationships with a number of professors and fellow students/post-docs that I have kept up over the years.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
I have been wondering whether the 9am Saturday morning seminar series with donuts and coffee was still a regular event. It was pretty much required for graduate students to attend. I also used to attend the lab meetings of Marcus Reichle to learn about the new imaging technology. I also really enjoyed attending regular group meetings around research on topics in developmental neuroscience that Viktor Hamburger regularly attended. I was in Mark Willard’s lab for my PhD and we had a very active lab with 10-12 people at the time. For St. Louis memories, favorites were Delmar Avenue handouts, Ted Drewes in the summertime, and I had a strong affinity to the Arch. I used to regularly go contra-dancing.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Hiking, running and working out with a trainer, making jewelry.

Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model was Jean Buttner-Ennever who was one of the scientists I worked with before I went to graduate school, when I worked at the Brain Research Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. She had an active research career and one child, and a second child on the way at the time I worked there. This confirmed to me that as a woman, I could be a scientist and have a family.

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
One of the hardest questions facing graduate students and postdocs, is whether they want to stay in an academic setting or go into some industry setting. I like to tell young scientists that they don’t have to decide what they want to do for the rest of their professional lives. There are many types of positions a scientist can do. And It is possible to move between different types of jobs throughout their career. I feel like I am a “poster child” that demonstrates this is true. Look for three things in a job 1) a position that they feel will be challenging, 2) a position that they can bring something special to, and 3) that they like the people they will be working with.

Honors and awards:
Multiple invited speaking engagements all over the world, on the board of directors, and chairman of the board of the Society for Biomolecular Screening (now Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening), science advisory board for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.​

Jeffrey Morton

JeffreyMortonSpotlight.jpg

Jeffrey Morton
Immunology, 2004; lab of Michael J. Holtzman

Attorney at Snell & Wilmer L.L.P.

What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University? 
Following my graduation from Washington University DBBS, I earned my law degree at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. After receiving my JD, I worked for two law firms in Vancouver where I began to focus my practice on biotechnology law. In 2014, I moved to Palo Alto to work for a large international law firm that focuses on biotechnology clients. In 2016, I joined Snell & Wilmer L.L.P., the largest law firm in the Southwest, where I work out of their Phoenix and Orange County offices. My practice at Snell & Wilmer is focused on patent counseling and licensing transactions for clients in the life sciences industry.

Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
I chose Washington University DBBS because of their outstanding immunology program, world-class faculty and first-class facilities.

How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?
WashU has and continues to set the bar high in terms of what is expected from faculty and students. Working in that environment for ~5-6 years as a graduate student prepares you for working in other top-tier environments where there are high expectations to perform on complex scientific issues.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
Favorite memories include the usual cultural highlights of living in St. Louis: attending Cardinals games and spending time in the Central West End -- but at the end of the day, my favorite memories go back to the great people that I met during my 6 years in St. Louis, many of whom remain my closest friends.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Traveling with my family, cycling and golfing.

Who is your biggest role model?
I do not have one main role model as I try to learn from everyone I interact with. That said, I feel extremely fortunate to have carried out my PhD work in the lab of Dr. Michael J. Holtzman. Michael is the Director of the Pulmonary Division at Washington University School of Medicine, and is not only a great scientist, physician, and administrator, but is also kind and patient which are important attributes to learn for any career, whether in academia or otherwise.

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
I would advise prospective students to go to graduate school if they really have an interest in what they are researching. For current graduate students, I would not spend too much time worrying about the future as you will be just fine coming out of the Washington University DBBS program. I also think it is important to see that there are many extremely rewarding careers that can be pursued that do not require a post-doc. I would be happy to speak with any Washington University DBBS students who are considering a career in law after they complete their PhD.

Aparna Deora

​​Aparna Deora.jpgAparna Deora
(Molecular Genetics, 2000)
Lab of Dr. Lee Ratner
Senior Director leading Quality Control, Stability and Microbiology in BioTherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences at Pfizer

Honors and awards: Pfizer Individual Achievement Award (2005) 
 
What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University? After leaving Washington University, I moved to an industry position at Pharmacia. I worked in a discovery group that looked at Cox-2 inhibitors and cancer. The work included academic collaboration and was not totally unlike work I had in academia. I then shifted into drug development as Pfizer. I had the unique opportunity to be at the start, as Pfizer embarked on building a biological portfolio that has transitioned from a small molecule company to a company with biologics in development.  
My roles have changed over the past 15 years at Pfizer, and I have had the amazing opportunity to work on developing a range of therapeutic modalities from mAbs, vaccines, cell based therapies and gene therapy from early toxicology studies, through clinical development and even achieving a few successful commercial products.
 
Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
In looking through the faculty profiles during the application process, I knew I would have an opportunity to choose to work in a great lab and have the opportunity to do some amazing research. I remember being very impressed by the faculty and students I met during the interview and that helped finalize the decision. 
 
How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?
WashU is wonderful training. I learned so much about how to do a "smart" experiment, think critically and perhaps most importantly how to communicate scientific research. It is also amazing to build a network of friends and scientists across the world. 
 
What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
The camaraderie in the lab and with my fellow students will never be forgotten. While not easy, it is a rare time when you can focus on science and be supported by all around you.
Amazingly, my classmates even have an annual "Wall Party" reunion held each year around the country. Great to catch up and see what is going on across with old friends.  
I still live in St. Louis and love it. It is a great city with a lot of cultural activities and good food. I love that there is so much free stuff to do like the zoo, Science Center, museums, concerts. etc. It was great to have so many options on the grad school stipend. 
 
What hobbies do you enjoy?
Travel, reading, cooking and yoga.
 
What is your favorite quote?
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” - Eleanor Roosevelt 
 
What movie would be greatly improved if it were made into a musical?
Princess Bride would be a fun musical. I would love to see a horror musical as well, maybe The Exorcist?
 
Who is your biggest role model?
My parents. 
 
What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
Grad school isn't easy but it really is worth it. You will do some great science but perhaps more importantly you will learn about yourself, and it is an accomplishment you can be proud of achieving.  
Most importantly, don't forget to have fun!
 

Jennifer Lodge

Jennifer Lodge.jpgJennifer Lodge
Vice Chancellor for Research

Plant Biology, Ph.D. Received 1988
Thesis Advisor: Douglas E. Burg, PhD 

 

Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD (’88), associate dean for research and professor of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been appointed vice chancellor for research for the university. Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton; Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; and H. Holden Thorp, PhD, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, made the announcement.
Lodge, whose appointment is effective July 1, succeeds Evan Kharasch, MD, PhD, the Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Professor of Anesthesiology and professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics. He is stepping down after serving in the role since 2009.
“We are extremely pleased that Professor Lodge has agreed to lend her considerable talents to this important role, and very grateful to Evan Kharasch for his years of distinguished service,” Wrighton said. “Our research enterprise is an integral part of the university’s mission, and I am confident that, under Jenny’s leadership, our ambitious goals in this critical area will be met and exceeded.”
Lodge will assume a dual role and continue as associate dean for research at the School of Medicine, a position to which she was appointed in 2009. Since then, she has coordinated efforts to advance research at the School of Medicine, with a particular focus on interdisciplinary projects involving multiple departments and core facilities that serve a wide variety of researchers. She has assisted faculty in identifying potential funding opportunities and maximizing the benefits of school-wide investments in research.
“Professor Lodge’s demonstrated success in leading sponsored research administration makes her exceptionally well-qualified for this position,” Thorp said. “Her passion and determination will be tremendous assets as we push to grow our research enterprise and translate the results of these efforts into benefits for society.”
“We are committed to pursuing research that will lead to innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges,” Shapiro said. “Jenny Lodge has the vision, expertise and enthusiasm to help researchers at the university achieve these efforts.”
In her new role, Lodge will serve as an officer of Washington University and a member of the University Council. She will be the chief officer responsible for the university’s research mission, overseeing more than $600 million in annual sponsored research and managing the development of research policies, grants and contracts, and the continuing education of faculty and staff regarding research regulations.
Lodge previously served as associate dean for research and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine; had postdoctoral fellowships at Monsanto Co. and Washington University; and served as a research assistant at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and at Harvard University. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and her doctorate in biomedical sciences from Washington University in 1988.
Lodge was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2010. She has published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals and holds a U.S. patent for virus-resistant potato plants. She continues to pursue NIH-funded research on mechanisms of fungal pathogenesis, anti-fungal drug discovery and vaccine development.

Follow us: