Alumni Spotlight

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!

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