Alumni Spotlight

  • Career Development What field in Neuroscience did you study? What about the research process did you enjoy? Did you prefer gathering the data, brainstorming its meaning, the writing process, defending your research, presenting your research, etc. I studied circadian rhythms and the biological clock in the hypothalamus in the lab of Dr. Martha Gillette. We used a slice-in-a-dish model and I conducted electrophysiology in rat brain slices. I used this method to examine the signal transduction pathway of the hormone melatonin as it influenced the biological clock. I always enjoyed the actual experiments and the hands-on experience of working in the lab. As far as reporting results, I was more interested in the big picture and eventual clinical application to human medicine. I just never could get that excited about experimental results in my lab work (which was an indicator I was not in exactly the right career for me). I did enjoy synthesizing my work and giving presentations – eventually. As a grad student that first conference presentation was pretty scary. I also remember making all my slides by hand with CorelDRAW and Adobe Photoshop, before PowerPoint was standard.
  • What field in Neuroscience did you study?What about the research process did you enjoy? Did you prefer gathering the data, brainstorming its meaning, the writing process, defending your research, presenting your research, etc. I studied auditory neuroscience, specifically how little brown bats process communication signals. I preferred the writing process, defending and presenting my research vs. gathering and analyzing data. I felt that the latter was quite tedious, and it was much more exciting once I was able to share my findings. Did you choose to continue doing research? Why or why not? I chose not to continue to do research for several reasons. I primarily felt my personality was better suited in a role where I was regularly meeting and interacting people, and lab research felt isolating. I also felt that due to the restraints and pressures of granting agencies, I would not be able to pursue the scientific questions that truly interested me. Do you still conduct research or has your career taken you other places? Why is that? I no longer conduct research. I made a few career changes, first into university technology transfer, then biotech sales, and now software sales. I was more interested in pursuing business activities and found more job opportunities in this area as well.
  • What field in Neuroscience did you study? I was fortunate enough to work in a laboratory where interesting questions were pursued no matter the field or technique needed to answer them.  While the overall field was learning, memory, and neuroplasticity, this laboratory studied it with molecular, biological, anatomically, electrophysiological, and fMRI techniques, and I am sure I left some out.  My specific focus was on the translation of mRNA at synapses in response to synaptic activity, and it happened to fortuitously overlap with a common clinical condition.  Fortuitous for me, as I was in the Medical-Scholars Program.
  • Sean M. Smith, Ph.D. is an Executive Director of Neuroscience Discovery at Merck in West Point, PA. In this role, he directs research for Neurodegenerative disease from target identification through early clinical development. He also leads efforts to identify and translate target engagement and disease progression biomarkers for neurological disorders. Prior to leading the Neurodegeneration department, Sean lead the Psychiatric Disorders department and was the chair of early clinical development teams for MK-8189 (Phase 2, schizophrenia) and MK-8719 (Phase 1, PSP). Sean did his postdoctoral training at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the laboratory of Dr Wylie Vale and received his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • What field in Neuroscience did you study? What about the research process did you enjoy? Did you prefer gathering the data, brainstorming its meaning, the writing process, defending your research, presenting your research, etc. My thesis research focused on neuroendocrine modulators of memory.  I appreciated that all aspects of the research process were important, but I most enjoyed seeing the data come together to tell a story that built on the literature and offered new insights.
  • Dr. Daeyeol Lee has been named a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at the Johns Hopkins University. Lee graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995 (MS in Biology) and 1995 (PhD in Neuroscience).