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Career conference offers insights to grad students

Sep. 10, 2015, 8:54 AM

by Sanjay Mishra

Choosing a career is like grading a diamond; you must consider your shortcomings, desires and values as well as your strengths, a biopharmaceutical company executive advised graduate students recently during a recent career conference at Vanderbilt University.

Highlighting “what you want to be known as” rather than what you do well can form the basis for a “personal brand” that sets you apart from the rest, said Brian Fahie, Ph.D., director of technical development at Biogen Inc.

You can have the greatest impact when you recognize your weaknesses and use them to your advantage.

This is analogous to the 80-20 rule, Fahie said, where “20 percent of what you did is what created 80 percent of the impact.”

Fahie was one of 45 mentors, including several Vanderbilt faculty members, who participated in the third annual Midwestern Regional Chemistry-Biology Interface (CBI) Development Conference at the Student Life Center.

Nearly 100 chemical biology graduate students from throughout the MidSouth and Midwest attended the three-day conference, which was hosted by the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology (VICB) and sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Dow AgroSciences.

The conference offered a wide range of sessions and mentoring covering careers in academics, industry, entrepreneurship, law and intellectual property, technology transfer, consulting, education, science education and communication.

Stephen Fesik, Ph.D., Orrin H. Ingram II Professor of Cancer Research at Vanderbilt, and Anabella Villalobos, Ph.D., head of Neuroscience Medicinal Chemistry at Pfizer Neuroscience in Cambridge, Massachusetts, gave keynote addresses.

The conference concluded with the VICB Student Research Symposium, organized by the Chemical Biology Association of Students.

Lawrence Marnett, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and director of the VICB, awarded the VICB Prize in Chemical Biology to Nichole Lareau, a graduate student of John McLean, Ph.D. The annual prize was renamed this year for the late Richard Armstrong, Ph.D., a founding VICB member.

Lareau participated in the Vanderbilt Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program and currently is enrolled in the Vanderbilt CBI training program supported by NIH grant GM065086.

A previous recipient of a VICB Fellowship in Chemical Biology and a David Hercules Fellowship, Lareau is developing new technologies and methods, including integrated “omics,” to study complex biological systems.

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