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Careers Beyond Academia Newsletter
January/February 2020 

Bhaavya Srivastava (bs785), Luis Melecio-Zambrano (lm826), Co-Editors

From the Editors

New Year, New Editors!
Your new editors have arrived and are eager to serve you through this newsletter.

If you have any suggestions for the newsletter, please let us know! Read on to get to know a little bit about us.

Bhaavya is a second-year PhD student in Neurobiology and Behavior. She hails from New Delhi, India and earned her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University. Her work focuses on the role of chemical cues in the speciation and sexual selection of Hawaiian crickets. She joined Careers Beyond Academia to gain experience in science communication.

Luis is a second-year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Currently, his research focus is on polymer electrochemistry. He joined Careers Beyond Academia to hone his science communication skills and build a background in that field.


In this issue...

Spotlight Preview: Lauren Genova

Join us as we sit down with Lauren Genova, a researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology who studies protein complexes that expel toxins from bacteria. She is also the founder of the Chemistry Career Oriented Webinar Series (CCOWS), which invites speakers from various chemistry-related careers to discuss their paths in and beyond academia.

Read on to learn more about how biophysical chemistry might address antibiotic resistance, insights from a former chemist at Nintendo, and how the COWS series hopes to expand.


News and Spotlights

Careers Beyond Academia has expanded to all fields at the University!
Office hours will be held every other Friday, 1 pm to 3 pm in Goldwin-Smith Hall, Room 234, beginning 2/28. Many events are specifically geared to Humanities students - don’t miss these events! Check our events calendar here.

Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training (go to)
Are you considering a career that will require process improvements? Many do, and many more should. Lean Six Sigma certification at the Green Belt level gives you valuable business tools to achieve process and operational excellence. Careers Beyond Academia partners with Binghamton University’s Watson School of Engineering to offer the opportunity to register at a reduced cost and complete the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Training (online).

Careers in ... Industry (go to)
Careers Beyond Academia, in concert with the Engineering Graduate Student Association (EGSA), held a discussion to explore careers in industry featuring panelists Bailey Cooper, PhD’16 biomedical engineering; Ebrahim Nemati, PhD in electrical engineering from UCLA, and Cornell chemical engineering alumnus Kent Göklen, PhD, MIT. The speakers shared the pros and cons of working in this environment, discussed how they transitioned from academia, and gave insight and advice for those looking to make that transition. 

Don't miss out! Keep up-to-date on upcoming events (go to)

Blogging Beyond Academia

Ever wondered what a science communication bootcamp would be like? (go to)

By Bhaavya Srivastava
"In a world where fake news and misinformation is rampant, accurate yet understandable communication is key. This is true not only for policy makers, political stakeholders, the media, and the general public, but for scientists as well. However, for many researchers, getting into the field of science communication can be a daunting task: there are countless avenues to broadcast your research, so where do you even start?

The Science Communication Workshop (COMM 5660), an intensive weekend workshop offered every semester here at Cornell, is an inspirational first step."

Setting your sights on startups: advice from Ivan Liachko, cofounder of Phase Genomics (go to)
By Elizabeth Mahood

For a biosciences grad student like me, the idea of working at a startup can seem downright exotic. Many aspects of the startup world are in stark contrast to academia...Due to all these differences, if your training thus far has come from academic environments, working at a startup can seem like a completely different lifestyle.

This post is designed to give students and postdocs that are, like me, well-rooted in academia, a glimpse into what applying to a startup may be like. This glimpse was provided by Ivan Liachko, a graduate of Cornell’s GGD program, who is now the co-owner and chief scientist of a successful, 5-year old biotech startup called Phase Genomics."

Calling all bloggers! We are looking for bloggers interested in writing about their experiences exploring careers inside and outside of academia. No experience is necessary - we have editors to help. Our blog is a great way to share and develop some writing experiences for your resume. Interested? Contact Liz Mahood (

Click here to read more blog posts!

Member Spotlight:
Lauren Genova

Lauren is a Ph.D. student in the Chen lab, in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.  Read on to learn more about her research and career explorations!
by Luis Melecio-Zambrano

If one were to ask Lauren Genova what she does, she might answer, “single molecule super-resolution imaging, biophysical chemistry.” The answer may sound like some esoteric and intractable field of study, but her research may be a crucial step in defeating superbugs - the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose one of the most significant public health challenges of our time.

In layperson’s terms, Lauren studies “how proteins assemble to expel toxic compounds from the cell.” Some antibiotic-resistant bacteria can recognize potentially toxic drugs and use protein pumps to remove them from the cell.
“If we can learn how these proteins assemble and inhibit or prevent them from assembling to efflux out toxic compounds, we can put a stop to this antibiotic resistance crisis,” Lauren explained. In essence, if toxic compounds such as antibiotics cannot be removed from the cell, the cell’s resistance to antibiotics is compromised.
Before studying biophysical chemistry, she began her research in organic chemistry at her undergraduate institution, but in her words, “I was a hot mess in lab: everything would break or spill.” After a particularly disheartening incident involving losing all of her product 17 steps into a 21 step procedure,
she transitioned to research in biophysical chemistry. The change served her well. “We were trying to solve Crohn's disease, so I liked the … aspect of using chemical tools to solve biological problems. I wanted to continue on to use chemistry to help humans, to further human health, further medical advancements,” she said.
Lauren’s desire to help others extends beyond her research. “I knew since I stepped foot on Cornell that I wanted to teach. I wanted to expand my horizons, because I knew I would have students who would be interested in different types of chemistry,” she recalled.
Part of that process of expanding horizons began with her fellowship at the Chemistry Biology Interface (CBI) program. As part of this fellowship, she was required to invite a speaker, so she invited Susi Sturzenegger Varvayanis, Executive Director of Careers Beyond Academia, to discuss career development.
She was amazed not only by the quality of the talk but also by the
number of her peers that attended who were unsure about their career paths. “The majority of my peers were very uncertain about what they wanted to do, but basically no one wanted to go into academia. A lot of them were expressing frustration in finding these career paths, and not many resources … were being made available to them, whether or not they were actually there,” she said.  
Because of this, she decided to take action. She continued inviting Susi to speak at CBI, and
she founded the Chemistry Career Oriented Webinar Series - COWS for short. COWS began with a conversation with Pat Hine, the Graduate Program Coordinator for Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Like Lauren, Pat had noticed more students becoming interested in varied career paths. Together, they envisioned “a space for people from diverse career paths to come in and talk to students,” allowing students to “make an informed decision about what kind of career paths” they could choose. With the help of a small team of fellow chemistry students, Lauren has built the program into a success. 
The series benefits from the webinar format, which allows the program to save costs while accessing speakers from around the country. “We had so many diverse speakers: I had not even known that
you could be a chemist and do the things that they did. We had someone who … was the lead chemist at Nintendo,” Lauren said. The former Nintendo chemist, Myra Stephens, designed assays to ensure that there were no toxic chemicals in Nintendo merchandise. She now is Product Manager at JR Watkins, helping them manufacture hundreds of home and body care products. Her story is one of many examples of the varied but successful career paths discussed in COWS. “We also had Anne LaPointe, the director of the Catalyst Discovery and Development lab, we had a science journalist, Lisa Jarvis from C&EN, Dr. Marshall Brennon from ChemRxiv, the [chemistry] preprint journal. So, so many careers that you wouldn’t think of automatically when you think ‘what can you do as a chemist?’” 
Building off the current success of the program, Lauren has big plans for COWS.
She hopes to partner with students in other fields to expand the program, and invites anyone interested in partnering with her to contact her. To sweeten the deal, Lauren plans to bring in a former chemist who used their laboratory skills to become a chocolatier. 
Despite the demands of her professional career, Lauren still finds time to decompress, spending her free time doing Zumba (which she used to teach), cooking (she recommends chicken adobo), and exploring Ithaca’s natural beauty (“Ithaca is, no pun intended, gorge(ou)s”). Her back-up plan? Music. “I actually love music: I love playing the flute and piano. If I wasn’t a chemist, I would be a professional musician in a band.”

Do you have questions about the Careers Beyond Academia program or career exploration?
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