Speaker Bios

Keynote Speaker Gillian Wilson, Ph.D.
Keynote Speaker Homa Akbarian, Ph.D.
Explore: Non-bench Careers
Dr. Alessandra Blasina
Dr. Miriam Cohen
Dr. Shannon Muir
Encourage: Cartoons Inspire Me
Dr. Katherine Djernes Pappano
Evolve: Journey of a CSO
Catherine A. Schnabel, PhD
Explore: Acing Your Job Search
Masha Evpak
Dr. Madhushree Ghosh
Megan Humphreys
Molly Wood
Encourage: Direct Your Direction
Christine Federovitch, Ph.D., R.A.C.
Evolve: Be an Entrepreneur
Sabrina Johnson
Explore: The Competitive Advantage
Will Marré
Encourage: The Importance of an Advanced Degree
Dr. Melissa Rewolinski
Evolve: P(l)ay it Forward
Jenny Chaplin
Dorothy D. Sears, Ph.D.
Grace Nakayama

alessandra-blasinaDr. Alessandra Blasina
Dr. Alessandra Blasina received her PhD from the University of Sassari in Italy. In 1992 she came to San Diego for her postdoctoral training at the University of California San Diego (USCD). In January 1996 she joined The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) as a Research Associate. In May 2000 she transitioned from academia to industry accepting a Principal Scientist position at Pfizer La Jolla: she joined the Pharmacology group in the Oncology Research Unit, where she was the Biology/Pharmacology team leader for multiple small-molecule drug discovery programs. From 2012 to 2014, Alessandra worked at Shire Pharmaceuticals as a Senior Scientist in the Research Process Development Group. In October 2014, she accepted a position as Principal Investigator at COI Pharmaceuticals, a small biotech company. At COI, Alessandra was responsible for a program in the Biologics group, to develop antibody therapeutics for the treatment of drug-resistant colorectal cancer. While working for COI, Alessandra became interested in transitioning to regulatory affairs, and she recently accepted a position as Regulatory Affairs Associate at Agility Clinical, Inc.

jenny-chaplinJenny Chaplin
Jenny Chaplin is Director, Project Management at Pfizer, supporting oncology development projects. Her current responsibilities include the development of multiple assets from candidate selection through proof of concept (Phase 2). Jenny is also responsible for alliance management of an external collaboration. She was previously at Vical where, as Director, Project Planning and Management, she led the development of vaccines in all stages of development, including Phase 3. Before moving from the bench, Jenny led enzyme discovery and development projects for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries in San Diego and in her earlier career, in Johannesburg. Jenny served as President of AWIS San Diego in 2008-2009, Secretary in 2006-2007, and co-chaired two WIST conferences, in addition to other leadership positions in AWIS-SD. She is founding member of the AWIS Leadership Network. She was educated at University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

miriam-cohenDr. Miriam Cohen
Dr. Miriam Cohen received her BA in Biology and MS in Molecular Biology from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in 1995 and 1998, respectively. She obtained her PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in 2005. In 2005, she went for postdoctoral training at the Glycobiology Research and Training Center at the University of California San Diego. She was promoted to Assistant Project Scientist position in 2010. In July 2016, she accepted a position as Medical Writer at Arbor Scientia. Dr. Cohen is an active member the Outreach Committee and the Corporate Sponsorship Committee of AWIS San Diego.

masha-evpakMasha Evpak
Masha Evpak is a confidence coach who helps millennials understand how awesome they already are so they can believe they can reach their goals. She has been waging a battle against the mental health problems rampant in academia since she realized how stressed out her fellow grad students and scientists are. She tackles these issues through one-on- one coaching, in-person workshops, and online as The Genetics Gal (@thegeneticsgal). Masha is the founder of BoldAdulting.com (@BoldAdulting), where she helps amazing people courageously tackle what life throws at them, even when they’re afraid they have no idea what they’re doing.

christine-federovitchChristine Federovitch, Ph.D., R.A.C.
Dr. Christine Federovitch has extensive experience in laboratory diagnostics and companion diagnostics across a breadth of platforms used in oncology patient selection and stratification for both diagnostic and prognostic use. Dr. Federovitch is currently Director, Operations at Navigate BioPharma. Navigate BioPharma is a specialty diagnostics laboratory specializing in oncology biomarker testing and companion diagnostics. She has a strong passion for diagnostics and driving teams to achieve world-class performance. Previously, Dr. Federovitch was Associate Director, Program and Alliance Management at Illumina, Inc. and was Associate Director, Program and Study Management, at Genoptix, a Novartis Company. Dr. Federovitch has attained US Regulatory Affairs Certification (R.A.C.) in addition to her PhD in Biology from UCSD and her BS in Biochemistry from the University of Nevada, Reno. A longtime member of AWIS-SD, Dr. Federovitch is active in mentoring young women in the San Diego area.
People are always saying that you should take control of your career and that you will create your own destiny. It sounds great until you realize that it is difficult to find real world tools and techniques to use and enable you to get the career you desire. For example, the value of networking and having a strong network is obvious, but the discussions on how to build, cultivate, and leverage your network are typically absent. I will provide frameworks and tools to help you tackle some common challenges and illustrate how I applied these to my own career. The focus will be on how to make progress every day to get you closer to your dream career. After attending this session, you should leave with a clear sense of what you can begin doing today and how you can positively and actively direct your career path.

madhushree-ghoshDr. Madhushree Ghosh
Dr. Madhushree Ghosh heads the Alliance Management and Strategic Accounts teams at Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Clinical Sequencing Division focusing on NGS oncology activities, as Senior Director. Prior to Thermo Fisher, Madhu was the Vice-President of the Research Services business unit at AltheaDx. She has held multiple leadership positions as Head of North America R&D at QIAGEN, and Head of Product Development at Enigma Diagnostics. Madhu holds a PhD in biochemistry from University of Maryland, College Park, and a postdoctoral fellowship from Johns Hopkins University. She was also trained in Global Conflict Management and Negotiations as part of her Executive MBA certification from Thunderbird University. Madhu is a frequent invited speaker at colleges and universities on the role of women in science.

megan-humphreysMegan Humphreys
Megan Humphreys received her BA and BS in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007. In 2009, she obtained her MA in Public Relations and International Relations from the Syracuse University. Megan started her career working for The World Health Organization (WHO) as External Relations from May until August 2008 in Switzerland. Then, Megan served as Account Supervisor for Hill and Knowlton Strategies in Washington DC in 2009. She provided public affairs and media relation support to clients focusing on domestic energy space. Three years later, she accepted a position as Senior Account Supervisor at Meredith Xcelerated Marketing, before becoming Senior Advisor at Powell Communications in 2013. She went on to become the Vice President of McBee Strategic Consulting from 2014 until 2016. Currently, she the Director of Brand Management and Marketing Communications at Pfenex Inc., in San Diego and is a contributor to various publications including the Daily Beast. In her free time, Megan teaches indoor cycling and pilates.

sabrina-johnsonSabrina Johnson
Sabrina Martucci Johnson is a life sciences executive with a record of achievement in capital formation, business development and commercial leadership. Her 20+ year career include: $170M equity raises, a business development deal sheet comprised of in-license, out-license, and M&A, and executing numerous successful product launches. Sabrina’s unique background spans finance, global marketing, product development and bench research. Sabrina is committed to advancing innovations in women’s health. In 2015 she founded DARÉ Bioscience to bring novel technologies that clearly address unmet needs so that the latest concepts in women’s health make it to market. Sabrina also currently serves as CFO/CAO of Calibr – California Institute for Biomedical Research, a non-profit organization focused on translational research through partnerships with experts in academia and industry. In the community, Sabrina is a champion of education and women leadership. She serves as the President on the YWCA of San Diego County, and on the Athena Board of Directors, Tulane University School of Science & Engineering Board of Advisors among others. Sabrina has an MIM from the American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird), a MSc. in Biochemical Engineering from the University of London (UCL), and a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University.

will-marreWill Marre
Will Marré advocates for women in leadership. An inspirational speaker, he offers concrete advice for women throughout their careers. He founded the Smart Power Institute, which focuses on research-based tools, behavioral skills, and leadership practices to empower women in vocations. Mr. Marré’s insights into the strengths of women in leadership are a valuable tool to aid in understanding how to advocate for yourself and make sure your voice is heard. With over 25 years of experience creating breakthroughs at the world’s top organizations including Johnson & Johnson, GE, Nike, and Gap, Mr. Marré promises to present compelling insights into women and work relationships. Mr. Marré leads the way forward to a new level of group intelligence which is realized when men and women learn to value and leverage each other’s strengths. Mr. Marré is also the founder and force behind one of the Smart Power Institute’s premier programs, The Smart Power Academy. The Academy is a revolutionary program that trains women leaders in how to use Smart Power to magnify their impact. Will has collaborated with an accomplished team of women leaders developing a unique process designed to vastly improve women’s effectiveness and opportunities.

shannon-muirDr. Shannon Muir
Dr. Shannon Muir is a Senior Program Associate at California Council of Science and Technology (CCST), where she staffs the Federally Funded Laboratory Affiliates program, supports fundraising efforts, and develops strategies for internal and external CCST projects. Shannon was CCST Science Policy Fellow in 2015, and she served as a consultant for the California Senate Committee on Health. During her fellowship, she analyzed legislation related to a wide variety of topics including electronic cigarettes, internet prescribing, health insurance, and aging and long term care. Prior to the Fellowship, Shannon earned her PhD in Biomedical Sciences from UC San Diego studying pediatric cancer genetics. During her time at UC San Diego, she served as the Legislative Liaison for Local & State Affairs for the UC San Diego Graduate Student Association, and as the Chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Committee on the UC Student Association Board of Directors. She also represented graduate students on the UC Academic Senate Committee on Research Policy. For her work, she was awarded the UC Student Association’s Advocate of the Year Award in 2012. Shannon holds an MS in Pharmacology from Tulane University School of Medicine, and a BS in Psychobiology from UCLA.

grace-nakayamaGrace Nakayama
Grace Nakayama, PhD PMP is a long-time member and active volunteer with AWIS-San Diego. Through her involvement with the chapter, she has gained valuable leadership experience. Over the years, Grace stepped up to take on increasing levels of responsibility, including: Strategy Sessions Committee Member and Co-chair, WIST 2013 Co-chair, as well as six years on the Board as Member at Large, President and Past-President. In addition, she participates in the AWIS-SD Leadership Network and Outreach events. Grace received the chapter’s Outstanding Volunteer award in 2009 and was a finalist for an Athena Pinnacle Award in Education in 2016.
Grace has over 20 years’ experience in biotech and pharmaceutical industries, spanning all stages of research and development. She currently works in Program Management at Intercept Pharmaceuticals. She earned a BS in Applied Chemistry at Harvey Mudd College and PhD in Chemistry at UC Berkeley. Grace holds a PMP (Project Management Professional) credential and earned a certificate in Biotech Project Management through UCSD Extension/UW Extension.

katherine-pappanoDr. Katherine Djernes Pappano
Dr. Katherine Djernes Pappano earned her PhD at the University of California, Riverside where she developed nature-inspired catalysts to oxidize simple hydrocarbons into synthetically useful molecules. After her graduate studies, Dr. Pappano decided to forgo synthesis and use her oxidation expertise to destroy molecules instead. She joined the Research and Development team at Regenesis where she develops new technologies to remediate contaminated soil and groundwater. Dr. Pappano incorporates chemistry, biology, and geology into her typical work day to remove contaminants from complex underground environments. She considers herself a chemist who evolved into an environmental scientist, and she enjoys how her work allows her to look at chemical systems from a very broad point of view. When Dr. Pappano isn’t developing technologies to clean up environmental messes, she enjoys volunteering with Stand Up for Kids, an organization dedicated to ending the cycle of youth homelessness. Dr. Pappano is the director of the STEM program with Stand Up for Kids, and she teaches science, technology, engineering, and math to homeless and at risk junior high and high school students. When she began teaching, few of her students thought they were good at STEM disciplines. Since that time, Dr. Pappano has watched her students grow into confident scientists and engineers, and her students never cease to inspire her with their persistence and creativity.

Melissa RewolinskiDr. Melissa Rewolinski
Dr. Melissa Rewolinski received her BS in Chemistry and her PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from Rice University in Houston, Texas. For her postdoctoral training, Melissa worked in the Medicinal Chemistry group at Upjohn/Pharmacia & Upjohn in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Upon completion of her postdoc, in early 1998, she came to San Diego to join Agouron Pharmaceuticals in the Chemical Development department. Melissa took on roles of greater responsibility within Chemical Development over the years, as Agouron was purchased by Warner Lambert and again later purchased by Pfizer. In early 2006, Melissa left Pfizer La Jolla to join a small biotech company, Amira Pharmaceuticals, as the Development leader under the Chief Medical Officer. In this role, Melissa was responsible for all aspects of Development (Clinical, Nonclinical, Manufacturing, etc.) for the Amira portfolio. After a little more than 2 years with Amira, Melissa moved on to help start the R&D team at Intercept Pharmaceuticals where she has now spent over 9 years. Melissa’s current position is Senior Vice President of R&D Operations. In her free time, Melissa exercises, plays beach volleyball and watches her two sons play baseball.

catherine-schnabelCatherine A. Schnabel, PhD
Dr. Catherine Schnabel has been committed to pursuing cutting edge science that will lead to better outcomes and healthcare for patients. Driven by innovation, her experience was developed within industry leading biotechnology companies such as Genentech, Genoptix and Amylin Pharmaceuticals, researching first-in-class therapies and technologies. Currently she serves as the Chief Scientific Officer of Biotheranostics Inc. Towards the goal of personalizing cancer treatment and precision medicine, Biotheranostics provides advanced diagnostics that help individualize treatment choices based on the particular biology and molecular background of patients. As a molecular biologist and an author of many patents and publications, her leadership and strategic vision at Biotheranostics were critical to translating biomarkers to products that change lives every day for cancer patients and are utilized by thousands of oncologists in the US. Dr. Schnabel has over 16 years of experience as a biomedical researcher and an industry scientist. Dr. Schnabel received her PhD training in molecular and cellular biology at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, and was a postdoctoral fellow of the NIH and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society at Stanford University. Dr. Schnabel has broad Scientific and Medical Affairs expertise in both the pharmaceutical and diagnostic arenas with knowledge spanning research, product development, commercial, and business development through the launch and lifecycle planning of first-in-class therapies and technologies. She has been nominated for the UCSD Athena Pinnacle Award in the Life Sciences and the Women Who Mean Business Award from the San Diego Business Journal.

dorothy-searsDorothy D. Sears, Ph.D.
Dr. Dorothy Sears, Associate Professor of Medicine and Family Medicine & Public Health at UC San Diego, earned a B.S. at the University of Southern California and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology & Genetics at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Sears has been conducting obesity and obesity-related disease research since 1995. She is an internationally recognized expert in these fields which include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer. Her scope of study spans molecular to population levels. Dr. Sears aims to identify genes, metabolites, biochemical pathways and behaviors that are regulators and/or biomarkers of cardiometabolic disease risk and which can be used as therapeutic targets or diagnostic tools. She is PI of the Basic Science Project component of a newly funded American Heart Association Go Red for Women Cardiovascular Research Center. Dr. Sears is a member of the UCSD School of Medicine Admissions Committee and served as Chair for 3 years. Dr. Sears is President of the American Diabetes Association’s local Community Leadership Board. She is passionate about mentoring and supporting women in STEM-related fields. She is co-founder of the UCSD Women in Health Sciences Committee and has held several AWIS-SD Executive Board positions (2010-2015).

molly-woodMolly Wood
Molly Wood has 20 years HR experience, with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and certification in HR Management. Molly started her career in HR at a book distribution company, and has since worked as a talent acquisition specialist in the industries of staffing, manufacturing, and software development. Molly has extensive experience working with hiring managers to select talent, and is currently working as an HR Business Partner with a software development company, TriTech Software systems.