March 29, 2013

What to do after my PHD????

By Danielle Miranda

Mayo Graduates are now a part of our scientific community. There are many different career paths that one can take when obtaining their doctorate. These include getting a postdoc, becoming a science writer, an instructor, scientist, analyst, and many others ( You can also work in academia, industry, private sector, or government. If you are almost seeing the light at the end of the tunnel I encourage you to look at your many options (remember there are many-( Create a IDP, a development plan that you can insert your information and create goals for yourself

Listed here are some paths you can take and comments from fellow Mayo Grad School Alumni………..

P.S. If you would like to add your name to this list please email us and let us know ( or

2011 graduates

Postdoctoral Fellows

Post-Doc in Academia
Name: Leah Colvin Wanshura
Mayo graduation date: May 2011
Type of Degree: PhD
Degree field: Biochemistry and Molecular biology-Cancer Biology
Current position, location, city, state: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN
Years at position: 1 yr, 8 mths
Comments: I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cancer Center at the University of Minnesota. I am studying molecular mechanisms of chemoresistance in the treatment of malignant melanoma, but I think a postdoctoral position is so much more than bench science. I am using it as a tool to develop an independent research program, grantsmanship and manuscript preparation skills, leadership opportunities and instruction training. Along with a robust scientific record, these skills will help me to be a successful tenure-track faculty member in the future.

Post-Doc in Academia
Name: Andrea Henle
Mayo graduation date: August 2012
Type of Degree: PhD
Degree field: Immunology
Current position, location, city, state: Postdoctoral Associate, MIT-SUTD Collaboration, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Years at position: 4 months
Comments: For my current research project, I am developing a zebrafish model of uveal melanoma. I ultimately would like to use this model to determine how uveal melanoma arises, progresses, and how the immune system recognizes (or fails to recognize) this tumor type. At MIT, I also spend about 50% of my time teaching the introductory biology course. During my postdoctoral fellowship I will also spend several months in Singapore, where I will help teach introductory biology at MIT's new partner institution - Singapore University of Technology and Design. My research project in Singapore will involve isolating natural factors from plants and investigating their anti-cancer properties.

Post-Doc in Industry
Name: Alyson Smith
Mayo graduation date: May 2011
Type of Degree: PhD
Degree field: Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Current position, location, city, state: Postdoctoral Scientist, GalxoSmithKline Vaccines, Hamilton MT Year(s) at position: 6 months (post doc at Mayo for 1.25 y)
Comments: Currently I am working as a postdoctoral scientist at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, in the Vaccines/Biologicals division. The position is funded by a research and development contract to GSK from the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. It has been an interesting and insightful transition from doing research at Mayo to research in industry. First, I feel very lucky to have gotten this position. It seems “postdocs” in industry are few and far between and since the Hamilton GSK Vaccines site has external funding, they are able to create these positions. It is a great way to venture into industry to see how the research compares, without fully committing to a career here. Having said that, I have found that doing research in industry very similar to doing research at Mayo, with the big caveat that since the postdocs are funded by NIH we have much more flexibility than permanent employees in what we work on. I’d say the biggest difference between research at Mayo or an academic institution is the culture. Here things are very 8-5.There is very little work on the weekends or ‘afterhours’, however, the hours are generally not ‘flexible”: people are in at 8 and leave at 5. Also, there is a much bigger emphasis here on training (safety and corporate) and company goals and bottom lines. I have enjoyed my industry post doc so far. I’ve enjoyed learning a new field, immunology, (although I feel like I’m a first year again sometimes 😉 and have gained a lot of insight about how things are done at companies, the personnel structure, the driving forces behind corporate research decisions and met a lot of great people!

Staff Scientist

Scientist/Lecturer in Academia
Name: Jessica Silva-Fisher
Mayo graduation date: May 2011
Type of Degree: PhD
Degree field: Biochemistry and Molecular biology-Cancer Biology
Current position, location, city, state: Staff Scientist/Lecturer, The Genome Institute at Washington University, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO (
Years at position: 1 yr, 6mths
Comments: Currently, I work under Dr. Elaine Mardis on a Normal Tissue Sequencing project and various other cancer projects utilizing and analyzing Next Generation Sequencing platforms including RNA sequencing, cDNA sequencing capture, and small RNA sequencing.  In addition, I utilize methylation arrays and other methylation techniques for identifying methylation signatures. My responsibilities include but are not limited to writing IRBs, creating project ideas, analyzing datasets, and collaborating with other Principle Investigators at Wash U. One risk I did take was to obtain a Staff Scientist job and not a postdoctoral fellowship, which has its positives (higher pay, higher position than postdoc, more independence) and its negatives (less mentoring, more responsibilities, harder to publish and apply to grants-at Wash U). The majority of experts I work with are computer scientist or bioinformaticist; as a biologist I learn something new everyday!

I also continue to participate in Diversity education teaching a graduate student preparation course to the Undergraduate Scholars program students here at TGI ( in the summer months.

2009 Graduates

Name: Steve Mooney
Mayo graduation date: June 2009
Type of Degree: PhD
Degree field: Biochemistry and Structural Biology
Current position, location, city, state: Instructor, Department of Urology, Johns Hopkins University College of Medicine
Years at position: 3 yr, 6mths
Comments: I work on a groups of genes known as Cancer Testis Antigens (CTAs). They are important since they are usually immune privileged and so are potentially highly immunogenic when they are re-expressed in cancer. These genes have an excellent chance of becoming therapeutic targets and biomarkers.


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