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Past Retreats: 2008 Speaker Profiles

Elaine Diggs is one of four certified career counselors staffing the Career Counseling Center in the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at NIH. Previously, she worked for the American Chemical Society in Washington, DC, where she assisted with conducting leadership conferences for ACS volunteer leaders. Most of her time at ACS was spent in the Department of Career Services, where she managed a career mentoring program for chemical scientists and provided assistance with job search strategies, resume reviews, mock interviews, and job loss counseling.

Before her work counseling scientists, Ms. Diggs served as an academic advisor and career counselor for college and university students at several institutions, including Indiana University and Pennsylvania State University. Early in her career, she worked as a research assistant at the Wilmer Eye Institute and in a tumor immunology laboratory at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Ms. Diggs holds a master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Goucher College. She is certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Kalpana Gupta, Ph.D., is Director, New Alliances and Initiatives, Research and Development, with International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) in New York. Dr. Gupta has been with IAVI for seven years and worked on HIV/AIDS for the past 14 years. Dr. Gupta heads the New Alliances Unit and leads a team focused on identification and evaluation of new technologies that can inform the design and development of the next generation of HIV vaccines. As a member of the R&D Management Committee, she is involved in portfolio management and long-term strategic planning. During her tenure at IAVI, Dr. Gupta has been involved in numerous organizational initiatives. Most recently she has dedicated her efforts to launching a seed capital fund focused on early phase “out-of-the-box” ideas. Prior to joining IAVI, Dr. Gupta worked for the WHO-UNAIDS HIV Vaccine Initiative in Geneva on issues of access and availability of future AIDS vaccines.

Dr. Gupta graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, studied at JHU-Bloomberg School of Public Health and SAIS, and received a BS in Biology (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Trinity College in Washington, DC. Dr. Gupta also has a bachelor of fine arts in Indian classical dance. She is a Scientific Advisory Board Member of Los Alamos National Laboratory HIV Vaccine Database and has participated in numerous science and policy forums on HIV vaccines and new technologies to address neglected diseases.

Pier Francesco Ferrari, Ph.D., completed his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences in 1992 at the University of Parma, then his doctoral degree in Ethology in 1997, also at the University of Parma. His doctoral work was on the neural bases of social behavior and cognition in rodents. Part of this work was carried out at the Dept. of Psychology, University of Leeds and at the St. George’s Hospital, University of London, UK. From 1997 to 1998 he worked at Tufts University in Boston, on a Guggenheim postdoctoral fellowship, which he continued in Parma, where he became a research fellow at the Department of Neuroscience, studying the neural bases of social cognition in monkeys. He was then appointed as a contract Professor in Neuroscience in the School of Psychology, University of Parma, where he is currently Assistant Professor in Biology at the School of Medicine, and also Adjunct Researcher at the NICHD, NIH, in Poolesville, Maryland.

Dr. Ferrari’s research interests have focused on the neuroethology of animal social behavior and on the cognitive processes underlying it. In the last ten years, his main focus has been the role of parietal and premotor cortical functions in relation to social cognition in macaques. In particular, he is interested in the role of mirror neurons in monkey social cognition. Another line of research concerns the development of cognitive processes in nonhuman primates and those behaviors related to the capacity of primates to imitate.

Freda Miller, Ph.D., is a cell and molecular developmental neurobiologist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, and Professor at University of Toronto. She is the Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurobiology, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and an elected Councillor of the American Society for Neurosciences. Dr. Miller has authored more than 100 scientific papers, reviews, and book chapters and has 13 patents (issued and pending).

Dr. Miller is best known for her studies of neural stem cells and of neuronal growth, survival, and apoptosis. Major findings from her lab have provided evidence that adult mammalian skin contains a multipotent neural crest-related stem cell that can be isolated and purified, that the p75 neurotrophin receptor is apoptotic and plays a growth inhibitory role in neurons, and that the p53 family members, p73, and p63 play a critical role in determining the life versus death of mammalian neurons. Dr. Miller has also patented methods for isolating dermal stem cells, and systems for studying neuronal life, growth, and death.

Dr. Miller obtained her Ph.D. in Medical Sciences from the University of Calgary in 1984 and completed her postdoctoral research at the Scripps Research Foundation with Drs. F. E. Bloom and R. J. Milner. She then held faculty positions at the University of Alberta and the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University prior to moving to her current position in 2002. Dr. Miller is also a founder of Aegera Therapeutics Inc., and a founding consultant of Aggregate Therapeutics, two Canadian biotechnology companies.

Peter Soderman is a landscape designer and owner of Bohemian Grove Landscaping in New Jersey. A self-described ideas catalyst, he is one of three developers of Quark Park, along with architect Kevin Wilkes and landscape architect Alan Goodheart. The park’s sculpture garden was a collaboration of scientists and engineers from Princeton University to transform a vacant lot in Princeton with creative installations, in 2006. Among the participating scientists were Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, professor of molecular biology, Nobel Prize winner and physicist Dr. Freeman Dyson, and Dr. Tracy Shors, a neuroscientist from Rutgers University. An earlier Soderman project in Princeton is “Writer’s Block” (2004), and “Poets’ Alley” is currently under development.

Soderman’s inspiration about communicating science through art originated in part with an article by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “The Hubris of the Humanities,” in which he talks about our culture’s profound illiteracy in science. The quark project, in a public space, brought otherwise tucked-away scientists into public view. Ideas and soil meshed, the language of science was both translated and transformed.

Mark Stopfer, Ph.D., received his B.S. and Ph.D. from Yale University where, with Tom Carew, he applied behavioral and electrophysiological techniques to study mechanisms underlying simple forms of learning. He then joined Gilles Laurent's laboratory at the California Institute of Technology where he examined the information processing properties that emerge within ensembles of neurons, focusing particularly upon oscillatory and synchronous neural activity. Dr. Stopfer came to NIH in 2002. His laboratory within NICHD studies how groups of neurons interact to form transient and enduring representations of sensory experiences.

Simona Volpi, Ph.D., is an associate director of research, working in industry and at the bench with Vanda Pharmaceuticals in Rockville, Maryland. She is involved in the management of several pharmacogenetics projects. Dr. Volpi received her Ph.D. from the University of Milan, Italy, and did her postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Greti Aguilera in NICHD.

Kevin Wilkes, AIA, holds a Master’s degree in Architecture from Yale University and taught studio classes at the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture. The founder of Princeton Design Guild, a design-build collaborative of architects and craftsmen, he also established Princeton Occasions in 2004, a nonprofit with the objective of designing and building special-event gardens. Quark Park, 2006, was one of the creations of the group and represents a collaboration of science and art.

Wilkes is active in civic organizations in Princeton and has been recognized by the AIA and the State of New Jersey for his work, which has also been featured in Architectural Digest, Landscape Architecture, and Fine Homebuilding.

Fellow Speakers

Aarthi Ashok, Ph.D., is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program and her advisor is Ramanujan S. Hegde, M.D., Ph.D. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Sheffield in the UK and her Ph.D. in Molecular & Cellular Biology and Biochemistry from Brown University. Dr. Ashok’s principal research interests have been in the cell biology of human pathogens and genetically inherited disorders. Her current focus is on the cell biology of heritable human prion diseases.

Patricia Burgos, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program of NICHD, working with Dr. Juan Bonifacino. She received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry at the University Austral of Chile, and her Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. As a biochemist and cell biologist she has always been deeply interested in the study of diseases at a molecular level, with a particular focus on studying the molecular basis of how proteins move along organelles in the secretory pathway, to help understand many of the unsolved questions about human disease.

Oishee Chakrabarti, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program of NICHD, and her advisor is Ramanujan S. Hegde, M.D., Ph.D. She received her undergraduate degree in Zoology (Honours) from the Benaras Hindu University, India and her Ph.D. in Life Sciences studying the modulation of cellular signaling pathways by the HPV16 E6 oncogene in cervical cancer from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, TIFR, India. Her present research focuses on understanding the actual mechanism of neurodegeneration in prion diseases.

Anelia Dafinova Horvath, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Section of Genetics and Endocrinology at NICHD, directed by Constantine Stratakis M.D., D(med)Sci. She received an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology from Sofia University in Bulgaria and her Master’s in Molecular Biology and Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the Medical University of Sofia, Bulgaria. Her major research interest is in the field of human genetics, and her postdoctoral career has focused on the genetics and expression background that underlies adrenocortical neoplastic transformations. Under her mentor, her research efforts led to the identification of two novel genes (phosphodiesterases 11A and 8B) that predispose adrenocortical tumorigenesis. She has also conducted research on novel types of mutations in one of the regulatory subunits of PKA and their mechanisms of action.

Matthew Kohn, Ph.D., received his B.A. from Williams College and Ph.D. from Columbia University in the laboratory of Dr. Lili Yamasaki, where he discovered that DP1, part of the E2F heterodimeric transcription factor was required for DNA replication in trophoblast lineages but was not required for embryonic development. He is now a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Melvin DePamphilis, in the Program in Genomics of Development. His principal research interests are fate determination and specification in preimplantation mammalian embryos, and function of the trophoblast tissues.

Elena Makareeva, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Section of Physical Biochemistry, directed by Sergey Leikin, Ph.D., in NICHD. She received an undergraduate degree in chemistry in 1994 from the Nizhnii Novgorod State University, Russia and her Ph.D. in biophysics in 1999 from the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. Her principal research interests are in applying biophysical/biochemical methods to uncover molecular mechanisms of connective tissue diseases (osteoporosis, Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, etc.) caused by abnormalities in type I collagen.

Carolyn M. Ott, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz in the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program of NICHD and a fellow in the NIGMS Pharmacology Research Associate (PRAT) Program. She received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, where she studied the structure-function relationship of a key photosynthetic enzyme. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco where she studied the mechanisms of membrane protein biosynthesis with Dr. Vishwanath Lingappa. Dr. Ott's postdoctoral work has focused on using imaging techniques to study primary cilia in mammalian cells.

Matthew D. Phillips, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Heiner Westphal’s Laboratory of Mammalian Molecular Genetics, NICHD. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Rochester in Biological Sciences: Molecular Genetics (B.S.) where he worked in the laboratory of Stan Hattman on transcriptional control in bacteriophage Mu. He performed his doctoral work in Graham Thomas’s laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, writing his thesis on the role of the cytoskeleton in Drosophila melanogaster epithelial development and polarity. His principal research interest is the molecular-level regulation of development, especially during organogenesis.