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Past Retreats: 2015 Speaker Profiles

Science, The Arts & the World Keynote Address

Professor Graham Chedd

Professor Graham Chedd came to the United States in 1972 as a consultant to the AAAS's Public Understanding of Science program. He became a member of the small team that founded NOVA in 1974, first as Science Editor, later producing some half dozen episodes, including the award-winning Race for the Double Helix. In 1978 he executive produced for KCTS Seattle a six-part PBS series on bioethics, HARD CHOICES. He then joined the PBS archeology and anthropology series ODYSSEY as Senior Producer, producing three episodes, including the premier program Seeking the First Americans. After establishing the Chedd-Angier Production Company (in partnership with John Angier), he produced several episodes for FRONTLINE (including the Emmy-winning Sue the Doctor?), a joint NOVA/FRONTLINE special on the Strategic Defense Initiative, three episodes of “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age”, and three episodes of “Columbus and the Age of Discovery.” He also created and executive produced (with WGBH and the BBC) the six-part PBS series “The Secret of Life.”

In the early 1980s, Chedd-Angier created a one-hour magazine format science program for PBS, originally titled “Discover the World of Science”, later evolving into Scientific American Frontiers. In total Chedd-Angier produced over 80 hours of programming under these banners through 2005, the last 11 years with Alan Alda as host. Chedd produced, wrote, and directed some 30 of those hours. In 2008, he teamed with Alda to create the three-hour series “The Human Spark,” which won the 2010 AAAS/Kavli Prize for in-depth television science reporting. The most recent Alda/Chedd collaboration was the two-part PBS program “Brains on Trial,” broadcast in September 2013. Currently, Chedd is Visiting Professor at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

Career Keynote Address

Toby Freedman, Ph.D.

Dr. Toby Freedman is an author and Founder/President of Synapsis Search. A scientist by training, she transitioned into business as a recruiter, writer, and career development expert. Her book Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development (, published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, provides an in-depth and comprehensive overview of the many careers in the life sciences industry. Her book covers over 20 vocational areas ranging from venture capital to marketing and discovery research.

Toby founded her own recruiting firm, Synapsis Search, which is focused on life science R&D and business placements. She previously worked at BioQuest, an executive search firm, placing VP and CEO-level executives, and as Director of Business Development at SLIL Biomedical, a startup drug discovery company developing therapeutics for cancer and other diseases. She earned a Ph.D. in biology/molecular biology from UNC Chapel Hill, a B.S. from the University of California, and as an NIH Fellow, conducted postdoctoral research at Harvard University and at the University of Texas-Austin. Toby is also the Program Chair for the BioScience Forum, a non-profit educational forum serving the San Francisco biotechnology community.

Career Focus: Round Tables

Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D.

Dr. Shantanu Bhatt received his BS in Biology from Denison University, followed by his PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Emory University. While at NICHD in the lab of Dr. Gisela Storz, he identified and characterized the roles of a number of small proteins in various biological functions, while mentoring a number of students on their own independent research projects. In addition, he was actively involved in a number of teaching courses sponsored by NICHD and FAES. In 2013, Dr. Bhatt accepted a teaching appointment at Saint Joseph’s University where he is currently involved in both teaching and research mentoring.

Melissa Crocker, M.D., MBA

Dr. Melissa Crocker graduated from Harvard College with a B.A. in biochemistry. After working for a year at a biostatistical firm providing support for pharmaceutical based clinical trials, Melissa returned to Boston to obtain a combined MD/MBA from Tufts University. She then completed her pediatric residency at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC and her pediatric endocrine fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. While at the NIH, Melissa worked in the Section on Growth and Obesity (SGO) in Dr. Jack Yanovski's lab where she studied the relationship between obesity and growth and puberty. She also worked with Dr. Deborah Merke on the use of adrenalectomy in congenital adrenal hyperplasia and with Dr. Constantine Stratakis on aromatase inhibitor treatment in patients with large cell calcifying sertoli cell tumors. Melissa is now an attending in pediatric endocrinology at Boston Children's Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her clinical practice focuses on pediatric obesity, pediatric type 2 diabetes, and general pediatric endocrinology. She is a member of the scientific review committee for the endocrine, GI, nephrology, and ICU departments.

Katherine Donigan, Ph.D.

Dr. Katherine Donigan received her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Lehigh University in 2005. She earned her Ph.D. in genetics from Yale University in 2011, where her studies focused on tumor-associated mutations in human DNA repair genes. She then went on to a postdoctoral fellowship in the Laboratory of Genomic Integrity at NICHD, where she studied DNA damage tolerance and translesion DNA synthesis. While at NIH, Katherine participated in the fellows-run Science Policy Discussion Group and ran the group’s blog, Science Policy For All.

In 2013, she was selected as the 12th Genetics and Public Policy Fellow, a fellowship program cosponsored by the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). During her fellowship, Katherine spent the first several months at NHGRI working on genetics policy issues in the Program and Policy Analysis Branch in the Office of the Director. In her second fellowship rotation, she served as a Congressional Health Fellow in the Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren where she worked on health and science issues. Her fellowship concluded at ASHG, where she gained experience working in the non-profit advocacy sector.

In 2014, Katherine accepted a position on the Personalized Medicine staff in FDA’s Office of In Vitro Diagnostics in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health. In this position, she assists with the development and implementation of regulatory policy related to personalized medicine, including the FDA’s recent proposal to begin actively regulating laboratory developed tests.

Ryan Fuchs, Ph.D.

Dr. Ryan Fuchs received his bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in microbiology from The Ohio State University in 2002 and 2009, respectively. During his graduate work at Ohio State, he studied bacterial RNA riboswitches in the lab of Dr. Tina Henkin. From 2009 to 2011 he was a postdoctoral fellow at NICHD in the lab of Dr. Gisela Storz where his research focused on small proteins of unknown function in E. coli.

In 2011, Ryan accepted a position as a research scientist at New England Biolabs in Massachusetts. His position is in the RNA biology division under the guidance of the division head, Dr. G. Brett Robb. In addition to basic research projects, Ryan contributes to projects that are focused on developing products or expanding applications for existing products.

Deborah Henken, Ph.D.

Dr. Deborah Henken earned her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and her doctorate from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, where her studies focused on regeneration in the visual system of the goldfish. After a year at Oxford University, she moved back to the States to complete her postdoctoral training at the (then) Medical College of Pennsylvania focusing on regeneration in the mammalian peripheral nervous system. She then moved to the Intramural programs of NIH, where she spent five years at NINDS studying a virus-induced mouse model of nervous system plasticity. She transitioned from the Intramural programs to the Extramural programs through the Grants Associate (GA) program. This program offered the opportunity to spend one year of intensive training in all aspects of extramural grant administration and policy. She has done extensive rotations in review, program and policy in many of NIH’s Institutes and Centers as well as the Office of the Director. She was the last person to graduate from the program before it was terminated and has the added distinction of being the only one to give birth during the program!

Upon completion of the GA program, she took a position as a Program Officer at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), where she has responsibility for a varied and extensive portfolio in Developmental Neurobiology. For the last year, she has also been on detail at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), where she is the Acting Director of the Office of Extramural Research Activities and oversees Review and Grants Management Branches.

In addition to her scientific and administrative duties, she is active in science education, the NIH Recreation and Welfare Association, child care (past chair of the NIH Child Care Board), and promoting the careers of women in science. She is a founding member of the Bethesda Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and has served in a number of leadership roles over the years including president and secretary. She has received numerous Merit and Mentoring awards from the NICHD, NIMHD, and the NIH.

Matthew Kohn, Ph.D.

Dr. Matthew Kohn received his B.A. in Biology from Williams College, a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Columbia University, and completed a postdoc with Dr. Melvin DePamphilis in the Program in Genomics of Differentiation at NICHD. Dr. Kohn’s research interests were in preimplantation development and stem cells, using the mouse as a model system. After completing his postdoc, Matthew joined NYSTEM, the New York State Stem Cell Research program, as a Science Officer. As Science Officer, he is responsible for overseeing a portfolio of 50-plus research projects, ranging from basic, fundamental research, through translational and clinical projects, in addition to facilities and educational programs. Matthew is also involved in strategic planning for the program, preparation of Requests for Applications, and design of funding mechanisms.

In addition to his position with NYSTEM, Matthew is program coordinator for the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program at Wadsworth Center, the New York State Department of Health’s research laboratory, and a member of Wadsworth’s Clinical Laboratory Reference System, responsible for review of validation packages for genetic testing. Matthew is also a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University at Albany School of Public Health.

Malaiyalam Mariappan, Ph.D.

Dr. Malaiyalam Mariappan received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Biochemistry from University of Madras, India, and then completed a Ph.D. at the University of Goettingen, Germany, studying the molecular basis of multiple sulfatase deficiency, a rare lysosomal disorder, in Dr. Kurt von Figura’s lab. In 2007, he joined Dr. Ramanujan Hegde’s lab at the NICHD studying the mechanism of tail anchored proteins insertion into the endoplasmic reticulum. In 2012, he joined the Department of Cell Biology at Yale School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor. His lab is interested in understanding mechanisms involved in the unfolded protein response (UPR) that detects the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum and initiates a cellular response to maintain protein homeostasis.

Saravana Murthy, Ph.D.

Dr. Saravana Murthy is a senior scientist at Scanogen Inc, a start-up company at Johns Hopkins Fastforward. Saravana completed his master’s degree at Bangalore University, India and earned his Ph.D. degree in Molecular Neuroendocrinology at Max Planck Institute, Goettingen, Germany. Here Saravana worked on the characterization of SK2 channels and its splice variants using mouse models under the guidance of Prof. Joachim Spiess. He continued his graduate studies as a visiting Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaii.

Saravana joined Dr. Peng Loh’s lab for his postdoctoral training, later as a research fellow at NICHD. He studied a novel splice variant of Carboxypeptidase E, ∆N-CPE and its mechanism in metastasis. CPE-ΔN is a patented powerful biomarker for predicting metastasis and recurrence in several human cancers. Saravana’s research interests include development of early diagnostic tests sand he is an aspiring entrepreneur. At Scanogen, he is involved in the development of assays for rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests for cancer and infectious diseases.

Fellow Speakers

Afrouz Anderson

Afrouz Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Davis, and NIH, majoring in biomedical engineering. She has a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, Collage Park. Her research focus is the use of noninvasive functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy to analyze and understand the cognitive function in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). She has experience in data acquisition and analysis, programming, and device improvement. She is currently working at NICHD, in the Section for Analytical and Functional Biophotonics (SAFB) under the guidance of Dr. Amir Gandjbakhche.

Eric Horstick, Ph.D.

Dr. Eric Horstick is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Harold Burgess in NICHD. He received his B.S. in Biology from Bloomsburg University and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in the laboratory of Dr. John Kuwada. After his Ph.D., Dr. Horstick did a translational research postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. James Dowling before transitioning to the NIH. Currently, his research is focused on using zebrafish to identify and characterize genes and neural circuits important for the development and regulation of sensory evoked behaviors and human disease.

Shardul Kulkarni, Ph.D.

Dr. Shardul Kulkarni received his Ph.D. in Biotechnology from the University of Pune, India in 2013 under the guidance of Dr. Vasudevan Seshadri. During his doctoral training, he worked on understanding the regulation of insulin biosynthesis in pancreatic β-islets under glucose stimulating conditions. Currently, he is working as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Jon Lorsch, Section on the Mechanism and Regulation of Protein Synthesis, focusing on understanding the mechanism(s) behind the regulation of translation initiation under several stress conditions, using yeast as a model system to study the biochemical and biophysical aspects of start codon recognition.

Rose G. Radin, Ph.D., MPH

Dr. Rose G. Radin joined the Epidemiology Branch of NICHD’s Division of Intramural Population Health Research (DIPHR) in 2014 as a postdoctoral fellow. Her research interests include the etiology of infertility and issues of study design in reproductive epidemiology. She earned her doctoral degree in Epidemiology from Boston University’s School of Public Health. There, she was supported by the T-32 training grant in reproductive epidemiology and researched determinants of time-to-pregnancy in a prospective study of time-to-pregnancy in Denmark. While completing her Master of Public Health degree at BUSPH, she was a data analyst working on etiologic research of uterine fibroids in the Black Women’s Health Study. Prior to her doctoral studies, she worked on campaigns and program evaluation at Oxfam America and at a rural development agency in Bolivia. She received her Bachelor of Science degree with a major in economics from MIT.

Alex Szatmary, Ph.D.

Dr. Alex Szatmary is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Ralph Nossal, in the Program of Physical Biology, where he is using mathematical modeling to study assays for chemotaxis and mechanisms for chemotactic signal relay. He is also studying how localization and dimerization of adhesion molecules affect neutrophil adhesion in inflammation. He is currently teaching Survey of Biomedical Physics at FAES. He earned his A.S. at Harford Community College and his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. As an undergraduate researcher at the Army Research Laboratory, he developed tools for measuring material properties and got to work on a particle accelerator. In his graduate work, he studied computational methods for modeling fluid-structure interaction and used these methods to study deformation of synthetic elastic capsules and the significance of cell membrane stiffness in neutrophil adhesion under flow.

Gernot Wolf, Ph.D.

Dr. Gernot Wolf received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Aarhus University in the laboratory of Dr. Finn Skou Pedersen, where his research was focused on target-specific silencing of retroviral vectors and endogenous retroviruses in mice and pigs. Since joining the NIH in the lab of Dr. Todd Macfarlan in 2013, Dr. Wolf’s work has focused on new projects concerning repression of endogenous retroviruses and their contribution to novel transcriptional networks in mammals. He has identified several new KRAB zinc finger proteins that evolved to repress endogenous retroviruses and described a histone variant that is incorporated into endogenous retroviruses by a specific replication-independent histone chaperone.