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How I Stumbled All the Way from Postdoc to Dream Job: Careers Under the Microscope

An article out of the Boston Globe offered staggering numbers on the state of postdocs in Boston in 2014. 8,000 postdocs and fewer than 1,000 faculty positions.About five years ago, that was me. Wrapping up a productive postdoc with no idea as to what I should be doing or where I should be doing it. My lab at Harvard was dissolving due to our inability to renew funding. My husband had recently found a position in Boston after two years of living semi-cross country due to my coveted postdoc, so I couldn’t go back to the Midwest now! I applied for hundreds of positions—Medical Science Liason (MSL), medical writing, editorial jobs, clinical research—the list goes on. And on. I didn’t hear back from 80% of these jobs, so I could only assume my lack of experience outside of academia was my kryptonite.After a few months of searching, I started to focus on scientific publishing and found a position at a small local startup journal, JoVE. A small scientific publisher was seemingly a perfect fit. While my short time at JoVE whet my appetite for publishing, and in a grassroots manner, it was not a great fit for me. I explored other options on the side by freelance writing and editing for another publisher and other companies. It was sometimes very interesting work, but still wasn’t the right fit.

I continued my search, almost two years after my postdoc. I had the Cell Career Network, Nature Jobs, and all as favorites in my browser and my first stop, Every. Single. Morning.

When would I give up and realize I was one of the “lucky ones”? I’d completed a postdoc at a reputable institution with an advisor that I admired, a wonderful mentor who guided me and made sure I found a job before we dissolved our lab. But I’m me, and I couldn’t be happy until the fit was perfect. What I missed about the lab was my ability to mentor others, give guidance on their projects as the senior postdoc in the lab, and the everyday challenge of problem solving (except western blots—I really hated western blots). I realized I hadn’t been challenged in any of these positions since my postdoc. At all. And, in my three-month stint of medical writing, I really wasn’t using my scientific background either. So, I focused my search on positions that seemed challenging to me while also utilizing my training.

By networking, applying, and interviewing for a few positions at Cell Press, I finally found it.

My position here at Cell Press isn’t that of a typical scientific editor. I don’t run a journal or read your exciting, unpublished articles. I’m the only scientist in our business development department (not counting Emilie, our CEO). Not only do I run our scientific conferences, Cell Symposia, the Cell Press Webinar series, but I also get to consult on many projects that come out of Cell Press. It’s very exciting. Every day is a challenge, and it’s rarely ever the same from day to day. One day I’m consulting on which are the hottest papers to come out of Cell, the next I’m flying to Europe or Asia for a conference or meeting with my international colleagues. I also have the opportunity to work with my colleagues on our editorial team to plan Cell Symposia, do a bit of scientific writing and blogging, and consult on marketing, sales, and many other projects.

Photo Inset: Meet the Editors session at Cell Symposium: Hallmarks of Cancer in Beijing, China.
From left to right: Emilie Marcus, EIC of Cell and CEO of Cell Press, Debbie Sweet, EIC of Cell Stem Cell, Helena Yang, Deputy Editor of Cancer Cell, Jiaying Tan, Scientific Editor, Cell, and the author.

During my job search from postdoc until now, I stumbled quite a bit. Many days I felt hopeless. Yet, while these interim positions were not the right fit, I learned valuable lessons and skills that were necessary for my current position. It would have been impossible for me to land my current job without the experience that I gained from my previous positions.

What I’ve learned in these last few years is to embrace all of your professional experiences, even if they’re not the position that you really want in the long run. Chances are those skills will translate to that perfect position. Take stock in what it is that you really want. Do not get discouraged if you do not get your dream job at first. Remember what your that you’re probably luckier than you assume.

Doctoral Student Receives National Award To Help With Stroke Research

Kevin Nash, a doctoral teaching assistant in The University of Toledo Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, has received a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship in Pharmaceutical Sciences Award for his research in rational drug design and chemical synthesis with a focus on neurology.

The American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education presents the award to students in a graduate doctoral program in either pharmaceutical science or clinical pharmaceutical science who have potential to contribute to the field and ultimately impact patient and public health.



Nash is among 38 students who received the nationally competitive award, which includes a $10,000 stipend that he will use toward purchasing supplies for his research.

“My project is on stroke research; stroke is the fifth leading cause of death,” Nash said. “There’s really no treatment for stroke right now other than restoring blood flow, but cutting off blood flow to the brain for even a few minutes causes severe cell death, and there’s no treatment to stop that cell death and to protect the neurons from dying after the blood flow has been cut off.

“So I’m designing a drug that will hopefully be able to sense where that cell death is occurring and inhibit an enzyme that produces damaging molecules to protect neurons and other brain cells from damage.”

He is conducting his doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Zahoor Shah, associate professor in the UT Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

“The people here are very collaborative and like to work with each other,” Nash said. “I’m actually working in Dr. Shah’s lab and in Dr. [Isaac] Schiefer’s lab since he has a background in synthesis. So where Dr. Shah isn’t necessarily as familiar with a concept, another professor is willing to step in and help.”

Schiefer is an assistant professor in the UT Department of Medicinal and Biological Chemistry.

The American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education is a national organization dedicated to advancing and supporting pharmaceutical sciences education in the United States.

For more information on the foundation, visit

Lunch with the Presidents

Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey held up a Toledo jersey before she served lunch to UT President Sharon L. Gaber and UT Student Government President Cody Spoon, left, and UT Graduate Student Association President Eric Prichard. Watch a video about the friendly wager over the rivalry game.

Gaber and Mazey


Graduate Certificate for Teaming in Early Childhood

Teaming in Early Childhood

Graduate Student Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards Available

Awards Flyer 2016-page-001

Ohio Third Frontier Internship Information Session

OTF Internship Information Session

International Ranking With Greater Research Emphasis Rates UT Well Among Ohio Universities

An international ranking for institutions of higher education that emphasizes research and a school’s dissemination of knowledge placed The University of Toledo in good standing among its Ohio peers and provides a benchmark against which UT can judge future improvements.

This is the first time the University has submitted data to the Times Higher Education World University rankings, which listed UT in the range between 501 and 600 of all institutions of higher education worldwide.

rankings webThe Times Higher Education rankings provide a greater balance between undergraduate education and graduate education and research than rankings such as those in U.S. News and World Report that are heavily weighted toward undergraduate studies, said Dr. Ying Liu, UT director of institutional research.

“While no rankings method is perfect, all can be useful as long as you have a clear sense of what is being measured,” Liu said. “The Times Higher Education rankings provide a clearer measure of UT as a national research university and all that designation implies.”

Given the international nature of this evaluation of universities, institutions with greater levels of global diversity at the student and employee levels were rated higher. Universities whose faculty co-authored research papers with at least one researcher from another country also benefited.

“One of my primary goals is to elevate this University’s national and international standing,” said UT President Sharon L. Gaber. “And a big part of that is knowing where we stand today.

“These rankings show we are positioned fairly well among Ohio public universities. Our work in the years ahead will be to move that forward on a national level,” Gaber said.

Times Higher Education World University Rankings:

• 90 — Ohio State University – Main Campus
• 301-350 — University of Cincinnati – Main Campus
• 501-600 — The University of Toledo
• 501-600 — Kent State University at Kent
• 601-800 — Ohio University – Main Campus
• 601-800 — Miami University – Oxford

Life in Grad School Forum



Symposium Flyer 2015 Print version-page-001


Committed, intelligent and extremely busy are just a few of the qualities professors used to describe Adam Blatt.

When he heard that his professors had spoken well of him, Blatt sipped his coffee, chuckled and joked, “They’re just keeping it professional.”

But his repertoire proves that couldn’t be further from the truth.


Blatt is the recipient of two prestigious honors: the Dr. Freimer Excellence in Microbiology and Immunology Award and the Dr. Freimer MD/PhD Scholarship. The first is awarded to the student who receives the highest marks in the Infection and Immunity block of the medical curriculum, a course every medical student is required to take. The second is a $1,500 endowed fund that has been established to help support MD/PhD students conducting research in the Infection, Immunity and Transplantation track — and it’s not even awarded on a yearly basis.

“I was shocked when I found out,” Blatt said. “There were three other candidates that were all very good, so I was just shocked and felt a little lucky because I know they all do exceptional work.”

Blatt’s research takes up the majority of his time. Focusing on a group of proteins in the immune system, he looks at their role in cardiovascular diseases. The primary goal of his research is to identify targets for therapeutics to treat or prevent diseases associated with increased thrombosis — the clotting of blood in the circulatory system — and inflammation. The dissertation project is co-funded by a National Institutes of Health R01 grant and his American Heart Association Pre-Doctoral Fellowship.

“I really like the work; it’s challenging but definitely worth it.”

He’s completed two years of medical school and is spending his third year researching in the lab. Depending on the current round of experiments, he hopes to transition back to his final two years of medical school next summer.

“Adam has the qualities of an ideal graduate student, and I feel privileged to have him in my lab,” said Dr. Viviana Ferreira, associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology. “I am consistently impressed by his intelligence, resilience, commitment, drive, team spirit, and ability to learn and apply this knowledge. He is highly creative, with an excellent ability to detect pitfalls and propose alternative approaches when difficulties arise.”

Blatt works in Ferreira’s lab on his dissertation project. She’s also his PhD adviser.

“Aside from excelling in his medical training during his first two years of medical school, he has won many graduate awards, which are testament to his exemplary work ethic. I have no doubt he will make highly significant contributions as a future independent physician-scientist,” she said.

In addition to being exemplary in the classroom and the lab, Blatt was a student representative on the MD/PhD Faculty Committee, serves as president on the Council for Biomedical Graduate Students, assists with the microbiology labs for medical school, and volunteered to arrange dinners for MD/PhD student applicants during their interviews.

Dr. Earl Freimer, who the awards were named for, a co-founder of the Medical College of Ohio in 1968. He also served both as the founding chairman of the Department of Microbiology and as founding chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine. Freimer passed away in 2011; these scholarships were created in his honor after his death. Gifts may be made to the Earl H. Freimer Endowed Scholarship Fund at the UT Foundation

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