Speakers | Career Panel »

Keynote Speaker

  Kenneth Walsh

Kenneth Walsh, PhD
Boston University School of Medicine

Dr. Walsh is the Aram V. Chobanian Distinguished Professor of Medicine and the Director of the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Walsh, who received his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, examines molecular events that drive cardiovascular cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis. Over the past decade his laboratory has been investigating mechanisms of inter-tissue communication and how these systems contribute to physiological versus pathological tissue growth in the cardiovascular system.

Dr. Walsh has published more than 300 scientific articles, some of which have been cited more than 1000 times. He is the recipient of multiple research grants from the National Institutes of Health, including a MERIT Award. He is a member of the CCHF study section for NIH, and he is an Associate Editor for the journal Circulation. Dr. Walsh serves on numerous editorial boards including Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, Circulation Research, Science Signaling and others. Dr. Walsh was the recipient of the Irvine F. Page Award from the Council on Arteriosclerosis and was previously an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association. He is a 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Investigator Award from the American Heart Association.



  Jennifer Davis

Jennifer Davis, PhD
Research Instructor
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Dr. Davis is currently a research instructor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center where she is examining the molecular basis for wound healing and fibrotic remodeling through the programmed conversion of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts. She earned her Ph.D. with Joseph Metzger, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan where she was awarded an NIH Training Grant and an American Heart Association Predoctoral Fellowship. She pursued her postdoctoral research in Dr. Jeffery Molkentin's lab where she earned an NIH/NHLBI F32 Postdoctoral Fellowship and was most recently awarded an NIH/NHLBI K99/R00. Dr. Davis recently published her research in Developmental Cell, showing how TRPC6 is both necessary and sufficient for fibroblast to myofibroblast transdifferentiation and an appropriate cardiac and dermal wound healing response to injury. Furthermore this work identified TRPC6 as a nodal point linking profibrotic TGFβ signaling to calcineurin-NFAT, which then induces myofibroblast transformation.


  Myron Ignatius

Myron S. Ignatius, PhD
Research Fellow
Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Ignatius is interested in understanding how tumors grow at relapse. Relapse tumor is a major clinical problem where patients with relapse disease often fail to respond to conventional treatments. In Rhabdomyosarcoma, a childhood cancer of the muscle, less that 50% of patients survive relapse disease. Specifically, Dr. Ignatius studies tumorigenic cell populations that self-renew and/or metastasize using patient derived tumor cells, zebrafish, murine xenograft and established cancer cell lines. He began his scientific career with a strong interest in stem cell biology. This led him to the laboratory of Paul Henion, Ph.D., at The Ohio State University where he investigated how cell fate decisions are controlled in the neural crest, a multipotent embryonic cell population. His expertise in studying cell fate and differentiation helped facilitate his transition to studying Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma as a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. David Langenau at Massachusetts General Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ignatius has now uncovered how sub-populations of tumor cells are distinctly either self-renewing or responsible for tumor spread and in Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma can be distinguished by their stage of myogenic differentiation. His work suggested an important division of labor between cell types in a tumor and provides a rationale for the retention of large numbers of non-proliferating, non-self-renewing cells in cancer. These findings led to a high-impact publication in Cancer Cell. In the future Dr. Ignatius would like to identify genes or pathways that modify tumors at relapse with the long-term goal of finding drugable targets to bring to the clinic. In addition to his numerous publications, Dr. Ignatius was awarded a competitive MGH-ECOR-Fund For Medical Discovery postdoctoral fellowship and the Alex's Lemonade Stand "A" award in 2012. To facilitate his transition to independence, he applied for the NIH K99/R00 career development award that was funded by the NCI this year.


  Zhouxian Meng

Zhouxian Meng, MD, PhD
Research Investigator
Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan

Dr. Meng earned his M.D. and Ph.D. from Nanjing Medical University in China. He then joined the lab of Jiandie Lin, Ph.D., at the University of Michigan as a postdoctoral fellow where he was awarded a fellowship from the American Heart Association. Dr. Meng's long-term career goal is to establish an independent research program to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying obesity and its associated cardiovascular disease. He has spent his scientific career thus far training to attain this goal. His graduate studies examined pancreatic beta cell dysfunction in diabetes, while his more recent postdoctoral research has focused on the roles of chromatin remodeling factors in the regulation of muscle and liver metabolism in the context of obesity and diabetes. Dr. Meng's recent work elucidated a novel mechanism by which SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling factor Baf60c drives glycolytic muscle specification and improves glucose homeostasis in obese mice. These novel findings have resulted in first-author publications in Nature Medicine and Diabetes. Dr. Meng is the process of looking for a tenure-track position to set up his own lab to further explore the molecular basis of diabetes and new therapeutic strategies for metabolic disorders.


  Douglas Millay

Douglas P. Millay, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Texas Southwestern

Dr. Millay has built his career upon elucidating the molecular mechanisms involved in skeletal muscle development and disease. While a graduate student in Dr. Jeffery Molkentin's laboratory at the University of Cincinnati, he investigated the molecular mechanisms important for the progression of muscular dystrophy and identified cyclophilin D as a possible therapeutic target. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Eric Olson's lab, he continued his exploration of skeletal muscle by addressing the critical process of skeletal muscle fusion. In a recent Nature paper he identified how a novel protein, myomaker, is both necessary and sufficient for muscle fusion. Currently, he is exploring the possible role and therapeutic potential of myomaker in muscular dystrophy. His research has earned him multiple awards including an NIH Loan Repayment Award, an NIH/NRSA F32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, and a Muscular Dystrophy Association Development Award. He will be launching his independent group at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in 2014 and will be searching for motivated post-doctoral candidates, students, and technicians who would be interested in joining the laboratory.


  Norihiro Yumoto

Norihiro Yumoto, PhD
Postdoctoral Fellow
Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, New York University Medical Center

Prior to joining Dr. Steve Burden's laboratory at the Skirball Institute as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Yumoto earned his Ph.D. from Kyoto University. Throughout his training, he was awarded a research fellowship from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science during his graduate studies and a postdoctoral training grant from NYSTEM (New York State Stem Cell Science). As a graduate student Dr. Yumoto studied the regulatory role of ADAM19 in neuromuscular junction formation. His interest in studying the neuromuscular junction attracted him to the Burden lab, where he has recently published his research findings in Nature. This work elucidates how Lrp4 is able to coordinate both presynaptic and postsynaptic differentiation at the neuromuscular junction.


Career Development Panel

  Amanda Boyce

Amanda Boyce, PhD
Health Scientist Administrator, Program Officer
NIAMS at National Institutes of Health



  Sonia Kim

Sonia Kim, PhD
Manager for Marketing and Industry Partnerships Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO)
Northwestern University

Dr. Kim focuses on marketing strategy for new innovations and promoting INVO services within the University and its technologies to the industry. She helps educate Northwestern faculty and students on how INVO can best assist them in developing their technologies. She also works to increase the awareness of the great research and technologies at Northwestern. Prior to joining INVO, Dr. Kim worked for the office of Technology Licensing at Stanford University for four years where she helped with the marketing of inventions. She wrote marketing material, spanning both biological and physical sciences, and also performed market research, identifying companies and contracts for optimizing licensing opportunities. For her training, Dr. Kim earned a S.B. in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a M.Ed. from Harvard School of Education, and a Ph.D. in Cell biology from Harvard University. In addition to her work at Northwestern, she also has a start-up of her own, Photogator Inc., which she and her husband began in 2009.


  Carl Morris

Carl Morris, PhD
Senior Director, Rare Disease Research Unit
Pfizer, Inc.

Dr. Morris is a Senior Director for Pfizer's Rare Disease Research Unit, leading efforts in protein therapeutics and muscle biology programs. Currently, he is directing several programs, including one nearing completion of Phase I, and also leads a research group focused on developing protein therapeutic approaches for neuromuscular and other rare diseases. Prior to joining Pfizer in 2007, Dr. Morris was an Assistant Professor at Boston University School of Medicine and a member of the Muscle and Aging Research Unit following his Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania (Department of Physiology). His academic pursuits ranged from biophysical aspects of muscle contraction and enzyme kinetics to therapeutic interventions in a variety of in vivo disease models. During his time in industry, Dr. Morris has directed drug development efforts as a project leader for small molecule and biotherapeutic research programs, as well as leading research groups responsible for supporting and advancing both preclinical and clinical programs in development. His scientific and drug development experience includes investigations in muscle wasting, as well as tendon and bone repair biology. Dr. Morris holds a B.A. in Biology from Franklin Pierce College (NH) and a PhD in Physiology from UCLA.


  Kiersten Smith

Kiersten S. Smith, PhD
Senior Medical Writer
Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

As a Senior Medical Writer, Dr. Smith prepares clinical study and regulatory documents that support the Kalydeco® cystic fibrosis therapeutic program at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. She also currently serves as the Medical Writing Department co-program lead for Kalydeco; in this role she oversees program activities and manages the execution, completion, and delivery of deliverables that support clinical, safety, regulatory, and business needs.

Before joining Vertex in 2011, Dr. Smith was an Instructor for 1 year and a postdoctoral fellow for 3 years in the Laboratory of Genetic Neuropharmacology in the Department of Psychiatry at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Her research focused on examining the neurobiological underpinnings of anxiety, fear, and depression using GABAA transgenic and knockout mice. During this time she also helped her PI write and prepare numerous grant applications which helped secure federal funding for the laboratory. For her training, Dr. Smith earned a Ph.D. in Behavioral and Neural Science from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark, and a B.A. in Psychology from Barnard College.

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