Off The Beaten Path: Nonacademic Careers of Neuroscience Graduates

Amy Mahan, Editor

Originally published September 2008.

In the past, graduates of the Emory Neuroscience program have been very successful at obtaining academic post-docs and then professorships at many prestigious universities. However, many of us are uncertain if we want to follow the traditional career path. Below are the profiles of three very successful alumni who have pursued other career paths. They highlight some of the many opportunities that are available to Emory graduates with a PhD in Neuroscience.

sulcus90Mark Borsody, M.D. PhD, 1996
Former Advisor: Jay Weiss
Astellas Pharma/Northern Neurosciences Inc.

After graduate school I went to medical school and then into neurology residency fellowship subspecializing in stroke neurology. Along the way I completed a basic science postdoctoral fellowship at the Ohio State University and the University of Chicago, and some clinical postdoctoral research for the American Heart Association. Currently I work as director of CNS drug development programs for Astellas Pharma US in Chicago. Our portfolio involves several candidate drugs for Alzheimer’s Disease, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain. Furthermore, I volunteer as a director for Northern Neurosciences, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity organization that supports neuroscience research programs.

I took this career choice because it seemed a natural fit for a medical science background. It is the truest form of translational science that I have seen, and the research seems to have the greatest impact in terms of health care. I would be happy to speak with any Emory student who feels this might be of interest as a career path.

sulcus91Lisa Stanek, PhD, 2005
Former Advisor: Mike Davis and Kerry Ressler
Staff Scientist, Genzyme Corporation Cambridge, Massachusetts

I am currently a staff scientist at Genzyme Corporation, a biotechnology company based out of Cambridge, Mass. I run the Huntington’s Disease Research program. Broadly, I conduct in vitro and in vivo experiments to evaluate treatment strategies for Huntington’s Disease. My job involved designing experiments, managing research associates, fostering collaborations with academic labs as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, attending meetings on relevant projects and analyzing data.

After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard I was pretty sure that academia was not for me. I thought I would give industry a chance to compare and contrast the two. I have been at my position at Genzme for over 7 months now and I am certain that I made the right choice by coming to Industry. I love my job and really enjoy the research project that I’ve developed. I have more diverse day to day activities and I really enjoy the structured environment as well as the clinically oriented research goals that the industry setting provides. I absolutely love my job and find my career exceptionally rewarding.

sulcus92Will Clower, PhD, 1996
Former Advisor: Garrett Alexander
CEO Mediterranean Wellness

Recently, Dr. Clower came to Emory to talk the Mediterranean Diet for as part of Step UP Emory.

Will Clower, one of the first graduates of the Neuroscience program at Emory, is CEO and founder of a company called Mediterranean Wellness. Mediterranean Wellness is an Comprehensive Wellness Program provider dedicated to bringing the latest in nutritional information, behavioral approaches, and creative strategies for health cost containment for our clients.

So how did a neuroscience graduate student go on to be a CEO of a company focused on nutrition and healthy lifestyles? After obtaining a Ph.D. from Emory in 1996 Will Clower and his wife Dottie Clower, both got postdoctoral fellowships at France’s Institute of Cognitive Science. In his free time while in France, Dr. Clower took an interest in cultural comparisons between France and the United States in everything from their laws to their diets to the different ways that the French conduct science. While in France, Dr. Clower began to publish on these differences in culture. What stood out the most was the diet and lifestyle differences, which is how he began to articulate the Mediterranean Wellness plan that is company is designed around.

When Dr. Clower returned to the United States, he began getting requests to give talks on this Mediterranean Wellness plan. Talks evolved into the creation of a website, which then evolved into a newsletter, which eventually evolved into Mediterranean Wellness, LCC as it exists today.

When I asked Dr. Clower, what he learned in graduate school that was most important for the development of his career, he replied that in his seven years at Emory, “learning how to learn” (Continued from page 2) was the most valuable skill that he acquired. Our understanding how the brain works will change over time, and trying to make your mark by the research you do in graduate school is like “trying to write your name in water.” The discoveries that you make during graduate school may or may not become a lasting dogma in your field, but the ability to learn new things is a far more valuable skill in the long run.

In addition learning how to “speak science” has served him well when interpreting and disseminating nutritional information to the lay public. Dr. Clower has been very successful at communicating this information through his publications and books such as The Fat Fallacy, The French Don’t Diet, and his latest interview with Barbara Walters.

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