Off The Beaten Path: Nonacademic Careers of Neuroscience Graduates

By Amy Mahan, Editor

Originally published December 2007.

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.

dec42007Isadora F. Bielsky, Ph.D., 2005
Former Advisor: Larry Young
Patent Agent
McDonnell Boehnen Hubert & Berghoff LLP, Chicago, IL

My current position is Patent Agent and Technical Advisor at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert and Berghoff law firm in Chicago, IL. We are a “boutique” law firm that specializes in Intellectual property law. We have around 100 attorneys and 15 technical advisors all with backgrounds in science and engineering. Many of our attorneys have Ph.D.s in their fields as well. I assist attorneys and clients in all areas of Patent Prosecution (getting a patent) starting from reading the invention disclosure from the scientists and inventors, discussing their invention with them; writing the patent application, and then engaging in the lengthy process of corresponding and responding to Official Actions from the United States Patent Office. I have passed the Patent Bar and am thus licensed to deal with the US Patent Office directly. My areas are pharma, biotech and biomedical. Our clients range from some of the major pharmaceutical companies, to universities, to biotech start-ups to individual inventors. The best part is, I use my Ph.D. every day in writing and interpreting data and arguments from the inventors and the US Patent Office. I came to the career by researching what else I could do with the Ph.D. and discussing these options with people in these fields including patent law, consulting, and grant writing among others. I settled on patent law because it seemed to fit best with my personality. I did do a post-doc but quickly realized it wasn’t for me and left to take this job after one year.

dec52007Dottie Clower, Ph.D., 1996
Former Advisor: Garrett Alexander
Vice President of Business Development and Operations of Cohera Medical, INC.

I graduated from the Emory Neuroscience Program in 1996, and my advisor was Garrett Alexander. My research focused on the role of posterior parietal cortex in visuomotor coordination (published in Nature, 1996 Oct 17;383 (6601):618-21). I originally moved away from neuroscience research and toward biotechnology business development because I was looking for a position where I could have more direct long-term impact on patient care. I felt it was important for scientific discoveries and new technologies to be translated into the market where they can provide public benefit. I worked for three years as Assistant Director of the Office of Enterprise Development at the University of Pittsburgh, and in the course of my work I helped many talented academic inventors with interesting technologies move toward commercialization. The field of “technology transfer” is growing, and although there are not many training programs, there is a need for individuals who can understand complex scientific ideas as well as the market factors
that make a scientific discovery into a commercially viable product. I eventually joined Cohera Medical, one of the companies that I helped to create. I am currently Vice President of Business Development and Operations at Cohera. Our company is developing
a novel surgical adhesive for plastic surgery indications, and my responsibilities include management of product development, pre-clinical testing, manufacturing, and intellectual property. Cohera raised $6.8 million during its first fundraising, and we have strong grant support through the NIH’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program. I find my
current position more challenging and exciting than I ever imagined, and although I am no longer directly involved in neuroscience, the skills I gained during my time in research, such as grant writing and study design, have proved to be invaluable.

dec62007Clifford Michaels, Ph.D., 2007
Former Advisor: Stephen Holtzman
Intellectual Property Associate
Emory University
Office of Technology Transfer

I completed my degree in October, 2007, working in the lab of Stephen Holtzman in the Pharmacology department. My research focused on the impact of early-life stress on endogenous opioid systems and behavioral measures of reward. Currently, I am working as an Intellectual Property Associate with Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer. My primary responsibility is the overall management of the University’s intellectual property (patents, copyrights, etc.). In addition to that I am also responsible for ensuring the University’s compliance with US government laws and regulations, in particular the Bayh-Dole Act. I became interested in a career in technology transfer during my 4th year after attending one of the GDBBS career seminars focused on intellectual property and technology transfer. Following that seminar, I worked with one of the speakers to put together an internship opportunity in the office. Lucky for me, I also was blessed with a very supportive advisor who was willing to let me explore my career options while also working in the lab. I interned for 8 months and while writing my dissertation applied for a position in the office. In November I was hired and have been working here since then.

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