IBS Annual Career Day

We are tremendously grateful to the speakers who share their expertise and experience with us each year during our annual IBS Career Day.

Aisar Atrakchi, PhD


Dr. Atrakchi is a Pharmacology/Toxicology Supervisor in the Office of Neuroscience, Division of Psychiatry, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), at the Food and Drug Administration.  She joined the Agency in 1992 in the Division of Neuropharmacology Drug Products as a reviewer of drug applications for Neurology and Psychiatry indications. Dr. Atrakchi has been active as a member and Chair of a number of CDER and other Agency committees as well as Topic Lead on the ICH (International Council for Harmonization), Expert Working Group of Genotoxic Impurities, has contributed to a number of guidance documents for Industry and Reviewers, and has published in peer reviewed scientific journals.  Dr. Atrakchi earned an MS in Pharmacology from the University of Montana in Missoula, and Ph.D. in Pharmacology/Toxicology from the University of California at Davis.  Before joining the FDA she worked in a consulting firm as a Senior Toxicologist and Contracts Manager for the Environmental Protection Agency.  She was a Fogarty International Fellow in the Lab of Biophysics, NIH and did a postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Experimental Medicine at the George Washington University Medical School.

FDA ContactAisar Atrakchi on LinkedIn

Amy Avila, PhD


Dr. Avila received her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of Delaware in 1993 and her PhD in pharmacology from Georgetown University in 2003, with a focus in neuropharmacology. After completing her thesis research investigating the regulation of neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, she conducted post-doctoral research at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Avila worked in the Neurogenetics Branch studying the neuromuscular disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy and investigating pharmacological therapies using cell-based models and transgenic mouse models. In 2006, she joined the Food and Drug Administration as a pharmacologist/toxicologist reviewer in the Division of Psychiatry Products in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). She has been an active member of committees involved in developing and promoting advanced scientific education for reviewers within CDER and evaluating the utility of New Approach Methodologies into the drug review paradigm.

FDA contactSample job announcement, FDA

Jaclyn Brennan, PhD


Headshot style photo of Jaclyn Brennan, PhD. She is smiling.

Dr. Brennan received her B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech, her M.S degree in Bioengineering from the University of Oklahoma, and her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from The George Washington University with a focus on cardiac electrophysiology. She is an alumnus of the Whitaker International Fellowship program which she used to study cardiac cell mechanotaxis at Ecole Polytechnique in France. During her Ph.D., she founded GW COMPASS, a graduate student professional development organization dedicated to highlighting post-graduate career opportunities for scientists and engineers. She also cofounded the GW SciPolHub, GW’s official chapter of the National Science Policy Network (NSPN) which seeks to engage early career scientists and engineers with policy making through professional, social, and educational events. Dr. Brennan’s interests at the intersection of science and policy led her to her current role as a health policy fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves in the office of Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA-18), the Chairwoman of the Health Subcommittee within the Energy and Commerce Committee.

AMSE Bioengineering FellowshipsAAAS Fellowships & EligibilityJaclyn Brennan on LinkedIn

Rachel Burga, PhD


Headshot style photo of Rachel Burga, PhD.

Rachel is a biomedical engineer and immunologist, with a keen interest in developing innovative cancer therapies. She obtained her training in bioengineering from Columbia University, where she was drawn to the field of cell and tissue engineering. After additional years in research developing genetically modified CAR-T cells for liver metastases, she realized her passion truly lay in cancer immunotherapy, and she joined the IBS program at GW. During her PhD, Rachel was co-mentored by Dr. Cath Bollard and Dr. Rohan Fernandes, where her dissertation research focused on generating enhanced nano-immunotherapies for solid tumors. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University’s Neurosurgery department, developing genetically modified cell and RNAi therapies from brain tumors, Rachel continued to pursue her passion for developing novel cell therapies in her role as Senior Scientist at Obsidian Therapeutics, a small biotech company focused on regulatable cell and gene engineered products. As of 2022, Dr. Burga is now a Principle Scientist at Obsidian Therapeutics.

Company contactRachel Burga on LinkedIn

Nick Hand, PhD


Headshot style photograph of Nick Hand

Dr. Hand graduated from Bath University in UK in 2003 with an 'Applied' (1 year industry experience) Biochemistry undergraduate degree. He then worked as a research technician for 5 years at Johns Hopkins University in the Oncology Dept, gaining experience in 2 different labs. Following his time at Hopkins, he enrolled in the GW IBS program, earning a PhD in Microbiology & Immunology. After receiving his doctorate, he got a contracting position at GSK for 1 year in the Analytical R & D department, then contracted in Downstream for 1 year and was made permanent in 2019.

Company ContactNick Hand on LinkedIn

Carrie House, PhD

2020, 2021, 2022

Headshot style photo of Carrie House, PhD

Dr. House is an Assistant Professor of Cancer Biology at San Diego State University (SDSU) and a member of the Moores Cancer Center, University of California San Diego. She earned her BS in Biology from George Mason University and her PhD in Molecular Medicine from The George Washington University. She completed a Postbaccalaureate fellowship at the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the National Cancer Institute. Her research is dedicated to improving cancer outcomes by studying mechanisms of therapy resistance and disease relapse. Specifically, she examines the role of the tumor microenvironment and cancer stem cells in mediating survival and drug resistance in ovarian and breast cancers. While at NIH she received a Fellows Award for Research Excellence two years in a row, the prestigious Postdoctoral Research Training (PRAT) Award, and the Sallie Rosen Kaplan Postdoctoral Fellowship for Women Scientists. She received an NCI K99/R00 Transition to Independence Award and is a Co-Leader of an Obesity in Cancer Research Project funded by the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities.

Company Recruiting ContactSample Job Announcement (non-tenure)Sample Job Announcement (tenure)Carrie House on LinkedIn •  The House Lab

Michelle D. Jones-London, PhD


Headshot style photo of Michelle D. Jones-London, PhD

Dr. Michelle D. Jones-London serves as Chief, Office of Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity (OPEN). In this position, she plays a critical role in guiding the Institute’s diversity efforts. Dr. Jones-London joined NINDS as a Program Director in 2006. Dr. Jones-London earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. She then received postdoctoral training as a research fellow at University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Jones-London came to the NIH in July 2004 as an Emerging Leader Fellow; she performed duties across the Department of Health and Human Services including the Center for Scientific Review, FDA Office of Women's Health Science Program, and the Immediate Office of the Secretary, Intergovernmental/Tribal Affairs Office. Her trans-NIH efforts include oversight for the NIH Blueprint ENDURE and DSPAN (F99/K00) programs, the BRAIN Initiative Diversity K99/R00, former Project Scientist for the NIH National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and part of the leadership team for NIH Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST). Her research interests have focused on understanding monoaminergic neurotransmitter regulation and mechanisms of behavioral psychopharmacology in animal models of disorders such as ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, and depression.

Company Recruiting ContactSample Job AnnouncementMichelle Jones-London on LinkedIn


Elizabeth Necka, PhD


Headshot style photo of Elizabeth Necka, PhD

Elizabeth Necka is a Program Officer and the Program Chief of the Behavioral Science of Mental Disorders and Aging Program in the Geriatrics and Aging Processes Research Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health. Liz joins NIMH through the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, where she is working to advance recognition in the federal government of the contribution of the behavioral and social sciences. Dr. Necka received her Ph.D., as well as her master’s, in psychology from the University of Chicago. While there, she worked in Greg Norman’s lab, where her dissertation research examined the relations between hormonal fluctuations across the menstrual cycle and women’s perceptions of and behaviors towards others. Prior to joining NIMH, Liz worked as an intramural postdoc in the Affective Neuroscience and Pain Lab in the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

NIHM Recruiting ContactElizabeth Necka on LinkedIn

Shabnum Patel, PhD


Headshot style photograph of Shabnum Patel

Shabnum Patel, PhD is the Director of CMC and Technical Operations in the Center for Cancer Cell Therapy at Stanford University. Her interests are in the scale-up and translation of immuno-oncology research into Phase I/II clinical trials, with a focus on novel manufacturing platforms, product characterization technologies, and gene editing. She has worked extensively in the GMP field for cell therapy, focusing on the development and characterization of virus-specific T cell therapies and gene-modified cell therapies, and has published in each of these fields with an emphasis on HIV and cancer. She has experience building GMP CAR T operations within academia, working with CMOs and academic GMP facilities to tech transfer programs, conduct engineering and process qualification runs, and set up the infrastructure to support clinical manufacturing programs. Finally, she has worked with clinical and regulatory teams to contribute to CMC sections, develop appropriate documentation and SOPs to support clinical manufacturing needs, and train employees on critical procedures.

Company ContactShabnum Patel on LinkedIn


Indra Sarabia, PhD


Headshot style photograph of Indra Sarabia

Indra got her bachelor's of science in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2015. She received her PhD in Immunology and microbiology from the George Washington University in 2021, under the mentorship of Dr. Alberto Bosque. Her thesis work focused on in vitro tools for HIV-1 Research, and this work was supported by the Ruth L Kirschstein pre-doctoral F31 fellowship (NIH NIAID). Indra started working in industry shortly after graduating, and is currently working as a contractor at Janssen, in the discovery immunology department.

Company Recruiting Contact • Sample Job AnnouncementIndra Sarabia on LinkedIn


Elizabeth Stivison, PhD


Headshot style photograph of Elizabeth Stivison, PhD

Dr. Stivison loves all kinds of science. She is currently a post doc at Vanderbilt University, working on inositol signaling in the lab of Ray Blind, and a careers columnist for ASBMB, writing about academic careers. She got her PhD in 2019 at Columbia University, studying DNA repair in the lab of Lorraine Symington. Before grad school, she spent a few years as a technician at Massachusetts General Hospital studying brain tumors. She also spent some time working on tall ships studying and teaching about oceans and rivers. She currently lives in Nashville (very far from the ocean) with her adorable and enthusiastic dog, Milo.

Company contactElizabeth Stivison on LinkedIn

Kelsey Sugrue, PhD

2020, 2021, 2022

Headshot style photo of Kelsey Sugrue

Dr. Sugrue works at Palladian Partners, Inc., where she serves as a senior science writer on major communications contracts, including various Institutes, Centers, and Offices of the National Institutes of Health. She was trained as a developmental biologist, earning her B.S. in Molecular/Cellular Biology from Saint Mary’s College Notre Dame and her Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine from George Washington University. She conducted her dissertation research and held a postdoctoral position at the Children’s National Medical Center. As a science writer, Kelsey gets to put her passion in practice by translating complex scientific information into plain language for multiple audiences. She writes and edits scientific content for websites, social media, and print while adhering to each client’s priorities and specifications. She also works with leaders at NIH, including the director of NHLBI and the CEO of the All of Us Research Program, to develop presentations for their speaking engagements and provides strategic support for developing graphics, presentation templates, and speeches.

Company Contact • HR: recruiting@altarum.org •  Sample Job AnnouncementKelsey Sugrue on LinkedIn


Russell Williams, PhD


Headshot style photograph of Russell Williams

Russell is a scientist with experience in biotech industry research and development, especially large-scale assay development using next-generation sequencing. After receiving his Ph.D. from George Washington University and finishing a postdoctoral fellowship at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, he joined the R&D team at GeneDx, a clinical genetic testing firm. He then joined Leidos Biomedical Research as Genomics Team Lead, overseeing the technical execution of large-scale microarray and sequencing studies for the NCI. He is now a Senior Scientist at Meso Scale Diagnostics, where he is applying sequencing methods to optimize DNA nanosensors for their commercial assays.

Company Recruiting ContactSample Job Announcement