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Success Stories in Non-Academic Career Tracks: Overcoming the Barriers of an International Scientist in the USA

Success Stories in Non-Academic Career Tracks: Overcoming the Barriers of an International Scientist in the USA

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by Science Alliance


Join the Science Alliance (NYAS) and INet NYC as we discuss the career choices, challenges and support systems for international graduate students and post-docs in the US. Topics will include how to overcome major obstacles and challenges of being a foreigner in the US. Audience members will also have the opportunity to interact with our panelists and ask questions in the roundtables session and during the networking reception.

About INet NYC
INet NYC, founded in 2014 by two PhD students from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is an organization that provides support and guidance to all international graduate students and research fellows in science in the NYC area, by providing career development opportunities to overcome the obstacles that foreign scientists face. We offer opportunities that help foreign scientists expand their skill set, such a workshops and events with successful professionals, and offer access to a strong peer network of international graduate students and research fellows.

Registration Pricing

Member (Student / Postdoc / Resident / Fellow)$15
Nonmember (Student / Postdoc / Resident / Fellow)$25


* Presentation titles and times are subject to change.

May 12, 2015

6:00 PM – 6:10 PM

Science Alliance & INet NYC introduction

6:10 PM – 7:00 PM

Speakers Introduction

7:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Roundtable Discussion 1

7:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Roundtable Discussion 2

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Networking Reception



Ariola Bardhi, PhD candidate

Albert Einstein School of Medicine

Ariola Bardhi was born in Albania and first moved to the USA after high school to continue her higher education. She obtained her Bachelor of Science at Averett University in VA. Ariola was first exposed to basic research during her undergraduate studies, as she participated in the Summer Program at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Sciences, where she worked in a genetics lab to characterize a mitochondrial mutation. Ariola decided to continue her studies in biomedical sciences by joining the PhD program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is now a third year PhD candidate and works on understanding protective immune responses to HIV using humanized animal models. During her studies at AECOM Ariola realized the challenges that international scientists face as they progress in their careers in the US, and she joined efforts with her colleague, Mike Veenstra, to start INet NYC.

Mike Veenstra, MS


Mike Veenstra, born and raised in the Netherlands, is a PhD Candidate at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and co-founder of INet NYC. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in the Netherlands from the Radboud University Nijmegen where he studied Medical Biology. He completed his undergraduate research at the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain, where he identified how aging affects sleep-wake cycles. Mike came to the US to study at the Cleveland Clinic how chemokines and chemokine receptors affect multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease pathology. During his PhD at Albert Einstein he continues to focus on the mechanisms by which chemokines and chemokine receptors affect neuropathogenesis. Mike currently studies how HIV-infection and HIV-exposure affect the phenotypic and functional characteristics of monocytes in the context of HIV neuropathogenesis. After realizing the challenges foreign scientists in the US face with regards to their careers in the US, he decided with his colleague Ariola Bardhi to start INet NYC.

Yaihara Fortis, PhD

The New York Academy of Sciences

Dr. Yaihara Fortis-Santiago is the manager of Science Alliance, the professional development branch of the New York Academy of Sciences. Yaihara develops and implements innovative workshops and courses that provide early career scientists with a range of soft and business skills that will be essential for all careers. As the manager of Science Alliance, Yaihara works closely with career development offices and student and postdoc organizations to consolidate resources and implement new ideas for professional development programing. Yaihara obtained her bachelors' degree in Biology from University of Puerto Rico and her doctoral degree in Neuroscience from Brandeis University and then completed the Science and Technology Policy Fellowship under the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), where she was assigned to work at the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Andreas von Bubnoff, PhD

Andreas von Bubnoff, born and raised in Germany, is a freelance science journalist and editor based in New York City. His news and feature articles, opinion pieces and columns covering all areas of science have appeared in many American and European publications including the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Prevention, Science News, Nature, Cell, SonntagsZeitung (Switzerland) and Rheinpfalz am Sonntag (Germany). His work has also been featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, and he is one of the authors of The Science Writers' Handbook, an introduction to science writing that was published in the spring of 2013. In his most recent staff position, he covered HIV vaccine research, infectious diseases and global health as senior science writer for IAVI Report, work that has taken him all over the world including India, Africa, China, Southeast Asia, South America, and Europe.

Before he became a journalist, he spent two years on an island off the German coast, where he gave guided tours and over 100 lectures to explain the local wildlife and how environmental pollution affects the oceans. He then studied biology in Freiburg (Germany), Seattle (WA) and Irvine (CA). His studies of glow-in-the-dark transgenic frogs eventually led to a PhD degree in developmental biology and involved training in microarray technology and bioinformatics. Andreas trained as a journalist at the Chicago Tribune (where he was a AAAS Mass Media Fellow) and at the University of California, Santa Cruz Science Communication Program. He writes in English and German. His current projects include writing a booklet on how to address reproducibility problems in biomedical research, and a multimedia project supported by the German Robert Bosch Foundation that involves visualizing sound collected from scientists and artists from all over the world.

Matthew Cotter, PhD

Pfizer Oncology

Matthew Cotter, PhD, is a Medical Director within US Medical Affairs for Pfizer Oncology. In his current role at Pfizer, Matthew is a member of a Breast Cancer team with responsibilities for Investigator-Initiated Research, physician advisory boards, publications, pre-launch and launch activities, life cycle strategies and operating plans. These activities involves close partnership with multiple cross-functional teams including global medical affairs, health economics & outcomes research, clinical development and commercial teams in order to develop integrated medical affairs plans to successfully support the growth of Oncology assets. In a previous position at Pfizer Oncology, Matthew was a field-based medical liaison who worked closely with oncologists at several major academic institutions in the NE United States. Prior to joining Pfizer, Matthew completed his PhD at the University of Sheffield, UK, followed by postdoctoral research positions at the University of Calgary, University of Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center.

Jayita Guhaniyogi, PhD

Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper and Scinto

Jayita Guhaniyogi earned her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in India before moving to the US, where she received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2014. Dr. Guhaniyogi's doctoral work involved protein X-ray crystallography and other biochemical and biosphysical techniques to investigate functional-structural characteristics of key signaling proteins involved in bacterial motility. Following her Ph.D., she held postdoctoral positions at UMDNJ and a biotech company. Her postdoctoral research focused on protein X-ray crystallography to elucidate structural aspects of a human protease implicated in a fatal infantile CNS disorder and proteomics approach for biomarker discovery from cancer cell lines.

After a few years of post-doctoral studies, she finally decided to transition into patent law. Starting as a patent administrator in a biotech startup, she quickly developed a strong liking for the field. She went on to taker her LSATs, apply for law school, pass the patent bar, and then law school. While in law school, she worked in two start-up biotech companies, where she was responsible for overseeing the companies' intellectual property portfolios, including working with outside patent prosecution counsel, and assisting in business development and licensing. While in law school, she also worked as a patent agent in the intellectual property department of a global law firm, where she assisted in preparation and prosecution of U.S. and foreign patent applications, and patentability, infringement and freedom to operate opinions in diverse biotechnology and pharmaceutical areas. She is now admitted to the bar in NJ and awaiting admission in NY. After graduation cum laude from Rutgers law Newark in 2014, she joined Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper and Scinto, where she focuses her practice on complex patent litigation with an emphasis in the chemical and pharmaceutical arts.

Joann Halpern, PhD

Director, German Center for Research and Innovation New York

Dr. Joann Halpern is the director of the German Center for Research and Innovation New York (GCRI) and an adjunct professor of international education at New York University. The German Center for Research and Innovation was created as a cornerstone of the German government’s initiative to internationalize science and research. Dr. Halpern’s responsibilities include strategic planning, program development and strategic outreach. She is a frequent speaker and moderator at conferences in the US and Germany, covering topics such as alternative careers for academics, entrepreneurship, higher education, and Germany’s dual system of vocational education and training.

Before she joined the GCRI, Halpern was the global director of academic affairs and senior studies and an assistant professor of international education at Global College of Long Island University, where she spearheaded the campus internationalization process, taught undergraduates, and revised the Global College curriculum. From 1996-2001, Halpern was director of international programs at Harz University of Applied Sciences in Wernigerode, Germany, where she developed over 20 student exchange programs throughout the world and dual degree programs with universities in the United States, Spain, France, and Costa Rica. She also co-founded Knowledge Transfer Beyond Boundaries, an NGO with projects in Cameroon, Nigeria, Yemen, and Antigua.

Halpern received her B.A. in history and German from Dartmouth College, her M.A. in Germanic Languages and Literatures from Harvard University, and her Ph.D. in International Education from New York University. She has taught at universities in the United States and Germany, including Harvard University, Dartmouth College, New York University, the University of Magdeburg, and Harz University of Applied Sciences. She is a recipient of the Harvard University Award for Distinction in Teaching as well as grants and fellowships from the Fulbright Association, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Robert Bosch Foundation, and the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst. She serves on the board of directors of the Technical University of Dortmund, German Accelerator, University Alliance Ruhr, and LIU Global.

Alexandra Marszalek, PhD

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Originally from the south of Russia, Alexandra Marszalek arrived to the United States with her family in 1999. Alexandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University, and Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Science from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she was the first student to enroll in the new Ph.D. track in Clinical Investigation. Alexandra’s research interests focused on investigating the relationship between the “benign obesity” phenotype (i.e. obese individuals who do not experience complications such as diabetes and hypertension) and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Her graduate research resulted in 5 publications in top scientific journals (Ogorodnikova et al) and presentations at national scientific conferences.

After graduating, for several years Alexandra explored a career in consulting at Mars & Co Consulting LLC, a boutique management consulting firm that develops data-driven business strategy solutions for Fortune 500 clients. Alexandra worked on a variety of projects, including pricing strategy, financial modeling, and competitive economics in food & beverage, fashion, finance, and retail industries.

While at Mars & Co, Alexandra became interested in understanding risk management strategies of her clients. In July 2014, she transitioned to finance and joined the Counterparty Credit Risk Portfolio Management Team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. As a quantitative finance analyst, Alexandra is responsible for risk analysis and stress testing of global traded products portfolio. Her role includes frequent interactions with key stakeholders including line of business executives, technology partners, credit risk officers, and trading teams.

Anna Pettersson, PhD


Anna Pettersson currently serves as Senior Director, Strategy & Portfolio Solutions for Pfizer Worldwide Research & Development (WRD). In this role, Anna has a primary responsibility for developing – in collaboration with WRD and other Pfizer colleagues – the strategies that form the underpinnings of WRD’s overarching research and development agenda. In this capacity, she supports portfolio delivery while ensuring that WRD is effectively innovating new capabilities and positioning itself to be a strong player the evolving Research & Development (R&D) ecosystem of the future. Anna also leads aspects of WRD’s portfolio strategy work, defining, tracking and reporting out on the key strategic levers that are critical to maximizing portfolio productivity.

Anna joined Pfizer in January of 2012, from Booz & Company in New York, where she served as Principal and senior member of the Life Sciences team. At Booz & Company, Anna led assignments with top pharmaceutical, biotech, and healthcare companies around innovation, global strategy, post-merger integration, distribution networks and business development. Anna also worked at Mount Sinai School of Medicine as a business development executive responsible for commercializing the institution’s research discoveries and at the pharma industry hedge fund Mehta Partners as an analyst covering pharmaceutical and biotech companies. While at Mehta Partners, Anna served as a strategic advisor to pharmaceutical and biotech clients looking for guidance mergers and acquisitions, portfolio management, due diligence and asset divestitures. Anna started her consulting career with Global Competitiveness Corporation in Boston, MA, where she managed a group specializing in healthcare intellectual property strategy and management consulting.

Anna holds a Ph.D. in Genetics and Diabetology from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and completed post-doctoral research at the Whitehead Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA on genetic factors influencing development of common genetic disorders including asthma, diabetes, hypertension and obesity. She has a BS in Biology from the University of Uppsala, which is her home town.

In her spare time, Anna enjoys reading, cooking, hiking and an occasional trick class with either of her two dogs.

Martin Rost, PhD

Pfizer, Market Access (Global)

Martin Rost is a Senior Director and Team leader in North America Payer Insights & Access Group. He joined Pfizer in 2011 and is based in New York. Martin previously worked for Novartis, where he was Head of Health Care Management at Novartis Pharma Germany (until March 2009) and Global Brand Access Associate Director Transplantation. From 2001 to 2005 Martin worked as a management consultant at Simon, Kucher & Partners, Strategy & Marketing Consultants GmbH in Germany. Martin holds a Doctorate degree in Political Economics from the University of Freiburg in Germany.

Anita Schmid, PhD


Anita Schmid is a Data Scientist at OnDeck, a technology-enabled financial platform that provides loan financing to small and medium-sized businesses, where she currently works on Marketing and Sales Optimization. She grew up in Zurich, Switzerland and received a Masters in Physics and a PhD in Neuroscience from ETH Zurich (Swiss Technology Institute). After finishing her PhD, she moved to Germany and shortly after to New York City where she worked at Weill Cornell Medical College in the Upper East Side for 8 years. There she researched how the brain processes visual information and helped discover a special type of neuron in the visual cortex that responds to texture boundaries. Once promoted to Research Faculty, she successfully self-petitioned for a National Interest Waiver for permanent residency in the US as a vision neuroscientist, which enabled her to leave academia and stay in the US. She also successfully applied to Insight Data Science, a competitive fellowship for quantitative PhDs, which helps with transitioning from academia into data science in industry. She lives with her family in Harlem and is the mother of a young daughter and expecting her second child.

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