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New Faces at the NYAS

Three new directors have joined the Academy.

Published April 19, 2010

When Brooke Grindlinger joined the Academy in February as a Director, Life Sciences, she instantly took on responsibility for coordinating seven conferences that the Academy has plans to host in the next nine months. Grindlinger, who holds a PhD in microbiology, was previously Science Editor at The Journal of Clinical Investigation in New York, where she handled commissioning and editing of content including commentaries, research reviews, book reviews, and news features.

Grindlinger says her experience at the JCI equipped her well for a job that requires her to track the latest breakthroughs in science, get a sense of which fields are moving quickly, and decide where there’s enough interest in a topic to make it suitable for a conference.

Among the conferences on her plate now are two back-to-back meetings on the blossoming field of probiotics in June–one on the science of probiotics and bringing them from the bench through clinical trials to the drug store, and a second about the science and regulations of labeling of probiotic foods and supplements—as well as a two-day symposium discussing what has been learned about nephrogenic systemic fibrosis since the disease was first recognized in 1997, and a three-day conference in Aspen, Colo., on neural prosthetics called “Building Better Brains.”

Jennifer Henry, a native of Australia, joined the Academy recently as Director, Life Sciences. Henry, who holds a PhD in plant biology, will have oversight of 40 meetings annually in 14 areas of life sciences at the Academy. Previous to joining the Academy, she spent two years as Publishing Manager for 10 biomedical journals at Nature Publishing Group. In Australia, Henry edited the journal Functional Plant Biology for eight years after earning her PhD in genetic transformation of field peas to introduce a fungal resistance gene.Henry says she appreciates the value of the Academy as a “neutral space” for presenting new science. “The Academy enables me to draw experts from around the world to speak to our members in the New York area and, when they make the effort to come downtown, we reward them,” she says.

Increasing Webinar attendance of life sciences events, she notes, is expanding the reach and appeal of these meetings even more broadly. For instance, 20 people from as far away as Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Mexico joined a recent metabotropic glutamate receptors meeting via Webinar, Henry says.In three upcoming meetings that Henry has organized, scientists will look at treatment of chronic pain syndromes, tackle challenges in the development of a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, and reexamine the swine flu outbreak of last year, on April 27, May 19, and May 24 respectively.

During her PhD studies as a cell biologist at Harvard, Monica Kerr lamented the lack of guidance for science students seeking alternative careers. She worked with the campus career services office to initiate a series of professional development seminars for life scientists at Harvard Medical School. The experience made her a perfect fit for her new job as Director of the Academy’s Science Alliance program for graduate students and postdocs.

Prior to joining the Academy, Kerr spent 18 months as an instructor at Harvard Medical School where she taught and designed curriculum for undergraduate, graduate and medical school science courses. During this time, Kerr also helped organize events such as a mock case study run by McKinsey consultants and a workshop on investing in life sciences led by venture capitalists. And she has plenty of ideas for how to expand the offerings of Science Alliance. For one, she says, “I want to strengthen the grad student and postdoc community by using social networking.” Kerr also hopes to broadcast video interviews with scientists about their career paths from the Academy Website. And, she says, she plans to host more events that highlight career options for scientists and help them develop skills for those jobs.