Assistant Professor, Columbia University
"Being a principal investigator now myself, I really appreciate how special the Rockefeller experience is. The freedom you're given as a student makes the whole experience more open and challenging. Learning to work and think independently is an extremely important part of a research education, and it's a great confidence builder when you're finished."
Jonathan Dworkin knew more about Rockefeller University than most prospective students: He grew up here. When he was a young child, Jonathan's father, Barry Dworkin, was both a student and a junior faculty member at the university. "I grew up feeling that the lab is a fun place to be. I still like working in labs." Appropriately, Jonathan, a 1997 Rockefeller graduate, now runs his own laboratory, in the microbiology department of Columbia University Medical Center, where he studies spore-forming bacteria, including those that cause anthrax, botulism and tetanus. His current research goal is to understand the process by which bacterial spores are formed and how they interact with various host organisms.
As a Rockefeller student, Jonathan worked with Peter Model and Marjorie Russel, experts in bacterial genetics. His dissertation was on the transcriptional regulation mechanisms of Escherichia coli. "Being a principal investigator now myself, I really appreciate how special the Rockefeller experience is. The freedom you're given as a student makes the whole experience more open and challenging. Learning to work and think independently is an extremely important part of a research education, and it's a great confidence builder when you're finished."
Jonathan encourages his own students at Columbia to work and think independently, but he notices one missing element. "Rockefeller has much more of a family feel about it, and that isn't just because I grew up around there. During Convocation, the ladies from the Purchasing Office came to the room where we were putting on our regalia and they fussed over us like mothers. It's just another thing that is unique to Rockefeller."
Senior editor, Nature Methods
Natalie de Souza
Natalie de Souza has always loved both science and writing, and when the time came to pick a career, she chose one that includes both. The 2002 Rockefeller graduate is a senior editor at Nature Methods, where she vets manuscript submissions, solicits reviews, reviews the reviews and ultimately decides, along with four other editors, what ends up in each issue of the prestigious journal. She edits research papers and writes for the publication as well. The position affords a sweeping perspective on the best methods research in the life sciences but also an intimate engagement with the nitty-gritty experimentation behind any given paper, and she likes the combination.
"To know what advances in methodology matter, you need a really good understanding of what biological questions are being asked," says Natalie, who took the job in 2006 following a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University. "The way you achieve that is through talking to a lot of people and reading extensively about current research, which are both things that I instinctively enjoy."
At Rockefeller, Natalie studied the biogenesis and trafficking of membrane proteins. At Columbia, she worked on the regulation of Notch signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans. Natalieís rigorous lab training gave her the experience required to deliver the most cutting edge and consequential methods research to the scientific community. "It's as close as you can be to the scientific process without actually doing research," she says. "It's a real privilege to have this kind of view of science and, most of the time, itís also fun."
Program Manager, Science Research Mentoring Program, American Museum of Natural History
"Part of my job is to expand their perspective about what the world of science entails and show them how many great careers are out there for them."
Hilleary Osheroff loved her student years in the laboratory, but for a career, she had a different goal in mind. A 2008 graduate of Mary E. Hatten's Laboratory of Developmental Neurobiology, Hilleary is the program manager of the Science Research Mentoring Program at New York City's American Museum of Natural History. The program, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, offers high school students a hands-on introduction to careers in scientific research. Hilleary spends her days recruiting sophomore and junior students from city schools, building relationships with the schools' biology departments and teaching after-school courses in genetics and public health research.
"Informal education is extremely important, and people with expertise too often don't get involved in that," says Hilleary, who has made herself an exception. In between hours in the lab at Rockefeller, where she studied the layers of neurons that compose the cerebral cortex, she participated in the university's Summer High School Science Outreach Program and mentored students at 826NYC, an organization that helps students to develop writing skills. "In science, you should be trained in communication, and you should be able to talk to people about science on any level," she says.
Hilleary has proven her case at the museum. "Most kids interested in science only know about becoming doctors," she says. "Part of my job is to expand their perspective about what the world of science entails and show them how many great careers are out there for them."
Franchise Integrator and Vice President, Merck Research Laboratories
"Being at Rockefeller full-time was a wonderful immersion. The environment really made it easy to focus on my work, and my years there were undoubtedly the most exciting of my professional life."
Ask Andrew Plump what he does for a living and you'll have a lively discussion. A 1993 Rockefeller graduate, Andy works at Merck Research Laboratories as the cardiovascular disease worldwide basic research head. Andy leads Merck's efforts in identifying novel drug targets and discovering and developing new cardiovascular medicines. He assumed this position in late 2008 after holding a translational position, franchise integrator, which generally requires an explanation. "In that job I brought together the bench and clinical arms of pharmaceutical research and development. I coordinated the work of people across the world into a cohesive effort to forward the goals of drug development."
Andy began his education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he studied virology, political science and urban studies. The University of California, San Francisco, Medical School was his next move. "MIT was a very experiment-driven place, but in medical school the learning is very memory-based, very lecture-heavy. It wasn't long before I knew I wanted to get back into the lab." He enrolled in a summer study program with Jan L. Breslow, head of Rockefeller's Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, and later took an official leave of absence from UCSF. "Being at Rockefeller full-time was a wonderful immersion. The environment made it easy to focus on my work, and my years there were undoubtedly the most exciting of my professional life."
Andy has always found time to pursue interests outside the laboratory as well. While a student, he played on Rockefeller's short-lived but very successful softball team, The Scientists.