Junior Investigator Career Panel

Strategies for Success: Transition to an Independent Career

Saturday, June 21, 2014
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Vancouver Convention Centre, Oceanside Foyer, West Level 2

Supported by

This year’s career panel, “Strategies for Success: Transition to an Independent Career,” will focus on making the leap from post-doc to independent scientist. The transition to an independent career can be intimidating - let our panel of experts, ranging from junior to senior faculty members, guide you through key moves they have made on the road to becoming an independent investigator. What types of qualities and experiences are hiring committees looking for? Once you get your job, how do you successfully compete for funding, and write a winning R01 application? With limited management experience, how do you best learn to direct your group and resolve interpersonal conflicts within the lab? Our panelists will share their own experiences, strategies, and mistakes. Join us to learn how to navigate your path to success!

Meet this year's participants Click on each name for a brief bio


Andrea Ditadi, PhD Julia Tischler, PhD
McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine
ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee
Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute
ISSCR Junior Investigators Committee


Salvador Aznar-Benitah, PhD, ICREA Research Professor, Head of Stem Cells and Cancer Lab, Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)

Nick Barker, PhD, Senior Principal Investigator, Institute of Medical Biology, Singapore / Visiting Professor, CRM, Edinburgh

Athanasia D. Panopoulos, PhD, Gallagher Family Assistant Professor of Stem Cell Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame

Amy Wagers, PhD, Forst Family Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University, Senior Investigator, Section on Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center

Salvador Aznar Benitah, PhD

Salvador Aznar Benitah, PhD, obtained his Honours Degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at McGill University (Montreal, Canada) in 1998. He then obtained his PhD studies in 2003 in Molecular Oncology at the Biomedical Research Institute in Madrid (Spain). In 2003 he moved to London as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Prof. Fiona Watt at the London Research Institute (Cancer Research UK) where he became interested in studying the behavior of adult stem cells. He established is own lab at the Center for Genomic Regulation in 2007 as a Junior ICREA researcher.

Dr. Benitah´s lab aims at identifying and characterizing the molecular mechanisms underlying the function of adult stem cells, in particular those that are responsible for the maintenance of stratified epithelia. The recent work of his lab has been mainly focused in understanding how adult stem cells are spatiotemporally regulated, how they communicate with their local and systemic environment, and how does stem cell misfunction contribute to tissue aging and tumorigenesis. In September 2012 Salvador became an ICREA Research Professor and in 2013 he has moved his laboratory to the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB) in Barcelona.

Nick Barker, PhD Nick Barker obtained his PhD from Reading University in 1996, before joining Hans Clevers group in Utrecht to investigate the role of the Wnt signaling pathway in intestinal development and cancer – this lead to the discovery that deregulation of Wnt signalling is the initiating event in colon cancer. In 2001, he joined Semaia Pharmaceuticals to develop small molecule inhibitors of the Tcf/β-catenin protein complex as colon cancer therapeutics. In 2006, he rejoined Hans Clevers as staff scientist, where he identified Lgr5 as a marker of various adult stem cell populations. Nick recently joined the IMB in Singapore as Senior PI, where he focuses on identifying and characterizing epithelial stem cell populations. He also holds the Chair of Tissue Regeneration at the University of Edinburgh.
Athanasia D. Panopoulous, PhD

Athanasia D. Panopoulos, PhD is the Gallagher Family Assistant Professor of Stem Cell Biology Department of Biological Sciences University of Notre Dame. Athanasia received her Ph.D. in Immunology in 2007 from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and performed her postdoctoral studies in stem cells and reprogramming in the laboratory of Dr. Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte at The Salk Institute. She started her lab in early 2014, where her research is focused on understanding the mechanisms of reprogramming that parallel oncogenesis, with the long-term goal of utilizing somatic cell reprogramming to provide new opportunities in targeted cancer therapeutics.

Amy Wagers, PhD

Amy Wagers, PhD is the Forst Family Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University, a Senior Investigator in the Section on Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and a member of the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Wagers received her Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis from Northwestern University, and completed postdoctoral training in stem cell biology at Stanford University. Research in Dr. Wagers’ lab currently focuses on defining the factors and mechanisms that control the development, maintenance, migration, and differentiation functions of stem cells in the blood and skeletal muscle lineages. Her research has revealed novel intrinsic and extrinsic regulators of stem cell activity, and highlights the key role of blood-borne mediators in coordinating stem cell behavior throughout life.

Dr. Wagers is a recipient of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in Biomedical Sciences, HHMI Early Career Scientist Award, and Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. She is also a Principal Faculty member of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, and has served on its Executive Committee since 2004. She is a past member of the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee (2005-2008) and a current member of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine’s Grants Working Group. In 2011, she chaired the Committee on Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine for the American Society of Hematology.

Dr. Wagers has been an active member of the ISSCR for over 10 years, serving on the Annual Meeting Program Committee in 2005, 2010, and 2012, and on ISSCR’s Task Force on Unproven Stem Cell Therapies in 2009. In 2010, she was elected to the ISSCR Board of Directors, where she continues to participate in the leadership of the society, with a particular emphasis on engaging junior faculty and trainees in ISSCR’s activities and mission.

Andrea Ditadi, PhD

Andrea Ditadi, PhD obtained his Degree in Medical Biotechnologies at the University of Padua (Italy) in 2004. He then moved to Paris for his PhD studies in Developmental Molecular and Cell Biology at University Réné Déscartes – Paris V, under the supervision of Pr. Marina Cavazzana-Calvo, working at Biotherapy Department of Groupe Hospitalier Necker – Enfants Malades. After completing his PhD in 2008, he joined the laboratory of Dr. Gordon Keller at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine (UHN) in Toronto in 2009 as a postdoctoral fellow where he focuses in modeling human hematopoietic development through directed differentiation of pluripotent stem cells.

Julia Tischler, PhD

Julia Tischler, PhD studied for an Undergraduate Degree in Genetics at the University of Vienna, Austria, when she contributed to gaining insight into the role of a key chromatin-modifying enzyme, HDAC1, during mouse embryogenesis. In 2003, she was awarded a Wellcome Trust Graduate Fellowship to pursue her PhD in Molecular Biology at the Sanger Institute at the University Cambridge, UK, in the emerging field of genomics. Julia joined Andy Fraser’s Lab to investigate the evolution and conservation of genetic interactions using C. elegans as a model system. Her study led to the discovery of a novel framework for the interpretation of synthetic lethal genetic interactions, with relevance to the study of complex genetic diseases.

Dr. Tischler’s strong interest in the evolution and function of complex genetic regulatory networks led her to gain deeper insights into gene regulatory circuits controlling stem cell self-renewal and cell fate specification. She set out to gain expertise in single-cell biology and joined Michael Elowitz’s Lab at Caltech in 2008 as a Postdoctoral Associate.