Research Symposium Highlights Carol Nacy, Biotech Students
Dr. Carol Nacy, co-founder, chief executive and chairwoman of the board of Sequella Inc., spoke bluntly to the students assembled before her.
Be aggressive on your own behalf. Ask for promotions.
Make sure people know who you are. Don’t limit your imagination. Know how to get to the next level because no one is going to reach down and pick you up.
Don’t say no.
“My ‘no’s” come out “yes,” and you should be doing the same thing,” Nacy said. “Don’t accept ‘no’s either.”
Nacy offered her advice to students, faculty and community members gathered for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Biotechnology’s 8th Annual Research Symposium, held at JHU’s Montgomery County Campus. The event was an evening of networking, poster presentations and speakers, including Nacy’s keynote address.
“The message I’d like to give you today is when you understand science, you can do anything,” Nacy said.”If you can think like a scientist, it can open up a whole range of possibilities as a career.”
Nacy shared her background, starting as a scientist for the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, where she focused on tropical infectious diseases.
“I spent most of my 17 years at Walter Reed giving mice diseases and curing them,” Nacy said.
Nacy talked about how she persistently asked for promotions at Walter Reed, proving herself through her scientific achievement and tenacity. She talked about eventually wanting to try something different, asking for and taking a sabbatical from Walter Reed and working at Rockville-based clinical-stage pharmaceutical company EntreMed. She described the transition out of Walter Reed as a midlife crisis – no fancy sports car, no divorce, just a new career path.
She later co-founded Sequella, a Rockville-based pharmaceutical company that discovers and develops antibiotics to treat infectious diseases, including tuberculosis.
“What gets me up in the morning is infectious diseases,” Nacy said. “I love bacteria.”
Prior to Nacy’s keynote address, budding scientists – and some more established scientists as well – presented their research findings to the crowd of attendees at the symposium.
Those presenting included:
- National Cancer Institute fellows in the molecular targets and drug discovery technologies concentration of the master ‘s in biotechnology degree
- United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases fellows in the biodefense concentration of the master’s in biotechnology degree
- A Noblis fellow in master’s in bioinformatics degree
- Students who have completed research projects in bioscience and bioinformatics as part of their degree requirements for the master’s in biotechnology, bioinformatics and bioscience regulatory affairs
- Montgomery County high school students and
- Members of faculty who have completed research in the field of biotechnology, bioinformatics, regulatory science or biotechnology enterprise.
Emily Huang, a senior at Wootton High School, displayed her diabetes research on a poster entitled “High-Throughput Screening for Inhibitors of MALT1.” Emily is planning to major in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
“Research is pretty interesting,” Emily said. “At first, I thought it was kind of boring because you are in a lab all the time.” Then, Emily said, she “realized I was learning new processes. I learned molecular biology experiments and the way to do things.”
Marie Gestole is working on her master’s in biotechnology, with a concentration in biodefense, at Johns Hopkins. She has taken courses at both the Montgomery County and the Homewood campuses of Hopkins. In addition to focusing on her coursework, Gestole is a fellow at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Her poster, entitled “Detection of Defective-Interfering Particles in Ebola Using Droplet PCR and Absolute Quantification” took months of intense research to put together.
“It takes a lot of organization,” Gestole said. “It takes a lot of creative thinking. I have re-done this poster over and over again. It’s a rough ride.”
That’s part of the process, said Dr. Patricks Cummings, director of the master’s of biotechnology program. And presenting posters at research symposiums gives students confidence in their work.
“It gives them the experience of explaining their data and learning how to explain data to a non-scientific and lay community,” Cummings said.