Labs, Leaders, Critical Connections: RFS Virtual Meeting 

The perseverance of women in science has been on full display this past year: they have made seminal scientific discoveries, taken up new leadership positions, started companies, and led the charge in the fight against COVID-19.

The Rosalind Franklin Society, celebrates these accomplishments, and many more, by recognizing, fostering, and advancing critical contributions from women in the life sciences and affiliated disciplines in the annual virtual conference Labs, Leaders, Critical Connections.

From groundbreaking research to prestigious awards and recognition, this virtual event provided incredible access to emerging stars as well as those who continue to lead the way. 

Sessions covered the academic world as well as industry; corporations and start-ups; and U.S. and international colleagues and partnerships.

The event took place online over three half-days: January 25th - January 27th.

Labs, Leaders, Critical Connections was produced with support from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN).

Day 1,  January 25, 2022 Day 2, January 26, 2022



Opening Remarks: A welcome from RFS President Rita Colwell and RFS Founder Mary Ann Liebert.

Photograph 51 Video: Although most of us in this audience know the complex tale of Dr. Rosalind Franklin, we want to share a brief primmer on Photograph 51- her signature contribution Professor Wolberger will then present the very clear links to her current research which employs x-ray crystallography and cryo-electron in the study of DNA and DNA repair.
Cynthia Wolberger, PhD, Director of the Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, Professor of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

How, When, and Why to be Disruptive… With the historical underrepresentation of women and minorities in science, it is critical to explore all sectors and new opportunities. From the perspective of a successful career at a prestigious law firm, Ed Zimmerman will showcase his work in venture capital and the creation of First Close Partners, to support start-ups by women and a range of other underrepresented minorities. 
Carolina Huaranca Mendoza, General Partner, First Close Partners
Betsy Zimmerman,Co-founder,First Close Partners
Ed Zimmerman, Partner, Lowenstein Sandle

A New Book About an Old Subject: In this candid conversation hosted by Kevin Davies, Professor Howard Markel (University of Michigan Medical School), author of the new book The Secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick, and the Discovery of DNA’s Double Helix, shares his intimate perspective on the life and science of Rosalind Franklin. Markel’s insights stem from years of intense research, unprecedented access to letters and archives, interviews with Franklin’s relatives, and culminating in a reckoning with Watson himself.
Howard Markel, MD, PhD, Director, Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan

Corporate Leadership: Corporate leadership in science is pervasive and critical. Our presenters for this session will help document the commitments and opportunities well beyond academia, providing great horizons for women and underrepresented minorities.
PK Morrow, MD, Vice President of Global Development & Therapeutic Area Head of Hematology, Amgen
Lamont Terrell, PhD, Head of U.S, R&D, Early Talent Program, GSK
Cassandra Wesselman, Head of Clinical Solutions and Patient, Empowerment, Rosalind® Powered by OnRamp

Plants to People & Back: The science discussed in this session may focus on plants but has deep connections to people and a bigger picture in the life sciences. From the critical importance of soil to the future of our planet to using genomics to help African scientists produce more food, we’ll go from plants to people to back. 
Jo Handelsman, PhD,
 Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Vilas Research Professor, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Professor,University of Wisconsin-Madison
Laura Boykin Okalebo, PhD, Senior Scientific Consultant, BioTeam

From PhD to CEO: Women remain underrepresented in leadership positions in the biotech industry. In this panel, we chat with three women who have reached the C-suite to discuss their personal journey transitioning from academic research to starting their own company, as well as gain insight into the specific challenges of being underrepresented in their fields.
Jennifer Buell, PhD, CEO, MiNK Therapeutics
Janice Chen, PhD, Co-founder and CTO, Mammoth Biosciences
Nabiha Saklayen, PhD, Co-founder and CEO, Cellino 

Precision Medicine/Future Medicine: Dr. Shaw provides a birds-eye view of precision medicine at the center of her work in oncology at MD Anderson – both the opportunities and the challenges. With massive clinical trials, the focus of her work is honing predictive response and predictive biomarkers. The key to future medicine is quickly and broadly amassing more/better data through AI and machine learning, all in the service of better precision medicine.
Kenna R Mills Shaw, PhD, Executive Director, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, MD Anderson

Awards: The Window or Just Window Dressing? Awards are meant to showcase great accomplishment and also to inspire others to follow in these footsteps. Here we highlight two perfect examples, and they will tell us if it’s “just window dressing.” We will learn how each award winner has been impacted by prestigious recognition. And how they link this success with the team and career that have brought them to this place.
Pamela Björkman, PhD, Professor of Biology and Bioengineering; Merkin Institute Professor; Executive Officer for Biology and Biological Engineering, California Institute of Technology
Natalie Gomez-Ospina, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Genetics and Stem Cell Transplantation, Medical Genetics,Stanford Bio-X

Out of this World: This is the year of New Space. With multiple spectacular trips, by SpaceX, by Blue Origin, and by Virgin Galactic, we come close to understanding the critical role of public/private partnerships. We also have seen the role of women and underrepresented minorities in space flight and discovery. Out of the shadows; out of this world!
Ken Davidian, PhD, EIC, New Space


Day 3, January 27, 2022

Opening Remarks - Day 3: 
Karla Shepard Rubinger, Executive Director,
Rosalind Franklin Society

The Potential of Innovation, Entrepreneurs, and Partnerships: An undercurrent for the work of RFS is the ingenuity, persistence, and commitment of women and minorities in science. This session highlights unique and effective pathways and partnerships that support those who are driven-academia or industry, U.S. or abroad. 
Brandon Andrews, Casting Director, Shark Tank
Baindu L. Bayon, PhD, Co-Host of "The STEM SiSTARS", Co- Founder, Harpii LLC
Dorothy Jones-Davis, PhD, Executive Director, Nation of Makers

The Future is Biotech: What is feedback control and how can we leverage its powerful biotechnological applications? How can we better foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences? How can we bridge the gap between academia and industry in biotech and uplift all voices? From running her own research lab as Professor in Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF, publishing an editorial in Science urging Dr. Eric Lander, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), to draw attention to the systemic discrimination in STEM, and taking on the Editor-in-Chief role at GEN Biotechnology, the new peer reviewed journal launching in early 2022, Dr. Hana El-Samad shares her insights on the booming field of biotechnology as both a scientist and activist. 
Hana El-Samad, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, GEN Biotechnology, Professor and Vice-Chair in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics  UCSF School of Medicine

Journalists Join the Discussion: More people get their information from television and other news outlets than from professional journals and scientists. How do these two domains interact? The pandemic of the past two years has magnified the importance and challenges of this relationship. Have we learned lessons about how to be this better? What have we learned about the message and the messenger? Joining us for this session will be a renowned journalist and an acclaimed physician/columnist, who can provide some guidance.
Meg Tirrell, Senior Health & Science Reporter, CNBC
Kavita Patel, MD, Columnist and Contributor, NBC News/MSNBC

How and When to Add Federal  Leadership:  Academic training typically does not come with leadership training... So our best trained academics, reaching often-unimagined heights of leadership in the Federal government, may find themselves in positions of great consequence drawing upon skills they may not have anticipated or attained. Is on-the-job training the only answer? How are issues important to women and people of color integrated into policy and research? How are women and people of color into the scientific and research workforce. And how might we use Federal leadership to achieve the goals of RFS? 
Janine Austin Clayton, MD, FARVO, NIH Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health; Director, NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health
Alicia J. Knoedler, PhD, Senior Designee for the White House Gender Policy Council; Head, Office of Integrative Activities, National Science Foundation