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Innovators in Training Program

The core elements of the IIT program expand on the participants’ graduate and post-graduate preparation, enabling their transition into the entrepreneurial and technology development workforce. Through participation in the Catapult innovation program, trainees are provided experiential-based training in skills necessary to successfully engage across the technology ecosystem spanning business, legal, regulatory, and scientific expertise.

Join the Innovators in Training Program!

Former Innovators in Training

Emma Brandt

My thesis work utilized cardiac differentiation of human iPSCs to study cell death and stress response pathways in these early cardiac lineages. My post-doctoral work in Ahmed Mahmoud’s Laboratory studied the role of nerves in the cardiac regenerative response observed in neonatal mice and how nerve signaling promotes cardiomyocyte proliferation and tissue inflammation/repair.

Dr. Brandt has taken a position with Empirico, a start-up company resident at Forward BIOLABS in Madison. 

Undergrad Institution and Degree: University of Wisconsin-River Falls, BS Biomedical Sciences

Graduate Institution and Degree: Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences-Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences

Post-doctoral Training: UW-Madison, Cell and Regenerative Biology

My primary motivation for my science career is to help others, and Biotech frequently bridges that critical gap between bench and bedside. The ability to work with a team and make a difference for patients through the stages of drug/product development is my ideal work environment.

I wanted to gain a further understanding of how new ideas can be transformed into applicable and safe technologies for the advancement of human health and gain a better understanding of potential career opportunities. IIT provides an amazing space to think outside of the academic box and to collaborate with physicians, other scientists, and disciplines that can enhance creativity in your science and your own personal career journey.

Lucas Klemm

My graduate work in Anna Huttenlocher’s Laboratory studied how neutrophils, cells of the innate immune system, migrate and what their role is in autoimmune disease, cancer, and infection, with the overarching goal to develop iPS cell-derived immune cell therapies to treat human disease.

Dr. Klemm has taken a position with ElevateBio in Cambridge, MA.

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Loyola University Chicago, BS Molecular Biology

Graduate Institution and Degree: Midwestern University, MS Biomedical Sciences

Graduate Institution and Degree: UW-Madison, Ph.D. Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology

Cell therapies are powerful treatment options that are rapidly advancing and there are many translational challenges to be addressed. A career in biotech will put me in a position to lead and work on these challenges bringing cell therapies to patients in need.

I want to get a better understanding of the entire cell therapy developmental process from ideation to market opportunity research to manufacturing and delivery. I joined IIT to get business experience while helping others on campus advance their cell therapy technologies towards reality. 

Current Innovators in Training

Liz Applet

I engineer humanized antibodies targeting the blood-brain barrier for drug delivery to the brain with a focus on drug delivery in glioblastoma models. My goal is to engineer proteins that deliver therapeutics to the brain with reduced immunogenicity.

2nd yr Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD Program

Eric Shusta Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Northwestern University, BS Biomedical Engineering

In the advent of immuno-oncology and personalized medicine, many cancers now have disease-modifying therapeutics that contribute to reduced mortality rates. However, over the last 3 decades, brain cancer has seen a modest 1% increase in survival time. I want to contribute to furthering research towards the first FDA approval of a disease-modifying therapeutic for brain cancer.

I want to be positioned to bridge academic research and entrepreneurship. My ultimate goal always is to improve the lives of patients, and this only can be realized with the union of academia and industry.

Shaswath Sekar Chandrasekar

I work on developing novel nanotechnology and viral vectored vaccine platforms for respiratory pathogens, specifically animal and human coronaviruses. These platforms help deliver immunogens via the mucosal route, priming a robust local immune response and limiting viral replication at the primary site of infection.

4th yr Comparative Biomedical Sciences PhD Program

Adel Talaat Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: SRM University, B.Tech Genetic Engineering

Many promising vaccine platforms and technologies fail to make it to the field from the lab. A career in biotechnology would help me understand the barriers and nuances and help develop rationally designed platforms that can successfully make the jump.

Our Ph.D. training focuses on developing a strong academic and technical background with minimal emphasis on developing soft skills. By actively participating in IIT’s workshops and seminars, I believe I can bridge this gap and work towards my professional development goals.

Joshua Choe

I study mRNA encoding for growth factors that can be utilized to enhance bone and muscle injury following traumatic injury. This strategy uses mineral-coated microparticles as a delivery system. My goal is to develop new state of the art therapies to enhance tissue engineering applications in vivo.

4th yr MD-PhD Student, 1st yr Biomedical Engineering PhD Program

William Murphy Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison, BS Kinesiology | Biology

Physician Scientists, or future ones like me, are in a unique position bridging the gap between medicine and science. A combination of a clinical and research career allows for the identification of clinical problems, study in the laboratory and application back into patients. It is necessary to be involved in the biotechnology industry to make this a reality to bring therapies from my lab into real patients.

I want a better understanding of how to navigate bringing innovations to market. I hope to utilize what I have learned from IIT to better navigate the biotechnology world to help translate technologies I research into clinically ready products.

Alexius Lampkin

I study the biological changes that occur in the brain after undergoing a traumatic or stressful experience that can lead to psychiatric illnesses such as PTSD, high levels of anxiety, or the onset of schizophrenia. My goal is to better understand the neurochemical and neurobiological changes that occur and inform the medications created to be specific for certain targets.

3rd yr Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology PhD Program

Vaishali Bakshi Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Albany State University, BS Forensic Science | Chemistry

Pharmacotherapy for mental health is an important and rapidly evolving field. A career in biotech allows me to be a part of the science behind the treatments and move the treatments forward to society.

As a graduate student, I learn a lot about the mechanisms of how to conduct research, write grants, and present results, but not other hard skills important for industry. IIT gives me a unique perspective on industry skills such as project management, assessing and handling risk, and the business of science allowing me to be a better candidate and maximize my potential.

Sophie Mancha

My goal is to construct biomimetic in vitro pancreatic cancer models that replicate native tissue stiffness and architecture with bio-relevant extracellular components. This has the potential to improve engineered culture models to better understand cancer progression mechanisms for the future development of novel treatments.

3rd yr Biomedical Engineering PhD Program

Melissa Skala Laboratory / Paul Campagnola Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Fort Lewis College, BS General Engineering

Biotechnology allows me the opportunity to not only be a part of the latest breakthroughs in science, but also apply those discoveries to real life applications.

IIT has given me unique exposure and insight into the field of biotechnology that is not typical of the average graduate student. Beyond workshops, collaborations, and teachings, IIT has given me the confidence and head start to become a future leader in the biotech industry.

Hannah Martin

My research focus involves the application of microparticle delivery technology to improve cancer treatment, with the goal of both localizing and prolonging the biological activity of key immunotherapeutic agents.

4th yr DVM-PhD Student, 2nd yr Comparative Biomedical Sciences PhD Program

William Murphy Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Vanderbilt University, BE Biomedical Engineering

I have a strong interest in the advancement of human and animal healthcare. A biotechnology career would place me at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and therapies which hold immense potential for patients.

Although graduate students become experts in complex scientific concepts and techniques, IIT provides specialized training in career and professional development that is often missing from the graduate curriculum. I hope to leverage the program’s unique training opportunities to better understand the biotechnology commercialization process for new cancer therapies, with a particular focus on the regulatory landscape.

Laura Muehlbauer

I work to improve the capabilities and efficiency of biological mass spectrometry, as well as apply and optimize our technology to address myriad biological problems. I have taken a particular interest in applying our tools to areas of biology in which global biomolecule profiling has been underutilized, such as hematology.

5th yr Chemistry PhD Program

Joshua Coon Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: St. Olaf College, BA Chemistry

A career in biotechnology allows me to work on exciting, multidisciplinary projects that have tremendous potential to positively impact society.

The IIT program was of interest to me because I saw the opportunity to explore different career paths and learn about technology development and commercialization pipelines. The program is a highly valuable and unique experience to gain insight into project management, business, risk assessment, and regulatory aspects.

Dan Pham

My research focuses on developing and validating the use of a label-free optical imaging to study T cell metabolism and its correlation with cellular functions for cancer immunotherapy. This technology has the potential to better evaluate immunotherapy efficacy and fill the current instrumentation gap for in-line monitoring and quality control of cell manufacturing.

3rd yr Biomedical Engineering PhD Program

Melissa Skala Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Creighton University, BS Applied Physics and Medical Mathematics

Being an interdisciplinary field, biotechnology offers me the opportunity to integrate my background in Physics and Math with my interest in biomedical research to drive the translation of technology to clinics and industry applications.

As a PhD student who is interested in pursuing a career in the Biotech industry, I find it highly important to understand not only the basic sciences, but also relevant topics including but not limited to: the regulatory landscape, the current needs in industry, etc. IIT is a unique learning experience where I get to actively discuss and study these topics, which in turn helps me better identify my research goals and impacts and develop professional skills.

Aicha Quamine

The goal of my research is to improve survival outcomes for children with high-risk relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma by combining anti-GD2 monoclonal antibodies with Natural Killer cell (NK) therapy. I study the molecular mechanisms of cell signaling within NK cells and I focus on how to leverage NK cell activation to unleash their ability to selectively kill transformed malignant cells.

3rd yr Cellular and Molecular Biology PhD Program

Christian Capitini Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: Cleveland State University, BS Pharmaceutical Sciences

The multidisciplinary and collaborative nature of industry research is exciting to me. I enjoy the translational aspect of my work and a career in biotech would enable me to continue contributing to clinically relevant projects.

IIT has given me unique exposure and insight into the biotech field that is not typical of the average graduate student. Beyond workshops, collaborations, and teachings, IIT has given me the confidence and head start to become a future leader in the biotech industry. The program provides in-depth knowledge about career opportunities in industry for PhD scientist in diverse fields such as patent law, entrepreneurship, science outreach, and more. IIT provides us the unique opportunity to connect to scientists with first-hand experience in these fields in the form of interactive lunch and learns, workshops, and networking.

Aaron Simmons

I investigate methods to improve the manufacture of pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (PSC-CMs). My focus is on the development of novel strategies to monitor PSC-CM progression in real time and enhance maturation phenotypes.

4th yr Chemical Engineering PhD Program

Sean Palecek Laboratory

Undergrad Institution and Degree: University of Oklahoma, BS/MS Chemical Engineering

The complexity underlying living systems leads to endless opportunities, challenging problems, and (all-too-often) insufficient understanding to optimize and translate cell-based modalities to industrial manufacture and clinical implementation. I hope to work towards overcoming these knowledge gaps to facilitate and accelerate the translation of next generation cell-based therapies for patients who need them.

While a PhD program provides a great technical foundation and many professional development opportunities, it often leads one with a quite limited view of the real-world context in which their research is undertaken. Particularly, many of the nuances of the biotech sector, including regulatory environments, business strategies, and how seemingly unimportant aspects all impact the ability of translating one’s research out of the lab; IIT helps to shed light on these, thereby maximizing my potential to positively impact lives in the future.

© 2018