The UGA Life Sciences Career Day professional development conference combines speakers, panels, small-group sessions and interactive workshops featuring professionals from industry, government and non-profit organizations.
Read more about the speakers below.

2023 Speakers

Brian Adams, PhD, MBA
Breakout Session: Beyond the Bench
Rare Disease Global Insights Lead
UCB, Inc.

Brian AdamsDr. Brian Adams has a career of over 20 years in the life sciences in both academia and industry. He currently works in the Rare Diseases group at UCB as part of the company’s I2I Global Insights organization. Prior to joining UCB, Brian served as the Vice President of Business Development at Arbor Pharmaceuticals for nine years, where he directed/coordinated the identification, evaluation, and execution of new in-licensing, out-licensing, M&A,investment and promotional opportunities with pharmaceutical companies, CDMOs and universities. Before his time at Arbor, he served as Head of Business Development at Cornerstone Therapeutics and Senior Director of Business Development at Shionogi Pharma (formerly Sciele Pharma). Brian originally started with Shionogi as the Intellectual Property Manager and was responsible for handling the company’s patents and trademarks. Prior to working for Shionogi, he served as a patent agent and scientific advisor at Pabst Patent Group LLP and Holland & Knight, LLP in the areas of biotechnology and chemistry. He has been very active in the Southeast life sciences community and is a member of the SE BIO Board of Directors. Brian has earned a B.S. in Biology from Wake Forest University, a PhD in Molecular and Systems Pharmacology from Emory University, and an MBA from the University of Georgia.


Emily Baker, PhD
Breakout Session: Translation Station
Director, Nonclinical Research
Aruna Bio, Inc.

Emily BakerEmily Baker is the Director of Nonclinical Research at Aruna Bio, a UGA Innovation Gateway incubator company that has created a neural exosome platform to treat numerous neurological disorders. In this role, she oversees preclinical drug development from proof-of-concept in vivo studies through Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling stages, which includes scientific, regulatory, operational, and grants management responsibilities. She received her doctoral degree from University of Georgia, where she studied neural stem cell and other biologic therapies for stroke and traumatic brain injury.


Florencia Behn, PhD
Breakout Session: The Road Less Traveled
Director of Research Affairs
HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology

Dr. Florencia Behn, PhDFlo Behn, Ph.D., is the Director of Research Affairs at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. Dr. Behn’s primary role is to lead the institute’s sponsored programs office, managing grant administration from proposal to close-out. Flo advanced into this role after changing career paths at HudsonAlpha from senior scientist to research administrator. She is passionate about serving in a leadership role at this Huntsville, AL non-profit, whose mission is to use genomics to improve the human condition. Flo is a California transplant to Alabama, a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Toledo, and is raising her family in Madison, AL. 


Sam Bell, PhD
Breakout Session: Beyond the Bench
Senior Director, External Alternative Drug Development
Boehringer Ingelheim

Sammy BellSammy has worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry for 21+ years, specializing in all aspects of drug product development and bringing medicines to patients as fast and efficiently as possible. He has worked as a Pharmaceutical Scientist responsible for early and late stage formulation development across Drug Discovery, Research, and Development while working at Pfizer, Novartis, and Boehringer-Ingelheim.  

Sammy received a BS polymer chemistry from University of Connecticut, MS Physical-Organic Chemistry and PhD. Pharmacology from the University of Rhode Island, and an MBA Data Analytics from Louisiana State University. 

In his ‘free time’, Sammy is an Adj, Research Professor in the UGA Chemical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering department working closely with Prof. Jason Locklin, and has established the Pharmaceutical Development Lab in New Materials Institute.


Ian Biggs
Breakout Session: Translation Station
Director of Startups, UGA Innovation Gateway and Director of Programming, UGA Innovation District
University of Georgia

Ian BiggsIan Biggs, COO of the Innovation Gateway startup program, leads all activity related to faculty research-driven startups. He was originally trained as an accountant and worked in the banking world, then moved on to have extensive experience in leading and building businesses globally, as well as running small venture-backed businesses. He was involved in the VC-backed business that commercialized the technology behind Dolly, the first cloned mammal, and a startup developing a new vaccine platform. He has been the principal in purchasing and selling numerous technology-based businesses and has run a large R&D program within a multinational corporation.


Megan Brock, PhD
Breakout Session: What Next?
Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services and Faculty Engagement
UGA Career Center

Megan BrockAs the Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services and Faculty Engagement, Dr. Megan Brock is dedicated to supporting graduate students, professional students, and faculty in career pathway education and development. Her focus is to empower students to be architects of their own future through programming and digital resources. Regarding supporting faculty, her focus is to equip them with resources for engagement with undergraduate, graduate, and professional students for career development success. Over the course of her time at UGA, she served as a Specialist in Teaching and Learning at the Center for Teaching and Learning briefly before becoming a Lecturer in the Division of Academic Enhancement. As a Lecturer, she earned notable accomplishments such as being awarded the division- wide teaching innovation award, being a Special Collections Faculty Fellow, and being a part of the Active Learning Summer Institute.


Karen Burg, PhD
Welcome & Event Intro
Vice President for Research
UGA Provost's Office

Burg was named Vice President for Research in 2021. She holds the Harbor Lights Chair in Small Animal Studies in the College of Veterinary Medicine and previously served as Vice President for Research at Kansas State University.

Burg’s research focuses on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, with implications for diagnosing and treating diseases such as cancer. Her research has been supported by more than $20 million in grants from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, as well as organizations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is the author of nearly 120 peer reviewed journal publications and the co-author of four books and nearly 40 book chapters. She holds nine U.S. patents, one of which forms the basis of a company that uses 3D cell culture technology to model and predict how tumors will respond to cancer drugs.

Full bio

Kalen Cookson, DVM
Breakout Session: Beyond the Bench
Director of Clinical Research, Poultry

Kalen CooksonDr. Kalen Cookson received his Doctorate from North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. After working in the California Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System, he received a Master’s in Avian Medicine from the University of Georgia and is a Diplomate of the American College of Poultry Veterinarians. Dr. Cookson has over 28 years of experience in the biologicals industry working for Zoetis and its legacies. As a technical services veterinarian who has supported both U.S.  and most other major global markets, Dr. Cookson has expertise in vaccine programming and has provided critical input and direction to new vaccine development. His role over the past several years has been Director of Clinical Research where he helps Zoetis execute extensive applied research – mostly post-licensure trials conducted under both controlled and field settings.


Jamie Deeter, MS, PhD
Panel: Exploring Careers in the Life Sciences
Senior Director, Scientific Relations, Research and Development
Roche Diagnostics Solutions

Jamie DeeterOver the past 15 years, Dr. Jamie Deeter has been pursuing her passion of improving health outcomes for ALL. As a senior biotech leader with a PhD in Infectious Diseases, her expertise is generating scientific evidence that aids with understanding the clinical utility of diagnostics tests and treatment, driving not only the appropriate use of tests and treatments (antivirals/antibiotics) but leveraging the evidence to aid with overcoming coverage/reimbursement issues.


Aynsley Eastman
Panel: Exploring Careers in the Life Sciences, Moderator
Global Business Manager, R&D Animal Health - Development
Boehringer Ingelheim
Matthew Eby, PhD
Breakout Session: The Road Less Traveled
Chief Scientist
Booz Allen Hamilton

Matthew EbyChief Scientist at Booz Allen supporting U.S. and International agencies in integrated life sciences IT program development, policy, enterprise change management, process improvement, and innovative tech implementation. My career started with leading R&D and lab operations for DOD/DHS clients and has transformed into building HHS multi-agency health technology and lab IT solutions. My comfort zone is diving headfirst into complex program management and finding the best in people and projects to promote consensus. I am fortunate to lead 30+ rockstar staff and $50M+ in Federal contracts. My side gig is training capture, BD, and financial competitive analysis teams in ATL.


Izabela Galeska, PhD
Panel: Exploring Careers in the Life Sciences
Director, Formulation Development
Merck Animal Health

Izabela GaleskaDirector, Formulation Development —  Intervet Inc. d/b/a Merck Animal Health (1/2019 – present)
Group Leader/Formulation Development —  Boehringer-Ingelheim (prior Merial Inc.) (3/2010 –1/2019)
Principal Lead Scientist I —  Fort Dodge Animal Health (now Zoetis) (7/2005 – 3/2010)
Polymer Scientist —  Duramed Research Inc. (now Teva) (8/2003 – 6/2005)
Post-Doctoral Fellow —  Boston Scientific Inc. and UConn (11/2002 – 7/2003)

Ph.D. Polymer Science (2002) — University of Connecticut, Institute of Materials Science
M.S. Polymer Engineering and Technology (1996) — Wroclaw Polytechnic, Poland


Mary Goll, PhD
Breakout Session: The Road Less Traveled
Associate Professor, Department of Genetics
University of Georgia
Jesse Goodwin, PhD
Breakout Session: Translation Station
Chief Innovation Officer
Medical University of South Carolina

Jesse GoodwinDr. Goodwin is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Dr. Goodwin is charged with serving as a catalyst for programs and initiatives that incentive a culture of innovation. She also provides oversight and coordination amongst MUSC’s innovation ecosystem, developing intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial strategies to support a diverse innovation portfolio spanning all domains of the tripartite mission. Prior to this role, Dr. Goodwin was the Vice President of Development for the Zucker Institute for Applied Neurosciences, a technology accelerator at MUSC, and had also served as the Deputy Director of the MUSC Foundation for Research Development, the organization’s technology transfer office. In 2022, she led the effort to merge these two groups into the Zucker Institute for Innovation Commercialization and now also serves as the Board Chair for the new entity.

Dr. Goodwin came to MUSC from a Boston-based intellectual property (IP) consulting firm where she was Director of the Medical Device division, providing insight to client companies on IP matters pertaining to a vast array of medical technologies. Dr. Goodwin completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program. She holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Stony Brook University.


Hunter Johnson
Breakout Session: Uncle Sam Wants You
Deputy Director
US Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, Laboratory Services & Applied Science Division

Hunter JohnsonHunter Johnson is the Deputy Director, Laboratory Services and Applied Science Division located in Athens, Georgia. In this capacity, Hunter has responsibility for managing the Region’s analytical, data validation, and field support activities in collaboration with the Region’s media programs, States, Tribes, and local communities. Hunter began his EPA career with LSASD in 2008. Since then, he has held various leadership positions throughout the division. Hunter received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics from Delta State University located in Cleveland, Mississippi. He also has a Master in Science Degree in Engineering from Mississippi State University located in Starkville, Mississippi.


Emily Krach, PhD
Breakout Session: Translation Station
Technology Analysis and Marketing Fellow
NCI (National Cancer Institute) Technology Transfer Center

Emily KrachDr. Emily Krach leverages over 10 years of interdisciplinary research experience as a Technology Analysis and Marketing Fellow in the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Technology Transfer Center. In this unique post-doctoral fellowship, Emily facilitates the commercial development of NCI innovations by initiating collaborations with and licensing to industry partners. Her work integrates alliance development, technology assessment, targeted marketing, and science communication to market a diverse portfolio of early-stage assets. Emily received her PhD in Genetics from the University of Georgia in 2021, where she began exploring life science commercialization through Innovation Gateway and I-CORPS.


Courtney Law, PhD
Panel: Exploring Careers in the Life Sciences
Managing Director, Biolocity
Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology

Courtney LawCourtney Law, Ph.D., joined Biolocity as Managing Director in November 2020. Biolocity provides a combination of funding, project management, and consulting resources to new technologies from Emory University or the Georgia Institute of Technology that address unmet clinical needs and have compelling commercial potential. Since 2015, the program has awarded more than $9 million across 62 projects, generating more than 16 times that much in follow-on investment. 

Most recently, she served as Georgia Bio’s Director for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.  In this role, she was responsible for positioning Georgia Bio as a leader for Academic – Industry relationships and collaborations, strengthening the partnership and collaboration between the Life Sciences community and academic institutions.  

Prior to moving to Atlanta, Law was Gonzaga University’s Director of the University of Washington School of Medicine—Gonzaga University Regional Health Partnership. In leading GU’s efforts within the Partnership, she worked with colleagues at both institutions to advance health-related research, entrepreneurship and inter-professional health education.  She served on local and regional Boards of Directors for Providence Health Care. Law also worked at Life Science Washington, developing the Washington Innovation Network for Life Sciences Entrepreneur Mentoring Program as well as an initiative to expose graduate students to entrepreneurship. She has served as a consultant for the University of Washington CoMotion program to promote research commercialization. She also worked with entrepreneurs and early-stage companies at the Office of Technology Transfer at North Carolina State University.

Law holds a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She completed postdoctoral studies at the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) in Durham, North Carolina.


Crystal Leach, PhD
Keynote, Moderator
Associate Professor of Practice, UGA College of Engineering
Program Director, Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers at National Science Foundation (NSF)
Adrienne Madison, PhD
Breakout Session: Uncle Sam Wants You
Chief, Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention and Protection Team
US Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory, Fort Rucker AL

Adrienne MadisonDr. Adrienne Madison is a native of Fairfield, Alabama. She is currently the Chief of the Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention and Protection Team at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Fort Rucker, Alabama.  In her current role, she oversees injury biomechanics research aimed at ensuring that the helmets and helmet systems Soldiers wear in military environments do not contribute to decreased mission performance or increase the risk of neck/back injuries. 

Dr. Madison is a biomechanical engineer by training and was first introduced to this union of medicine and engineering through her maternal grandmother’s diabetic complications. Her interests in prosthetic devices and artificial organs led her to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Materials Science and Engineering. Dr. Madison holds the honorable distinction of being the first graduate from University of Georgia’s newly established College of Engineering in 2013, where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Her doctoral research focused on the development of novel applications using medical imaging and computational modeling to simulate and predict the biomechanical behavior of muscle, bones, tissues, and organ systems in animals and humans. Amongst her many accolades, Dr. Madison has been honored as a UGA Amazing Student (2013), a member of the 2019 class of UGA’s 40 under 40, as well as being invited to serve on the UGA College of Engineering Advisory Board. Most recently, she was named to the 2022 Class of Volunteer 40 Under 40 Alumni at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Adrienne has been with USAARL since 2015. She considers the opportunity—to work in an environment that allows her showcase my skills and talents while protecting those who serve our country—to be both a pleasure and a privilege. On the longest and most frustrating of research days, her motivation is that her efforts behind the scenes contribute to maintaining and ensuring healthy Soldiers. One of her greatest laboratory achievements has been the development and dissemination of the first helmet system guidelines for mission performance decrement specifically for dismounted Soldier populations; this guidance previously existed only for aviators.

Furthermore, Dr. Madison is passionate about opportunities and initiatives that allow her to engage and give back to the community.  For almost 20 years, she has been committed to providing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focused mentoring to minority and underrepresented students from elementary to collegiate levels.  Lastly, she uses her platform to promote health and wellness awareness within communities of color.


Chantal McMahon
Breakout Session: Beyond the Bench
Senior Finance Manager of Digital Platforms

Chantal McMahonChantal’s career has been singularly focused on improving human health by using data to inform decision making. This purpose has landed her as a finance leader at Intuitive Surgical where she drives business planning and strategy of digital, data and AI platforms to empower surgeons and patients to optimize care as aided by minimally invasive surgical robotics. Prior to her finance role at Intuitive, Chantal spent 8 years in Digital Innovations and R&D at Medtronic Diabetes managing teams of data scientists and product managers focused on improving diabetes disease management.

Chantal attributes her strong technical background to the training she received during her Drexel PhD in Biomedical Engineering and Neuroengineering. It was through this process that she fell in love with data and analysis as a means to solve problems and enhance decision making in medicine. In addition to her work at Intuitive, Chantal spends her time on the AdvanSE Life Sciences steering committee as part of the non-profit organization aimed at increasing the vibrancy of biotech and life sciences in the southeast United States. She also volunteers her time mentoring technical undergrad and graduate students considering careers in industry. As a recent MBA graduate from Emory University, she continues to instruct MBA students on the Applications of AI and Machine Learning in Medicine as part of curriculum on the Business of Healthcare.  

She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Nicholas Au Yong, MD, PhD and their young daughter.


John Mitchell
Breakout Session: Translation Station
Athens Research and Technology

John MitchellJohn Mitchell, CEO of Athens Research and Technology, is an accomplished executive with a wealth of experience in product development and commercialization. John graduated from the United States Military Academy and served as a US Army pilot before transitioning to the private sector. Over the past 25 years, John has held various leadership roles, including R&D Leader and CEO, where he has led teams to create and launch over 150 innovative products for the medical, high-tech, and consumer markets.

Athens Research and Technology (ART) is a UGA-founded company, with a 35+ year history providing highly pure native proteins to academic researchers and IVD and cell culture media manufacturers globally. Over the past decade, ART’s products have been listed in over 1,500 academic research papers.

ART is the 2022 winner of the Georgia GLOBE Award, confirming their success in international sales, and the 2022 awardee of “Athens Company of the Year,” recognizing their commitment to the Athens community.

Since joining Athens Research and Technology in late 2020, John Mitchell has implemented a range of initiatives aimed at boosting production capacity and creating a robust talent pipeline that supports the recruitment and development of qualified professionals. With a focus on long-term career growth, John is dedicated to creating pathways that enable new employees to embark on 20+ year journeys with the company.


Scott Nordstrom, DVM
Keynote Fireside Chat: Looking Forward in Life Science Industry
Director of Development and Innovation
US Livestock, Merck Animal Health

Scott Nordstrom, DVMDr. Scott Nordstrom specializes in immunology, vaccine research and development, as well as post-approval pharmaceutical and vaccine studies in cattle. He also provides training in the areas of infectious diseases, vaccinology, immunology and diagnostics. Dr. Nordstrom played principal roles in bringing numerous products to the US and Global cattle industry including Banamine® Transdermal and the Vista® vaccine line. He was also responsible for bringing numerous intranasal vaccines to market in the cattle industry Including Nasalgen 3PMH.  After practicing dairy and equine medicine privately for ten years, he joined Merck Animal Health Cattle Technical Services in 2001.  He Served for 14 Years as the Director of Technical Services and is currently the Director of Strategic Development and Innovation for Merck Animal Health.


Melissa O'Conner
Breakout Session: The Road Less Traveled
Chief Quality & Regulatory Officer

Melissa O'ConnorMelissa O’Connor, M.S., FRAPS, RAC, CTBS has more than 20 years of experience in medical device, combination product, and human tissue new product development research, engineering, and commercialization.  She has experience in Quality System design, implementation, maintenance, and compliance.  Melissa has held Quality leadership positions serving as the Management Representative, Head of Quality and official FDA correspondent for prescription eye-glass lens manufacturer QSpex Technologies, Inc., and Chemence Medical Products, Inc, a global manufacturer of adhesive based Class II medical devices for would closure.  During an 11-year tenure with Kimberly-Clark Health Care, Melissa held positions in Regulatory Affairs, Product Development, and Process Engineering.  In addition to Quality Systems expertise, Melissa is skilled at developing comprehensive regulatory strategies to support new product development including pre-market approval requirements for U.S. and E.U.  She is a member of the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS) and holds an active RAC certification.  Melissa holds a B.S. degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Georgia and an M.S. Degree from the University of Georgia School of Pharmacy in Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Regulatory Affairs.  

Melissa is a founding member and currently serves as the Chief Quality and Regulatory Officer for StimLabs, LLC, a regenerative medicine company based in Roswell, Georgia.  In her current role, Melissa is responsible for all aspects of Quality and Regulatory Affairs for StimLabs including Quality Assurance, Quality Control, Quality Engineering, Quality Management Systems, Donor Services, as well as tactical and strategic regulatory compliance and pre and post-market submissions.  

Melissa is a Certified Tissue Banking Specialist, a member of the American Association of Tissue Banks, a member of RAPS and a 2022 RAPS Fellow.


Heidi O'Donnell
Breakout Session: Uncle Sam Wants You
Project Manager for CDC and HHS, ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education)

Heidi O'DonnellHeidi O’Donnell is a passionate, forward thinking professional with 25+ years of leadership experience in the military, manufacturing, non-profit organizations, and business while raising her three children and five foster children over the years.  She served four years in the United States Marine Corps in the Presidential Support Unit of HMX-1 and under Presidents Reagan and Bush.  Heidi graduated with a BS in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, received an M.B.A. with a concentration in Management and Marketing from Lincoln Memorial University, and is currently a Doctoral Candidate pursuing a DBA in Strategic Management at Liberty University.  Heidi lives with her husband in Oak Ridge, TN and has three children currently attending college.  Heidi works as a project manager representing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services for the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education or ORISE, in STEM Workforce Development.


Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Stephanie Pearl
Breakout Session: What Next?
Co-founder & CEO
Adaptive Roots Consulting

Stephanie PearlDr. Stephanie Pearl, founder and principal of Adaptive Roots Consulting, works with individuals in the sciences to find balance, authenticity, and impact in their careers. Dr. Pearl received her PhD in Plant Biology from UGA in 2013. Following a short postdoc at the UGA Center for Applied Genetic Technologies, Dr. Pearl was 2015-2017 AAAS Science & Technology Fellow with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture and a 2017-2021 ORISE Fellow at the USDA Agricultural Research Service. Her portfolio at USDA cut across science communication, strategic planning, workshop facilitation, and organizational change management. During this time, Dr. Pearl also established the ARS Postdoctoral Advisory Council and served on the advisory board for the UGA Graduate School Experiential Professional Development Program. In 2022, Dr. Pearl launched Adaptive Roots Consulting, became a CTA Certified Coach, and introduced Career Navigator Lab as one of Adaptive Roots Consulting’s offerings.


Lauren Pittenger, PhD
Breakout Session: The Road Less Traveled
Vice President, Human Services Portfolio
Abt Associates

Lauren PittengerLauren Pittenger comes to Abt with more than 20 years of experience working in or as a consultant to federal government agencies. She has strong grounding in research and research-based consulting to government clients. She also has extensive experience leading and growing business, managing technical and scientific projects, and coaching and supporting account teams. She has served as a director at Guidehouse, scientific program manager at Booz Allen Hamilton, and lab manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network, the Gates Foundation and the Association of Public Health Laboratories.

In her new role, Pittenger will focus on engagement with the broad spectrum of our human services clients, including the Departments of Labor, Agriculture, and Education; the Social Security Administration; and the Administration for Children and Families. She will be responsible for developing a strategic and operating plan for the human services portfolio to boost sales and revenue. Through her contacts with clients, she will translate their priorities into our strategy and execution plans. She also will help address client needs by including in our solutions, when appropriate, our capabilities in research, monitoring, and evaluation; technical assistance and implementation; digital and data services; and equity.

Pittenger comes to Abt from Guidehouse, where she led a team that developed training for laboratories doing COVID-19 work. The project also developed a strategic plan to strengthen the public health workforce by training underserved communities. She led another team that analyzed an organization in preparation for a reorganization effort. At Booz Allen, Pittenger worked on a range of projects for the FDA that involved bioinformatics, quality and safety systems, the inventory control and information management system, and Lean Six Sigma training. CDC work included quality systems implementation and working with state public health labs on pandemic preparedness and testing of vaccine preventable diseases. She served as the lab manager for the Agricultural Research Services, Bacterial Epidemiology and Antimicrobial Resistance research unit. In that role, Pittenger launched and managed the DNA sequencing center shared by several research units. She also collected, cleaned, and analyzed original data for publication in scientific journals and presented research at an international meeting.


Lisa Renzi-Hammond, PhD
Breakout Session: Beyond the Bench
Director, Institute of Gerontology; Co-Director, Cognitive Aging Research and Education (CARE) Initiative; Associate Professor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior
UGA College of Public Health
Bill Scheib
Breakout Session: Uncle Sam Wants You
Project Manager for FDA, ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education)

Bill ScheibBill Scheib is a project manager that works with the FDA at ORISE.  He enjoys helping connect the FDA with good candidates and increasing the chances of candidates finding their place at the FDA. He was educated at the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s in finance and later achieved a master’s in business administration from Xavier University. Bill has worked in contract administration for over 10 years and 3 years in project management with Oak Ridge Associated University. He lives in Knoxville, TN and enjoys hiking and participating in water activities.


Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education

Kasey Smith
Breakout Session: Uncle Sam Wants You Research and Development Associate
SimpleC, LLC

Kasey SmithKasey Smith is a UGA alumna and Double Dawg- she graduated with her B.S. in Health Promotion and Behavior in 2017 and Master of Public Health in Gerontology in 2019. Her research centers on developing technology-based interventions that help older adults age healthily and happily. She currently holds the role of Associate Research and Developer at SimpleC, LLC, a technology solution company based out of Atlanta, GA. SimpleC’s unique technology, the Companion™, emphasizes connecting older adults to their social supports and clinicians while encouraging autonomy in healthcare decision making. With SimpleC, she is leading a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, working directly older adults with cognitive impairment to inform the design and commercialization of a new digital platform.


Jan Spaas, PhD, DVM
Panel: Exploring Careers in the Life Sciences
Global Head of Research
Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health

Jan SpaasJan H. Spaas was born in Bilzen (Belgium) on January the 6th, 1986. His high school majors were Latin and Mathematics. During this period, he was a passionate horseback rider, which was translated in winning a 2-fold bronze medal at European Championships and 3-fold bronze medal at Belgian Championships for juniors and young riders (show jumping). 

He graduated as a veterinarian in 2010 at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Ghent University (Belgium) and obtained his PhD at the Department of Comparative Physiology and Biometrics of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University (Belgium). In 2012 he co-founded Global Stem cell Technology (acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim in 2020) to develop regenerative therapies for the treatment of musculoskeletal diseases in horses and dogs and was the General Manager for 10 years. 

In 2020 he was appointed visiting professor at the Department of Medical imaging of Domestic Animals and Orthopaedics of Small Animals from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University. He is promotor of several PhD students, inventor of 14 patent families consisting of over 40 patents and is a key author of over 40 peer-reviewed international scientific publications. He is also an Associate Editor of Frontiers in Veterinary Science for the Veterinary Regenerative Medicine. 

In February 2022 he became Director Global Innovation Development located in Athens, Georgia and in 2023 he was appointed Global Head of Research for Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.


Ron Walcott, PhD
Wrap-up & Thank You
Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School
UGA Provost's Office

Ron WalcottDr. Ron Walcott serves as the inaugural Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Dean of the Graduate School. In this role, he works with schools and colleges across campus to enhance the recruitment, support, and success of graduate students.

Walcott has served in several administrative roles on campus, including as interim Dean of the Graduate School. Walcott served on the graduate education committee of the Provost’s Task Force on Academic Excellence and currently serves on the Student Affairs Academic Advisory Board, the university’s Aspire Alliance IChange team, and represents UGA on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges reaffirmation compliance team.

Walcott is a professor of plant pathology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. His research focuses on pathogens that affect commercially important vegetables and has been funded by more than $5 million in external grants from agencies such as the USDA, as well as industry partners. He is the co-author of two books in the field of plant pathology, nearly 70 peer-reviewed journal articles, and numerous book chapters. He has delivered invited seminars and presentations in nine countries on four continents and is the vice president of the American Phytopathological Society.

Walcott has garnered nearly $1 million in additional grant funding to enhance educational experiences for underrepresented students through career awareness programs for high school and undergraduate students. He has mentored or served as an advisory committee member for more than 40 master’s and Ph.D. students. He also has mentored several UGA undergraduate students, as well as high school students through the CAES Young Scholars Internship Program.

Walcott’s honors include receiving the CAES D.W. Brooks Diversity Award for Faculty and being named a UGA Senior Teaching Fellow and a Teaching Academy Member. He  earned his Ph.D. in plant pathology from UGA and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, also in plant pathology, from Iowa State University.


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