How Funders Can Work with Universities to Support Early Career Scientists [HRA Members Meeting, Chicago, Fall 2023]

Tuesday October 17, 10:10am-11:20am CT - Chicago, IL and online via Zoom

Being an early career researcher poses numerous challenges. These individuals require substantial support to nurture their innovative ideas and progress to the next phase of their professional journey. Both nonprofit funders and universities have a vested interest in supporting their scientists to develop their innovative ideas and move to the next stage of their career. In this session, speakers will discuss examples of ways in which funders and universities can work together to support early career scientists.

Megan Allen, PhD
Scientific Director | Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
Megan joined the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation in 2022. Megan is part of a team that overseas six award programs that fund early career researchers. The overarching goal of these programs is to identify emerging talent and support risky projects that may revolutionize the way we prevent, diagnose, and treat various cancers. In her short tenure at Damon Runyon, Megan has also worked with senior leadership to develop outreach initiatives including a quarterly webinar series and a post-baccalaureate research bridge program. Megan received her PhD in Cell and Molecular Neuroscience from Georgetown University and completed postdoctoral research training at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Patrick Brandt, PhD
Director of Career Development and Outreach | Office of Graduate Education University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Patrick Brandt, Ph.D. is the Director of Career Development and Outreach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Patrick leads Career Development initiatives for biomedical Ph.D. students, including the ImPACT internship program, career advising, and alumni career placement tracking. Patrick also coordinates the Translational Medicine Training program for students interested in clinically relevant research.  As Outreach director, Patrick oversees NC DNA Day and other efforts aimed at connecting scientists to the public.  Patrick has a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester (he is a native Upstate New Yorker) and did postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Paola Cépeda, PhD
Director of Postdoctoral Affairs | Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Paola Cépeda is the Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a national leader and expert on postdoctoral affairs and professional development for early-career scientists. Dr. Cépeda has a strong record of developing and managing successful learning, training and advising programs for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from different fields (from STEM and Medicine to the Arts, the Humanities and the Social Sciences). Dr. Cépeda serves as the Chair of the Committee on Gender Equity in Linguistics of the Linguistic Society of America, the International Officer of the National Postdoctoral Association International Taskforce, and a Member at Large of the Postdoctoral Leaders Section Steering Committee of the Group on Research, Education and Training (GREAT) of the Association of American Medical Colleges. In these capacities, Dr. Cépeda advocates and works for interventions and policies to retain and engage underrepresented identities in academia (in particular, women, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ scholars) and to educate international trainees about their academic and career mobility options in the United States. Dr. Cépeda co-founded the Pop-Up Mentoring Program, a hallmark of the Linguistic Society of America, for which she was awarded the Linguistic Service Award in 2019. Dr. Cépeda holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stony Brook University and a Ph.D. in Linguistics and Andean Studies from Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru.

Kim Lezak, PhD
Managing Director of Biomedical Research Grantmaking | Health Resources in Action
Kimberly Lezak is a Managing Director of Biomedical Research Grantmaking at HRIA. Dr. Lezak joined The Medical Foundation as a Scientific Officer in 2018 and works as part of a team devoted to biomedical research grant program management and grant making. She received a B.A. from Lehigh University and a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Vermont. As a Kaneb Fellow and awardee of the Jonathan Edward Brooking Mental Health Research Fellowship, Dr. Lezak completed postdoctoral training at McLean Hospital where she conducted basic research focusing on the neurobiological underpinnings of stress-related psychiatric illnesses including PTSD, anxiety, and addiction related disorders. Her 10 years of research experience have resulted in publication of multiple papers and presentations at local and national conferences.

Amanda Moualeu, MPH
Senior Research & Grants Administration | American Heart Association
Amanda Moualeu joined the American Heart Association(AHA) in 2016 from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children as a Strategic Research Program Manager. In that position, she managed various AHA research initiatives including the SURE program (Supporting Undergraduate Research Experiences), alongside other collaborative work done between the AHA and other organizations seeking to fund similar research.  She is currently a Senior Research & Grants Administrator managing the research team’s role in the initiative, “Debiasing of Clinical Care Algorithms (DECCA),” funded by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. 
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Affairs & Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas and her Master of Public Health (MPH) in Health Policy and Leadership from Loma Linda University.