Stowers Alumni Return to Provide Insight and Inspiration

Success of a research institute can be measured in a variety of ways. If measured by publications, the Stowers Institute has been successful in furthering fundamental knowledge of science with more than 1,200 scientific publications. Another measure of success is the quantity and quality of the scientists that work and train in its laboratories, and move on to careers outside of the Institute where they continue to advance science in a multitude of ways.

Stowers alumni have pursued a diverse array of careers, but one thing they have in common is a remarkable set of skills developed and refined under the mentorship of leaders and experts in their fields of science. A recent career development event hosted by Crossroads, a Stowers program focused on integrative internal events with participation from predocs, postdocs, and core and staff scientists, highlighted the experiences of a handful of Stowers alumni as they moved into careers outside of the Institute. Each speaker shared the value of their experiences while at the Institute and what tools helped them land their current positions.

A culture of collaboration and access to unmatched tools and expertise were considered by all the alumni to be of unparalleled value during their time at the Institute. Kendra Walton, who was a senior research technician in the Stowers Molecular Biology Facility and is now a senior researcher in the genomics facility at a hospital in Denver, Colorado, said, “It was the skills I obtained at Stowers that put me in a position to take on a job like this.” Walton’s job has included rebuilding, from scratch, the genomics core facility that had no staff and little equipment when she took the position, but now has become a well-respected and flourishing facility.

Ray Camahort, PhD, a former predoctoral researcher in the lab of Jennifer Gerton, PhD, and currently an associate with a life sciences venture capital firm, appreciated the generous and widespread support he had at the Institute. He said that in his experiences in both bench science and technology development outside of the Stowers Institute, he had to get used to being a number in a queue and that expert advice was not nearly as free-flowing as it had been at the Institute

The panel of alumni also shared what was most helpful for advancing their careers. Included among this advice was the importance of regularly attending conferences and seeking out people and scientific ideas that challenge traditional ideology. Matt Goering, PhD, lab director of the Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center, suggested that attendees take advantage of situations where they can speak up and share their knowledge. “Be the expert in the room. You never know who might be listening.”

As diverse as career options are, so too were the tips, tools, and advice for landing the next job. But, common among the advice from these alumni was to take advantage of the amazing support and collaboration available at the Institute to build a broad skill set and a robust network.