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Career Discussions


Organized by the Associate Member Council (AMC), Career Discussions are informal networking and discussion opportunities during which early-career researchers meet with recently transitioned physician-scientist and junior faculty/equivalent to obtain advice for career transition and professional success. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Monday, April 11, 2:30 – 3:15 p.m. CST

AACR Amphitheater, AACR Central (Exhibit Booth #1636)        

The purpose of this session is to normalize that it’s ok for early-career researchers to ask for help. The discussion will focus on the importance of seeking help in conducting research and navigating the training phase, how to recognize that you need help, and how to ask for help within and outside of your research lab.

2022 Participating Scientists

Emil Lou MD, PhD, FACP

Emil Lou MD, PhD, FACP

Associate Professor and Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office-Solid Tumor Unit

Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

 Dr. Lou is an Associate Professor and Medical Director of the Clinical Trials Office-Solid Tumor Unit at the Masonic Cancer Center of the University of Minnesota. After completing undergraduate studies in biochemistry at SUNY College at Geneseo, Dr. Lou received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees (Microbiology and Immunology) from SUNY Upstate Medical University in 2004. He performed his residency training in Internal Medicine at Duke University Medical Center and then subsequently completed his Medical Oncology and Hematology fellowship at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 2010. He also completed an additional fellowship in Neuro-Oncology at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke. Dr. Lou, a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, is board certified in Medical Oncology and Internal Medicine. In addition he is also board certified in Neuro-Oncology through the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties. He joined the faculty in the Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation in 2011 and is a member of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

Dr. Lou is a physician-scientist with a strong interest in the clinical cancer biology of solid tumors. Dr. Lou’s clinical practice focuses on patients with advanced gastrointestinal cancers, and he is also board-certified in neuro-oncology. His approach to research is to identify gaps in knowledge at the bedside that can be closed using translational oncology and laboratory research. He is PI of a basic science laboratory that focuses on the role of intercellular communication on tumor heterogeneity in a spectrum of invasive and aggressive solid tumor malignancies. Projects in his lab focus on investigating the biology of cancer cells as they relate to cancer cell invasion, progression, tumor recurrence, and chemotherapy resistance. Dr. Lou’s cancer research team’s work has made progress in the role of tumor-stroma cross talk in the complex and heterogeneous tumor microenvironment occurring via tunneling nanotubes (TNTs), long cellular protrusions that act as skyways to create cellular networks for communication and coordination.

Katherine Y. Tossas, PhD

Katherine Y. Tossas, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Health Behavior & Policy

Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, Virginia

Dr. Kathy Tossas is an assistant professor and Harrison Endowed Scholar in the Department of Health Behavior and Policy, with a joint appointment in Epidemiology, at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. She is also a member of the Massey Cancer Center where she is responsible for the Catchment Area Data Access and Alignment (CADA) initiatives. Her work and research are grounded in health equity, and center on elucidating how structural determinants of health such as differential access to care impact cancer outcomes for underserved and underrepresented populations (e.g. racial and ethnic, sexual gender and geographic minorities). Most recently, her research interests are focused on the use of machine learning methodologies to explore the potential influence of the microbiome on HPV-related cancers.

Prior to joining VCU, Dr. Tossas was a research assistant professor in the division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where she published 20 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and served as co-PI for numerous NIH, and PI or co-PI for non-federally funded projects. She also served in various leadership roles within the UIC Cancer Center, including founding the Office of Global Assets and Innovative Approaches (GAIA), and the Office of Catchment Area Research and Data Sciences (CARDS), and serving as co-director for the Office of Community Engaged Research and Implementation Science (OCERIS), within the Community Outreach and Engagement program at the cancer center.

Before re-entering academia, Dr. Tossas held leadership positions at various non-profits. At the American Cancer Society she developed and deployed a $5 million statewide breast and colon cancer screening initiative for underserved populations. At the Health Research and Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association she oversaw the data management, analysis, and reporting operations for a $60 million portfolio of AHRQ, CMS, and CDC funded health care quality improvement initiatives. At the small non-profit Equal Hope within Rush University Hospital, she developed and deployed the first statewide mammography quality surveillance system. Dr. Tossas also spent nearly ten years at Abbott Molecular, across various roles, predominantly overseeing the development molecular diagnostic tests for infectious diseases. Dr. Tossas earned a BS in biology from the University of Puerto Rico (MARC and Howard Hughes scholar), an MS in microbiology and immunology from the University of Michigan (Rackham Merit fellow) and a PhD in cancer epidemiology from UIC (Susan G. Komen scholar).

Building a Successful Research Lab and Negotiating Your First Academic Salary

Tuesday, April 12, 3:00 – 3:45 p.m. CST

AACR Amphitheater, AACR Central (Exhibit Booth #1636)

During this session, speakers will discuss key aspects to consider for junior PI when building a new research group, how to utilize a start-up package effectively, building a lab group, and day-to-day lab management. The speakers will also discuss negotiating salary, protected time for research, teaching, lab, lab support, and resources.

2022 Participating Scientists

Amy E. Moran, PhD

Amy E. Moran, PhD

Assistant Professor

Oregon Health & Science University

Portland, Oregon

Dr. Moran earned her PhD in Microbiology, Cancer Biology and Immunology from the University of Minnesota where she trained with Dr. Kristin Hogquist revealing how T cell receptor signal strength was critical for lineage fate decisions during development. She conducted post-doctoral training at the Earle A Chiles Research Institute investigating mechanisms of action of OX40 agonism in solid tumors. She was recruited by Dr. Lisa Coussens in 2017 and joined the department of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology at Oregon Health & Science University. Today, her research focuses on how sex hormones regulate T cell function within mouse and human primary and metastatic tumors. Her group utilizes a variety of tools to interrogate these fundamental and translational questions including transgenic and chimeric mouse models, in vivo tumor modeling, in vitro cellular assays, monoclonal antibodies and small molecules as cancer therapeutics, single cell ‘omics, and flow sorting and cytometry. She partners with clinicians and bioinformaticists and trains graduate students and postdocs within her laboratory with an overall goal of moving benchtop discoveries back into the clinic for the care of patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Enrique I. Velazquez Villarreal, MD, PhD, MPH, MS

Enrique I. Velazquez Villarreal, MD, PhD, MPH, MS

Assistant Professor of Research

Leader of the USC Bioinformatics, Statistical and Methodological Core at CaRE2 Health Equity Center

Department of Translational Genomics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC)

Los Angeles, California

Enrique Velazquez Villarreal, M.D., Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., is a Multidisciplinary Doctor in Precision Medicine, Clinical Medicine, Statistical and Computational Genomics, proficient in Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Supercomputers. He is Assistant Professor of Research at the Department of Translational Genomics Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California (USC), and Leader of the Bioinformatics, Statistical and Methodological Core, CaRE2 Health Equity Center in Los Angeles CA. He is a NIH-NCI-NIA funded investigator with research projects in Cancer, Cancer Health Disparities and Alzheimer’s Disease. He teaches courses in precision medicine and clinical and genomic data integration in the medical, genomics, molecular biology, computational science and applying engineering fields. Dr. Velazquez-Villarreal earned his doctorate in human/medical genetics with a strong focus on statistical and computational genomics for precision medicine at the Department of Human Genetics, GSPH, University of Pittsburgh, and completed his dissertation project at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA. He completed two postdoctoral trainings, one in Precision Medicine at the Functional Genomics Laboratory, The Scripps Research Institute campus La Jolla, CA and another in autism research at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. He also completed a Master of Science in Epidemiology, a Master of Public Health and a certificate in Global Health at the GSPH, University of Pittsburgh. His Medical Doctor Degree is from the UANL Mexico, with Medical Fellowships at Vald’Hebron Hospital, Barcelona Spain, and Harvard Medical School, Boston MA. His research is primarily concerned with integrating clinical and genomic data for Precision Medicine and Cancer Health Disparities for Tumor Profiling, developing and applying high resolution multi-Omic data at single cell genomic/epigenomic data and spatial transcriptomics in different cancers such as endometrial, colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancers. To this end, he applies analyses derived from bioinformatics, statistics, genetics, epidemiology, clinical medicine and public & global health in the areas of Cancer, Immunology and Neurology.