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Navigating the Path to a Successful Career in Cancer Research

Monday, May 17, 11:45 am-1:45 pm ET

Organized in collaboration with the Associate Membership Council (AMC), Minorities in Cancer Research (MICR) Council, Science Education and Career Advancement Committee and Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council, this session is designed to assist with the professional and career development of investigators at all career levels. The session will consist of informal small-group conversations at roundtables with representatives from varying roles in the academic, industry, and government sectors. Participants will have the opportunity to informally speak with a roundtable mentor about his/her experiences, successes, and lessons learned that have helped establish the mentor’s career path. 

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Please contact us at [email protected] with any questions.

Pre-Registration is required and exclusively to AACR Virtual Annual Meeting 2021 registrants.

overview

Session Co-Chairs:

Oliver Bogler, PhD, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 

Beverly D. Lyn-Cook, FDA-NCTR, Jefferson, Arkansas

Brian M. Rivers, PhD, MPH, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia  

This Professional Advancement session provides students, postdoctoral candidates, and junior faculty the opportunity to discuss important career development issues and survival skills with senior establish scientists. The session will be broken up into two rounds with approximately 10 participants per table informally speaking with a roundtable mentor. After the first round is complete, participants can choose to remain with their current roundtable mentor or meet with a different mentor for additional networking opportunities. 

We would encourage you to take advantage of this exclusive opportunity for one-on-one time with leaders in the cancer research field by attending this session during the Annual Meeting! If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our staff at [email protected].   

2021 Participating Senior Scientists

Wayne D. Bowen, PhD

Wayne D. Bowen, PhD

Upjohn Professor of Pharmacology, Professor of Biology and Chair, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology

Brown University

Providence, Rhode Island

Breakout Topic – How to Set Up a Lab and Management of Resources and Personnel

Dr. Wayne Bowen earned his B.S. in chemistry from Morgan State College in 1974, and his Ph.D. in biochemistry and neurobiology at Cornell University in 1981. After postdoctoral studies at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), he moved to Brown University in 1983, as Assistant Professor of Biology in the Section of Biochemistry where he taught and conducted research on opioid and sigma receptors in the brain. He moved back to the NIH in 1991 to establish the Unit on Receptor Biochemistry and Pharmacology within the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). He returned to Brown University in 2004 to take his current position as Professor of Biology in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology & Biotechnology in the Division of Biology and Medicine. In 2007, he assumed the position as department chair and was named Upjohn Professor of Pharmacology in 2008. Dr. Bowen is a nationally recognized leader in research on sigma receptors; membrane proteins found in tissues throughout the body and that are highly upregulated in cancer cells. He is credited with the discovery of the sigma-2 receptor and subdividing the system into sigma-1 and sigma-2 subtypes. He demonstrated that sigma-2 receptor ligands induce apoptotic cell death or alter cellular metabolism, suggesting a role for the system in cell survival. Dr. Bowen has published over 150 peer-reviewed journal articles on topics related to sigma and opioid receptors. This research has been funded by NIDA, NINDS, NIDDK, NIGMS, the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council, a Salomon Award from Brown University, and the Upjohn Professorship in Pharmacology.

Work hard, give your best, and don’t be afraid to fail.

Keywords: drug development, regulatory science, early phase clinical trials, pharmacogenomics, health disparities

Mariam Eljanne, PhD

Mariam Eljanne, PhD

Program Director, Center for Cancer Training

National Cancer Institute

Rockville, Maryland

Breakout topic – Getting the Grant: Training Grant

Dr. Eljanne earned a MS. in Microbial Genetics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the University of Pittsburgh. She has broad expertise in basic sciences and clinical research. After earning her Master’s degree, Dr. Eljanne managed the Molecular Diagnostics laboratory for infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She then joined the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh where she worked on gene therapy, stem cell research, and genomic imprinting. Dr. Eljanne studied the methylation pattern of DNA in the mouse. After earning her Ph.D., she joined Cytyc Corporation where she worked on breast and cervical cancer diagnostic assay development. In 2004 she moved to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as a Senior Research Associate where she worked on prostate cancer diagnostic assay development. In 2008, Dr. Eljanne joined the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Lupus Center as a Research Program Manager where she managed several industry-sponsored lupus clinical trials. In 2009 Dr. Eljanne joined the NIH as a Program Director where she is currently managing training grants including F32, F99/K00, R25, and UE5 in the Center for Cancer Training at the National Cancer Institute.

Hard work pays off but with collaborations and networking you can learn from other people’s experience and advance your career much better and faster.

Keywords: molecular genetics, molecular diagnostics, clinical trials, NIH grant system

Johanna A. Joyce

Johanna A. Joyce

Professor of Oncology

University of Lausanne/ Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

Lausanne, Switzerland

Breakout topic: Negotiating for Job Offers, Salaries, and Promotion

Johanna Joyce is a Professor at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, and Full Member of the international Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research. Prior to relocating her lab to Switzerland in 2016, she was a Full Member at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a Full Professor at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York.

Professor Joyce’s laboratory investigates the microenvironment in which a tumor arises and the critical influence that non-cancerous immune and stromal cells can have on tumor progression, metastasis and therapeutic response. They have uncovered regulatory signals provided by the normal tissue stroma and immune cells to the cancer cells, and determined how normal cells can be modified by the cancer cells to produce a variety of factors that enhance tumor malignancy. A major focus of the lab’s recent research has been to deeply and comprehensively interrogate the immune landscape of brain tumors, and then use this gained knowledge to develop novel strategies to therapeutically target the tumor microenvironment.

Professor Joyce has been recognized for her contributions to cancer research through a series of awards including the Robert Bing Prize, Cloetta Prize, Swiss Bridge Award, American Cancer Society Scholar Award, Rita Allen Foundation Award, V Foundation Award, Sidney Kimmel Foundation Award, and many others. In 2017, she was elected as a Member of EMBO and a Fellow of the European Academy of Cancer Sciences, and in 2020 she was elected to the Women in Cancer Research Council of the AACR. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the CRUK Cambridge Institute and Cancer Center, Cambridge, UK, IRB Institute, Barcelona, Spain, and the Robert Bosch Center for Tumor Diseases, Stuttgart, Germany, and on the editorial boards of Cancer Cell, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, Cell Reports, and Trends in Cancer.

Professor Joyce is dedicated to supporting and mentoring the next generation of researchers, serving on many committees devoted to training students, hiring and promoting faculty, and ensuring diversity, inclusivity and equal opportunities. She co-founded the ‘Skills for Scientists’ program at the University of Lausanne to enhance the training and future careers of PhD students, master students, postdocs and junior faculty. She has studied/ worked in the US, UK, Ireland, and Switzerland, navigating cultural differences/ visa issues/ language differences etc. in these different environments and has mentored students and postdocs from all over the world.

Keywords: tumor microenvironment, mouse models of cancer, translational research

Christine	M. Lovly, MD, PhD

Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Nashville, Tennessee

Breakout topic: Careers in Cancer: Academia/Cancer Center

Christine M. Lovly, MD, PhD is currently an Associate Professor of Medicine with tenure at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center. She received a B.A. in chemistry from Johns Hopkins University followed by M.D. and Ph.D. degrees as part of the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. She then completed internal medicine residency and medical oncology subspecialty training at Vanderbilt University. During her final year of fellowship, she was the Jim and Carol O’Hare Chief Fellow. She started on faculty at Vanderbilt in July 2013 as a Physician Scientist, splitting her time between clinical care and laboratory research. Her laboratory research is directed at understanding and developing improved therapeutic strategies for specific clinically relevant molecular subsets of cancer. Dr. Lovly has received grant funding from NIH/NCI, Uniting Against Lung Cancer, the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Sarcoma Foundation of America, the American Cancer Society, the Damon Runyon foundation, the LUNGevity foundation, the V Foundation, the American Association for Cancer Research, and Lung Cancer Foundation of America / International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer. She is an active member in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). She is co-Editor-In-Chief for the website www.mycancergenome.org, a Vanderbilt initiated, freely available website which aims to provide health care practitioners, patient, and advocates with up-to-date information regarding genetically informed cancer medicine. Dr. Lovly is also an elected member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) and serves on the Editorial Board for Cancer Discovery. She serves on the Scientific Leadership Boards for the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer Research (where she also serves as SLB director), the LUNGevity Foundation, and the Lung Cancer Research Foundation.

Value and nurture community – our colleagues and friends are what makes the work fun and successful! Seek lots of feedback, but trust your gut instinct as well. Practice patience and understanding – we all have our struggles, but they may not be outwardly apparent. Find joy at work and outside work every day – this is so important! Particularly working in cancer research, we see people who are facing a life altering diagnosis. Our dedication to our work and to serving the community around us honors our patients. We are all touched by cancer somehow in our lives. Some very practical advice:

  1. Buy or download a copy of the book “Make the Right Moves” by HHMI and BWF – excellent resource for investigators at any stage! https://www.hhmi.org/science-education/programs/making-right-moves.
  2. Block off time on your calendar for writing and reading every day.
  3. Same goes for personal time – carve out the time and protect it for whatever is important to you outside work.
  4. Building your team takes time. Speak with more senior investigators and current members of your labs to discuss potential candidates. Keep your HR representative in the loop.
  5. Develop a system of tracking deadlines and keeping up with emails. This is easier said than done… It is helpful to have access to an administrative assistant or research assistant who can assist in tracking emails and ensuing action items/deadlines.

Keywords: lung cancer, genomics, therapeutic resistance, protein structure/function, clinical trials

Beverly D. Lyn-Cook, PhD

Beverly D. Lyn-Cook, PhD

Senior Research Biologist

FDA-NCTR (National Center for Toxicological Research)

Jefferson, Arkansas

Breakout Topic – Careers in Cancer: Government – NIH

Dr. Lyn-Cook is a senior research scientist in the Division of Biochemical Toxicology. Currently, she serves as the coordinator of the Women’s Health Research Program at the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR), a national laboratory of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) located in Jefferson, Arizona. Prior to her arrival at the FDA in 1988, Dr. Lyn-Cook was a research associate professor at the Lineberger Cancer Research Center, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (1984-1988).

Prior to her work at the cancer center, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry (Neurochemistry) University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill from 1981 to 1984. She received her BS degree from Fort Valley State College in 1977. Dr. Lyn-Cook received her master’s degree in 1979 and doctoral degrees in biology from Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1981. Her research interests include cancer research, with a focus on pancreatic and breast cancer; sex differences in drug response, lupus and regulatory science. Dr. Lyn-Cook has been a member of the American Association for Cancer Research for over 20 years, where she has served on numerous committees of the MICR council. Currently, she serves as first vice-president of the Bluff Chapter of the Federally Employed Women (FEW) organization. She has served in the past as Region VI (Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Louisiana) president of Blacks in Government (BIG) and on its National Board of Directors. She was instrumental in establishing the Arkansas School for Math and Science in Hot Springs, Arizona, where she was first appointed by Governor Clinton on its Advisory Board and later appointed by Governor Tucker to serve on its first Board of Trustees. She was appointed by Governor Beebe to the Arkansas Science and Technology Board for two terms, which she chaired in 2012 and was recently appointed by Governor Beebe to the Bioscience Institute Board. She currently serves as NCTR’s liaison to the FDA, Office of Women Health. She is a member of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) STEM External Advisory Board and an adjunct faculty member in the Toxicology Department at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences campus and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has presented at numerous national and international meetings and published in numerous scientific journals. 

Dr. Lyn-Cook is very active in the community and other outreach activities. At her church, Hunter United Methodist, she serves as the president of the United Methodist Women, chairperson of the Education Committee and as a member of the Finance Committee.

Folakemi T. Odedina, PhD

Folakemi T. Odedina, PhD

Professor of Internal Medicine and Associate Director, Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research

Mayo Clinic

Jacksonville, Florida

Breakout Topic – Survival Skills: Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr. Folakemi Odedina is Professor of Internal Medicine, Associate Director of the Center for Health Equity and Community Engagement Research and Director of the Global Health Equity Initiative at Mayo Clinic. She is also the PI and Founder of the NCI-supported Prostate Cancer Transatlantic Consortium (CaPTC), the Research Core Director for the Florida Health Equity Research Institute and the Chair of the Research Committee for the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC). Her research program (primarily funded by the US National Cancer Institute and Department of Defense) focuses on developing cost-effective, community-based behavioral trials to address prostate cancer in Black men globally. She has directed over 30 research projects, including genetic-environmental determinants of prostate cancer disparity studies. Dr. Odedina’s contribution to achieving global Health Equity dates back to 1994 and has resulted in multiple accomplishments and recognitions. Her efforts in training underrepresented minorities for over two decades was recognized through the INSIGHT Into Diversity 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. Additional awards include the Living Legend Award for innovations with health/economic impact and the Williams Award for Innovation in Cancer care in Africa from AORTIC. Her outstanding contributions were also recognized at University of Florida with her selection as UF Research Foundation Professor (2015-2017) and UF Term Professor (2018-2020).

With over 25 years’ in academia as a Black female cancer scientist, my experiences have been both positive and negative. I however would not trade it for anything else, even the negative experiences, as they made me who I am today. The most important thing to note is to believe in yourself and only compete with yourself and no one else. This is what pushes you to be the best that you can be, as you alone know what your limit could be. I have also learned over the years that eliminating cancer disparities requires a comprehensive collaborative approach at a global level.

Keywords: health Equity, Prostate cancer disparities, Behavioral Clinical Trials, Global health research

Kim L. O'Neill, DPhil

Kim L. O’Neill, DPhil

Professor, Department of Microbiology

Brigham Young University

Provo, Utah

Breakout Topic – Finding a Mentor and building an effective relationship with them

Presentations National and International over 900

Peer-Reviewed papers published 147

Books Several chapters and one book, “Powerplants”

Patents 8 issued, 12 pending

Work hard, look for opportunities, believe in yourself, and never give up. Be prepared to adjust, be flexible always look for networking opportunities.

Keywords: macrophages, Thymidine Kinase, CAR Immunotherapy, biomarkers

Electra D. Paskett, PhD

Electra D. Paskett, PhD

Professor, Department of Internal Medicine

The Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio

Breakout topic – The Peer-Review Process for Journals: What to Expect and How to Respond to Feedback for Publishing

Electra D. Paskett, Ph.D., became the Marion N. Rowley Professor of Cancer Research at The Ohio State University in 2002. She is a Professor and Director of the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control in the Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, a professor in the Division of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health and the Associate Director for Population Sciences and Community Outreach and Program Leader of the Cancer Control Program in the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Ohio State University (OSU). She is also Director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity at the James Cancer Hospital. She received her doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Washington.

Never give up on your dreams and let your passion drive your work.

Keywords: Health Disparities; Community-based research; rural health; implementation science; cancer screening; HPV vaccination

Sheila K. Singh, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Sheila K. Singh, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Professor, Department of Surgery, McMaster University

McMaster University Medical Center

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Breakout topic – Balancing Research and Clinical Practice

Dr. Sheila Singh is a professor of surgery and biochemistry, chief pediatric neurosurgeon at McMaster Children’s Hospital, former Division Head of Neurosurgery at Hamilton Health Sciences, and inaugural director of the new Cancer Research Centre at McMaster University. She holds a Tier 1/ Senior Canada Research Chair in Human Brain Cancer Stem Cell Biology, and is the founding Director of the McMaster Surgeon Scientist Program. Her PhD thesis described the novel identification of a population of cancer stem cells that exclusively drive the formation of brain tumours. Since 2007, Dr. Singh’s lab applies a developmental neurobiology framework to the study of brain tumorigenesis. Building upon previous cell culture techniques developed for the isolation of normal neural stem cells (NSC) and applying them to brain tumours, and through development of a xenograft model to efficiently study brain tumour initiating cell (BTIC) activity, Dr. Singh’s lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern BTIC self- renewal. Dr. Singh is currently studying the regulation of BTIC signaling pathways in glioblastoma, brain metastases and childhood medulloblastoma, with an ultimate goal of selectively targeting the BTIC with appropriately tailored drug and molecular therapies. She is scientific founder and prior CEO of a start-up company, Empirica Therapeutics, a brain cancer therapeutics company that is seeking new, data-driven and polytherapeutic treatment options for patients with Glioblastoma and brain metastases. Empirica was acquired by Century Therapeutics Inc (Philadelphia) in June 2020, resulting in the creation of a Canadian subsidiary, Century Canada, based in the McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton.

A clinician scientist has the rare opportunity to bridge two worlds: for me, the worlds of pediatric neurosurgery and basic and translational science merge as we explore new therapeutic options for patients, that arise from rational, data-driven science. It is a balancing act, but a most rewarding one.

Keywords: brain cancer, developmental neurobiology, surgical neuro-oncology, immuno-oncology, pediatric neurosurgery

Mariana C. Stern, PhD

Mariana C. Stern, PhD

Professor of Preventive Medicine and Urology, Ira Goodman Chair in Cancer Research, Associate Director of Population Science

University of Southern California, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Los Angeles, California

Breakout topic – Developing A Successful Career in Public Health

Dr. Mariana Stern is a cancer epidemiologist and Professor of Preventive Medicine & Urology and the Ira Goodman Chair in Cancer Research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She is also the Associate Director of Population Science at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, and currently serves as Director of Master Degree programs in Epidemiology in Preventive Medicine. She has a PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and post-doctoral training in epidemiology obtained at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Dr. Stern joined the faculty in the Keck School of Medicine of USC in 2001, and currently serves in the American Association of Cancer Research Minorities in Cancer Research Council. Dr. Stern’s research has focused on the understanding of genetic and environmental cancer risk factors for various cancers, including colorectal, prostate and bladder cancer. Working closely with clinicians in the Keck School of Medicine of USC she is leading clinical epidemiological studies on urological cancers and benign diseases, with a focus on minority populations. She co-leads the NCI-funded Cancer Research Education and Engagement (CaRE2) Health Equity Center, a partnership with the University of Florida and Florida A&M university, dedicated to eliminating disparities among Blacks and Hispanics.

I started off my career as a cancer biologist, yet I have spent the past 25 years working in cancer epidemiology, as I followed my interest in cancer prevention and cancer health disparities. I learned it is ok to change paths if that will allow me to follow my passion and contribute to address gaps in the field. I have found that what has helped me the most is to find and nurture a community of colleagues with whom I share the same interests and passion, on whom I can rely on for advice, mentorship, collaboration, or friendship.

Keywords: cancer epidemiology, cancer disparities, underrepresented minorities, Hispanics

Tiffany A. Wallace, PhD

Tiffany A. Wallace, PhD

Program Director, Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities

National Cancer Institute

Rockville, Maryland

Breakout topic – Getting the Grant: Investigator Grants

Tiffany Wallace is a Program Director in the Office of the Director of the NCI’s CRCHD. In this role, Dr. Wallace contributes to CRCHD’s programmatic efforts to strengthen NCI’s cancer health disparity research portfolio, encompassing basic, clinical, translational, and population-based research. Additional roles include contributing to the grant management of basic and translational research in cancer health disparities and representing CRCHD in disparities-related working groups and committees across NCI and NIH.

Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Wallace was an Oncology Scientist at Human Genome Sciences (HGS), a biopharmaceutical corporation acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in 2011. While at HGS she managed oncology research programs and conducted preclinical development of promising cancer therapeutic drugs and biologics.

Dr. Wallace received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She completed her postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis at NCI, where she conducted basic and translational research that provided novel insights on the role of biological factors as they contribute to cancer health disparities. Her research included the identification of biomarkers of aggressive disease in prostate and breast cancers, with a focus on variations between different racial/ethnic groups.

Getting funded takes more than just a strong research project. It requires perseverance, mentorship, and a continued commitment to professional/personal growth.

Keywords: cancer disparities, grant writing, translational research

Clayton C. Yates, PhD

Clayton C. Yates, PhD

Professor-Director of Biomedical Research

Tuskegee University

Tuskegee, Alabama

Breakout topic – Conducting International Research: Things to Look out for and Pitfalls to avoid

Dr. Clayton Yates is an internationally recognized expert in prostate cancer health disparities research, cell biology, molecular biology, and molecular pathology. Dr. Yates earned his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Pathology. He then went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Urology. After completing his post-doctoral training in 2007, Dr. Yates accepted a tenure track assistant professor position at Tuskegee University in the Department of Biology and Center for Cancer Research.

Dr. Yates was promoted to associate professor in 2010 and full professor in 2014. Dr. Clayton Yates currents holds appoints in the Center for Cancer Research, and a joint appointment Materials Science and Engineering at Tuskegee University. He is also adjunct faculty at Clark Atlanta University Department of Biology and Department of Pathology at University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Yates has an interest prostate and breast cancer research, particularly in African Americans. Dr. Yates has established several cell lines based models derived from African American patients that are used by many labs today to study molecular events the lead prostate cancer development and metastasis. Additionally, Dr. Yates has identified multiple biomarkers for the prediction of aggressive cancers in African Americans with prostate or breast cancer, and this has led to the development of a novel therapeutic for African American breast, prostate, and pancreatic patients.

Dr. Yates has also received numerous research honors and awards, authored over 80 peer-reviewed publications, participated in numerous Department of Defense and NIH study section panels, and received numerous DOD and R level NIH grants in prostate and breast cancer health disparities, totaling over 30 million dollars in extramural funding. Dr. Yates is currently the research director for the Transatlantic Prostate Cancer Consortium, which is focused on understanding the tumor biology in native African men in Nigeria and developing novel clinical interventions for this population. Dr. Yates is currently the principal investigator (PI) of the Research Centers at Minority Institutions (RCMI), site PI of CTSA (jointly with UAB-hub institution), and co-PI of U54 Cancer Health Disparities with Morehouse School of Medicinal and University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Develop a supportive mentoring and collaboration team and stay focused.

Keywords: Cancer Health Disparities, tumor microenvironment, drug development, translation