Alumni Spotlight

Marcie Glicksman
Neural Sciences, 1986; lab of Mark B. Willard
Chief Scientific Officer at Orig3n

What was your career path like after graduating from Washington University?
I did two parts for my postdoctoral fellowship. I first went to the University of Arizona to work with Danny Brower on the role of homeotic genes in fruit flies, then transferred my NIH postdoctoral fellowship to the University of Washington in Seattle to work with Jim Truman on the role of homeotic genes in the nervous system of flies. It wasn’t until I started to look for my first research job that I decided I wanted to go into industry because I liked the intersection between science and medicine.

I took my first job at Cephalon in Pennsylvania working on developing therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases. I then worked at 3 other pharmaceutical companies for a total of 13 years. I then got recruited back into academics and was a professor at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I ran a drug discovery center for 10 years working with others in academics at Harvard and associated hospitals as well other universities around the country. I worked with other scientists who were interested in developing new therapeutics. As part of this effort 8 start-up companies were formed. I also co-founded the Academic Drug Discovery Consortium to facilitate interactions between the multiple academic drug discovery centers and also to promote opportunities with biopharmaceutical companies looking for academic partnerships.

After 10 years in academics, I moved back into industry through an introduction from a colleague of mine to the co-founders of Orig3n.

Why did you choose Washington University DBBS for your PhD training?
After undergraduate education at Brown University, I worked in research settings for 2 years. When I was applying to PhD programs, I asked professors and other neuroscientists the question (in 1980): if you were to apply to graduate school now, where would you go? I got lists of schools to apply to, but one person said Washington University because they said that WashU had a large critical mass of neuroscientists. Neuroscience was a new field at the time and there were not many programs that your degree was in neuroscience. Washington University had one of the first programs and was building a strong faculty across multiple departments. I was certain of the area of my thesis and so had identified a faculty member who I wanted to do my PhD work. In the end, I switched to a different faculty member and different area. This is probably not uncommon.

How did your time at WashU prepare you for your current career?
I learned the critical elements of scientific method and thought as a graduate student and grew as a scientist. It was a great environment with a lot of collaboration and openness across labs and departments. This collaborative nature of science stuck with me throughout my career. I also established strong relationships with a number of professors and fellow students/post-docs that I have kept up over the years.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at WashU? What was your favorite part about living in St. Louis?
I have been wondering whether the 9am Saturday morning seminar series with donuts and coffee was still a regular event. It was pretty much required for graduate students to attend. I also used to attend the lab meetings of Marcus Reichle to learn about the new imaging technology. I also really enjoyed attending regular group meetings around research on topics in developmental neuroscience that Viktor Hamburger regularly attended. I was in Mark Willard’s lab for my PhD and we had a very active lab with 10-12 people at the time. For St. Louis memories, favorites were Delmar Avenue handouts, Ted Drewes in the summertime, and I had a strong affinity to the Arch. I used to regularly go contra-dancing.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Hiking, running and working out with a trainer, making jewelry.

Who is your biggest role model?
My biggest role model was Jean Buttner-Ennever who was one of the scientists I worked with before I went to graduate school, when I worked at the Brain Research Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. She had an active research career and one child, and a second child on the way at the time I worked there. This confirmed to me that as a woman, I could be a scientist and have a family.

What advice would you give to both prospective and current graduate students?
One of the hardest questions facing graduate students and postdocs, is whether they want to stay in an academic setting or go into some industry setting. I like to tell young scientists that they don’t have to decide what they want to do for the rest of their professional lives. There are many types of positions a scientist can do. And It is possible to move between different types of jobs throughout their career. I feel like I am a “poster child” that demonstrates this is true. Look for three things in a job 1) a position that they feel will be challenging, 2) a position that they can bring something special to, and 3) that they like the people they will be working with.

Honors and awards:
Multiple invited speaking engagements all over the world, on the board of directors, and chairman of the board of the Society for Biomolecular Screening (now Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening), science advisory board for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.​

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