Alumni Spotlight: Saheed Imam

HeadshotCurrent Employer:

Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

Job Title:

Scientist II

Home Town:

Lagos, Nigeria

Current Location:

San Diego, CA

Research Topic:

Transcriptional and metabolic network analyses of Rhodobacter sphaeroides (a photosynthetic microbe)

Faculty Advisor:

Timothy Donohue

CMB Degree Received in:


Describe your current position:

Scientist II working on improving the capacity for algae to produce biofuels at Synthetic Genomics in La Jolla, CA

Describe your career path from graduate school to your current position.

After completing my graduate work in Dr. Timothy Donohue’s lab, I spent about a year in a postdoc position at the institute for systems biology in Seattle, WA in the labs of Nathan Price and Nitin Baliga. There, I worked on metabolic network analysis of the model algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, as part of a DOE funded project. My intended career path was always in industry, so during this period I also applied for positions of interest in industry. This eventually led to interviews and acceptance of a Scientist I position at Synthetic Genomics.

What made you decide to pursue a PhD with CMB at UW-Madison?

Two reasons: 1: The breadth and quality of PIs that make up the program, and 2: My old PI during my Masters degree at UPENN insisted I apply… great advice!

Describe a “day in the life” of your current job.

Despite being in industry, my current position is still very research driven, which is great, as I still enjoy scientific research. My work spans both computational modeling and wet lab research, so depending on what “zone” I’m in, my typical day could involve data wrangling and computational simulations, or lots of typical molecular biology work, or a mixture of the two… with a healthy sprinkling of meetings…

What do you like best and what do you find challenging about your current job?

What I like best: As I mentioned above, my role is still very research focused, which is great, and I’m doing work which I enjoy, trying to achieve a goal I believe in (cost effective, sustainable biofuel to help pull us back from the brink of destroying our planet). Most challenging: as most mid-sized biotech companies, there always seems to be a need to pivot in some new potentially profitable direction at a moment’s notice.

What is your favorite story/memory from your time in CMB?

Just coming to work every day at the Microbial Sciences Building.

What advice would you give to current students who are specifically interested in a career path similar to yours?

I think this is a great time to be looking for PhD level positions in industry. Lots of open positions! And don’t hesitate to apply to positions where you are not sure you totally fit the job description. Often groups don’t even know they need your skill set until you present it to them!

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