Alumni Spotlight: Emily Vaughan

Current Employer:

Affinergy, LLC

Job Title:

Senior Scientist

Home Town:

Fort Wayne, IN

Current Location:

Cary, NC

Research Topic:

I studied the regulation of actomyosin contractile rings in cellular wound repair and cell division.

Faculty Advisor:

William Bement

CMB Degree Received In:


Describe your current position:

I am currently a Senior Scientist at a small biotech company in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. We are using phage display to identify peptides that will bind to various drugs in order to develop in vitro medical devices, or therapeutic drug monitoring assays, that will measure drug concentration in patient blood in order for patients to be dosed properly.

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

After graduate school, I was a postdoc at the Lineberger Cancer Center at UNC, Chapel Hill studying cancer cell growth and metastasis. I then moved to scientist position in the molecular biology division at a start-up, Argos Therapeutics, developing immunotherapies for cancer and infectious disease. Argos was in the midst of phase II and phase III trials. After several years, I moved to my current position at Affinergy, where there were many early-phase projects going on and ample room for creativity and development.

How did your experience with CMB shape your career?

I had an amazing advisor as a graduate student, and I truly learned everything from him and his lab. Madison is also an awesome place to live (I miss it!) and the student community is spectacular.

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

I loved Madison, and I liked that there were so many options for labs and faculty trainers at UW.

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

Plan experiments, go to the lab, run experiments, analyze data, share data with my manager. Not entirely different from an academic schedule!

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

I love the autonomy and flexibility I have day-to-day. I have a set project, but I can determine how I get from A to Z with that project. The most challenging aspect is getting our projects all the way to a product. We need grant funding, a clinical need and a market, stellar data that holds up to all challenges.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their careers?

Focus on your graduate work, but if you’re interested in a career outside of academic, try to get some experience in that field (medical writing, for example). Also, talk to people and determine if a postdoc is necessary for what you’d like to do. It is not required for some career paths.

What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout your career?

Believe in yourself

What challenges did you face in your graduate degree, or launching your career?

I had confidence issues as a young graduate student. I switched labs early on because I felt I was not getting the guidance I needed.

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

Spirit week in the Bement Lab!