Alumni Spotlight: Joy Barnitz


“From the lab bench to the corporate boardroom and at the bedside.”

Current Employer:


Job Title:


Home Town:

Near Chicago, Illinois

Current Location:

San Francisco Bay Area, California

Short Description of your Graduate School Research:

I studied the structure of the ribosomal DNA of two yeast species: Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

Faculty Advisor:

Robert Rownd

CMB Degree Received in:


What and where is your current position?

Chaplain at a local community hospital.

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

From Ph.D. went to work directly in industrial biotech position, no post-doc. Applied my molecular genetics education, training and experience to developing bacterial strains to overproduce amino acids and enzymes. My next position was in medical devices and personal products where I developed and supported products that were manufactured and marketed all over the world. I supervised groups and worked closely with IP lawyers and with quality, regulatory and manufacturing professionals. I moved into program management and worked for several biotech companies developing drugs for many therapeutic areas (cancer, infectious disease, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal) and diagnostics. From 2012 – 2020 I consulted part-time as a biotech program manager while attending seminary. My scientific training, my experience working with clinical professionals and my seminary training are all critical to my work with the hospital’s palliative care and spiritual care teams. In addition, I serve as a citizen scientist on the hospital’s Institutional Review Board which reviews all clinical trials being conducted to ensure patient safety

How did your experience with CMB shape your career?

I learned a lot about many areas of cell, molecular and developmental biology that have been helpful in understanding and following scientific developments since my Ph.D.

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

The breadth of the program faculty, I had a wide choice of areas to study. I had done a lot of research as an undergraduate in several laboratories around the country, exploring different areas and I wanted to have a wide choice of faculty and laboratories.

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

Finding positions in the same area that my spouse found one.

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

Attending a “huddle” with the palliative care team, supporting them as chaplain and noting patients and families who may need follow-up. Some administration and training to support the No One Dies Alone program I coordinate at the hospital.

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

I find it delightful that I am using all of my education, training and life experience as a PhD. scientist with experience working at the lab bench, as a program manager who presented to senior and corporate management in small start-ups and in global corporations, and at the bedside working with patients, families and staff.

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

Evening seminars in McArdle laboratories, one time there were so many of us going from the top floor to the first that the elevator overshot and stopped between floors. We got out on the basement. 🙂

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

Every experience teaches me something, it’s up to me to decide how to integrate it and continue.

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

Make connections beyond your lab and beyond your class. Seek guidance and support from faculty whose classes you enjoyed, even if they are “outside” your specific area of research. Be curious.

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

Don’t be afraid to try out different roles and employers. Build contacts beyond your current employer and outside your current field. Learn to be resilient

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