2013 Career Mentors (D-F)
University of Minnesota
Distinguished McKnight Professor of Chemistry & Medicinal Chemistry
“You will never have more time to learn than as a graduate student – make the most of it”
Dr. Distefano received his B.A. degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1985 and his Ph.D. degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989. After a Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Postdoctoral Fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, he started his independent career at the University of Minnesota where he is currently Distinguished McKnight Professor of Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry.
Dr. Distefano’s research is focused on enzymes that use the ubiquitous metabolite farnesyl diphosphate as a substrate including protein prenyltransferases, sesquiterpene cyclases and rubber synthases. Those enzymes are of particular interest for therapeutic and biotechnology applications. Research in the Distefano group typically involves a wide range of techniques including organic synthesis, photochemistry, peptide synthesis, enzymology, protein chemistry and mammalian cell culture.
University of Illinois
Richard E. Heckert Endowed Chair in Chemistry
“Don’t compare yourself to your mentors, but to your mentors when they were students.”
Wilfred was born in Culemborg, the Netherlands and received his B.S. and M.S. from Leiden University, working in the area of inorganic chemistry with Jan Reedijk on small molecule models for copper proteins. He moved to the USA in 1989 to pursue his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Rice University with Kevin Burgess. After postdoctoral work at MIT with JoAnne Stubbe, during which he was exposed to molecular biology and enzymology, he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1997, where he currently holds the Richard E. Heckert Chair. Since 2008, he has been an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He greatly enjoys working in the yard, taking his kids to soccer, and cheering on the Illini, Oranje, and Ajax Football Club.
The research in his laboratory focuses on understanding the biosynthesis of new natural products, and genome mining for new antibiotics.
The research by his group has been recognized by a number of awards including the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (2001), ACS Cope Scholar Award (2006), Jeremy Knowles Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry (2010), and the 2013 Emil Thomas Kaiser award from the Protein Society.
Chemical & Engineering News
Senior Editor, Chemical & Engineering News
“Training in chemistry is not like training in plumbing. Don’t limit yourself to the obvious career options.”
Dr. Drahl made the transition to a writing career while earning a Ph.D. in chemistry at Princeton University. Born and raised in New Jersey, she now lives in downtown Washington, D.C. and reports for Chemical & Engineering News magazine. At C&EN she’s written about how new medications get their names, explained the science behind a controversial hair-straightening product, and covered the scientific firestorm sparked by an alleged arsenic life form. She also manages the magazine’s YouTube Channel and communicates with chemists on Twitter (Chat her up @carmendrahl). She serves on the advisory boards of the Princeton Alumni Weekly magazine and the American Physical Society’s Inside Science TV. Her work has been featured on SiriusXM’s “Doctor Radio”, Radio New Zealand’s “This Way Up”, Scientific American’s blog network, and elsewhere. Her coverage has also been recognized by MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Tracker.
Dr. Eliot is currently a Principal Investigator in the Biochemical Sciences and Engineering division of DuPont Central Research and Development, where his work is primarily focused on metabolic engineering of microorganisms for the production of industrial chemicals and fuels through fermentation processes.
Prior to joining DuPont in 2005, Dr. Eliot was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor William Metcalf in the Dept of Microbiology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he worked on identifying genes encoding the biosynthesis of phosphonic acid containing antibiotics in Streptomycetes. He received a PhD in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, where he worked on mechanistic studies of pyridoxal phosphate-dependent enzymes in the laboratory of Professor Jack Kirsch, and an AB in Chemistry from Harvard University, where he did undergraduate research in the laboratory of Professor Christopher Walsh studying the post-translational modification of ribosomally synthesized peptide antibiotics.
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
“Being involved with a biotech start-up was like drinking water from a fire hose. Insanely crazy, yet exhilarating!”
Dr. Fabian is a program director in the Division of Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). He manages research grants in the areas of bioorganic and medicinal chemistry as well as overseeing institutional training grants in Chemical Biology. He also serves as a steering committee member for the Molecular Libraries Screening Center Network.
Prior to joining NIGMS, Dr. Fabian was a founding scientist at Ambit Biosciences in San Diego where he led efforts to develop the company’s core technology, KINOMEscan. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Nebraska (Go Huskers!) and a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from the University of California, San Diego under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Perrin. Dr. Fabian was then a NIH Fellow at Yale University in the laboratory of Dr. Alanna Schepartz. And a little know fact, he served on the Chemistry Faculty at the University of Mississippi long enough to enjoy some of the best BBQ he’s ever eaten.
External Strategy and Capabilities Leader for Analytical Sciences
“Today’s Workplace: It’s not about how smart you are or how hard you work, it’s all about the impact you have”
Brian Fahie, Ph.D. is currently the External Strategy and Capabilities Leader for Analytical Sciences at Eli Lilly and Company. Dr. Fahie’s career path has included leadership roles as a scientist, entry level management and senior management roles with global responsibility. Dr. Fahie is well respected for building world class organizations, differentiating between strategic capabilities and needed capacity. A proven leader at creating environments where his staff can excel, Dr. Fahie is a prolific speaker on career development and advancement. Dr. Fahie is the recipient of two of Eli Lilly’s most prestigious leadership awards; The Chairman’s Ovation Award for Leadership and the Lilly Research Laboratories Presidents Diversity Award.