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Plenary Speakers

Saraswati Sukumar, PhD

Saraswati Sakumar, PhD
The grueling academic path in pursuit of fulfillment in laboratory research:
It's all been worth it!

Professor of Oncology and Pathology
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Saraswati Sukumar, PhD, is the Barbara B. Rubenstein Professor of Oncology and Professor of Pathology, and a preceptor in the Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Pharmacology, Human Genetics and the Pathobiology graduate programs. She is the Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.

She has served as the Principal Investigator of the DOD’s Center of Excellence, NCI’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) and of the AVON Breast Cancer Foundation. Dr. Sukumar has worked in the breast cancer field since her postdoctoral training at National Cancer Institute at Bethesda MD. There she established that RAS oncogenes were present in carcinogen induced mammary tumor models in rats and mice, and showed that the nature of the mutations in the oncogene reflected the chemical specificity of the carcinogen action on DNA.  She joined her first faculty position at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA in 1988, and then moved to Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in 1994 as Associate Professor to assume the position of Director of Basic Research at the newly formed breast cancer research program. She was promoted to Professor in 2001. She has authored more than 180 publications.  Her laboratory’s work spans the entire spectrum of basic research to preclinical studies, and all the way to translation to the clinic. A blood test, called cMethDNA measuring methylation markers in free DNA has been validated in a clinical trial, and is being automated for use in predicting the course of disease and for prognosticating the outcome of breast cancer.  Her current research focus is to implement a rapid, automated diagnosis platform using fine needle aspirates for breast cancer in the underdeveloped parts of the world.

Dr. Sukumar is very active both in the Johns Hopkins and outside community. She has participated and chaired many grant review committees in the NIH, DOD, and Susan G Komen Foundation. She served as a scientific advisory board member of the SGKF for the Cure and is currently a scientific advisory board member of the AVON Research Foundation, and the Susan Love Research Foundation. She is a senior editor for Cancer Research and several other journals. She is an avid supporter of equal representation for women faculty in the center as well as in the school of medicine as a whole. This has resulted in greater awareness and closer attention to this question. She has mentored over 40 postdoctoral fellows and researchers in her career, many of whom are in academic research positions. She is committed to their success not only as fellows but also as independent researchers, helping them get established in their careers.


Philip S. Clifford, PhD

Philip S. Clifford, PhD
What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Professor of Kinesiology and Nutrition, Associate Dean for Research
The College of Applied Health Sciences, University of Illinois, Chicago

Founder of myIDP Science Careers

Philip S. Clifford, PhD, is Professor of Kinesiology and Nutrition, Associate Dean for Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Director of Mentoring for the UIC Center for Clinical and Translational Science. He is an outspoken advocate of career and professional development for PhD scientists and a highly regarded speaker at career workshops across the country. In addition to founding the Office of Postdoctoral Education at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Dr. Clifford helped initiate national reform by participating in the establishment of both the National Postdoctoral Association and the AAMC GREAT Group Postdoctorate Leaders Section.

He is a co-author of the widely acclaimed career website, myIDP.sciencecareers.org, and an accompanying series of career planning articles in ScienceCareers. Dr. Clifford was honored with the NPA Distinguished Service Award in 2012 and was part of the team that received the AAMC's Innovative Institutional Partnerships Award in 2013.

Dr. Clifford heads an active research program investigating the physiological mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle blood flow during exercise. His research laboratory has been funded by the NIH, the American Heart Association, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. He is a fellow of the American Heart Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the American Physiological Society. Dr. Clifford serves on the editorial boards of several physiological journals, and participates on grant review panels at the NIH, NASA, and the American Heart Association. He is also a consultant in the medical device industry and a member of the Anesthesia and Respiratory Devices Panel at the FDA.