Special Reports
January / February 2017

5 Former ISPE Student Poster Competition Contestants - Where Are They Now?

Ja Poulton
Where are they now

ISPE knows that the future of the pharmaceutical industry lies with its youth—and to prove it, we've contacted five former contestants to see how the competition affected their careers.

Since 2000 ISPE has hosted annual student poster competitions at the Chapter/Affiliate level and at its Annual Meeting. The competition was established to provide a platform on which an outstanding group of young people could showcase their work and highlight their ideas. The event also allows the organization to acknowledge the scientists and engineers entering the field.


peter-g-millili.jpg 2009: Peter G Millili, PhD
Manager, Biologics Drug Product
Manufacturing Science & Technology
Bristol-Myers Squibb

Winner of the Delaware Valley Chapter poster competition in 2005 (undergraduate division) and in 2009 (graduate division), Peter G. Millili did not win the international competition at either year’s Annual Meeting; he credits the experience with shaping his career path, however.

“Involvement in the student poster competitions gave me a strong foundation to start my career, providing countless opportunities to broaden my understanding of our industry and how one can serve patients,” said Peter. By exposing him to new ideas and giving him the opportunity to talk with industry leaders, the competition opened a realm of possibilities.

“I received great feedback about the direction of the work, not only on the scientific merits and content, but also on how best to convey technical subjects to a broad audience. The judges at both the local and international levels cared greatly about each participant taking something away from the competition,” he added.

nicholas pashos 2010: Nicholas Pashos
PhD Candidate in Bioinnovation
Tulane University

Nicholas Pashos has had a lifelong passion for innovation and learning. This drive led him to join ISPE and enter the Delaware Valley Chapter poster competition in 2010, and it pushes him toward completion of his PhD in bioinnovation today.

Despite his drive to succeed Nicholas wasn’t always sure of his career path; winning the poster competition made a big difference, however. “The entire conference experience was very exciting, especially as an undergraduate,” he said. “It was the first large conference that I had attended. Winning helped me to become more comfortable presenting my work to an audience outside my lab.”

Even though his poster didn’t win, Nicholas used the experience to launch a successful career focused on helping patients. His current research, which he developed into a start-up company called BioAesthetics, is developing a tissue engineering approach to nipple-areolar complex reconstruction for mastectomy patients.

leanna pearson marcum 2010: LeAnna Pearson Marcum
Validation Project Manager
Barry Wehmiller Design Group

LeAnna Pearson presented her research thesis at the Carolina–South Atlantic Chapter poster competition and won the chance to present at the 2010 Annual Meeting in San Diego. While she did not win the international competition, LeAnna, like Peter Millili, was greatly affected by the experience.

“That Annual Meeting changed my career path,” she said. “I wanted to go into research and development, and that meeting opened the door to how much there was in pharma. I also decided that I wanted to be more involved in my local Chapter once I graduated. Because of this I have been able to develop amazing relationships with strong women in the industry, whom I now count as friends and mentors.”

LeAnna continued her involvement with ISPE after the 2010 Annual Meeting; this has helped guide her into her current position as Validation Project Manager with the Barry Wehmiller Design Group, a company that provides engineering and technology services to the world’s leading companies.

“I had never heard of ISPE until the poster competition, but once I did I became very intrigued. Looking back, I only wish that I had known about it earlier in my career,” she said.

kassi taylor stein 2013: Kassi Taylor Stein
Undergraduate Winner
PhD Candidate in Chemical Engineering, MIT

Kassi Taylor Stein became an ISPE member in 2011; just two years later she presented her winning undergraduate poster entry on behalf of the Boston Area Chapter at the 2013 Annual Meeting. Kassi is now concentrating on her chemical engineering studies at MIT, focusing her research on quantitative redox biology in cancer. She knows that the experiences she’s had and people she’s met through ISPE will add value to her future career.

“I was quite proud of my work in lab and really excited to have had the opportunity to be recognized for it,” said Kassi. “Certainly a lot of networking opportunities, as well as an interesting interview talking point have come out of this poster competition win.”

francesca lynn 2014: Francesca Lynn
Undergraduate Winner
Process Engineer, CRB Consulting Engineers

Representing the Carolina–South Atlantic Chapter and winning the undergraduate poster competition at the 2014 Annual Meeting gave Francesca Lynn, above all else, confidence. Confidence that her ideas had merit and confidence that she could stand before a roomful of people and deliver a winning presentation.

“Like most college seniors, I was completely focused on finding a job. Giving some of that attention to networking through ISPE and the poster competition proved to be the best thing I could have done to reach my goal,” said Francesca.

The chance to show off her skills before a group of her peers not only helped increase her confidence in her scientific ideas, but it also gave her the opportunity to network with people in all parts of the scientific community.

“In addition to collecting a stack of business cards from my newly formed network, I ended up interviewing with multiple companies at the Annual Meeting,” Francesca said. One of those interviews resulted in a job offer, she added.

The ISPE Student Poster Competition is an annual competition held by local ISPE Affiliates and Chapters each year. The poster presentation consists of a visual display of research findings combined with an interactive question and answer period with a panel of judges. Local winners advance to the International Student Poster Competition at the ISPE Annual Meeting. For more information visit https://ispe.org/students/poster-competition.