GRADUCon 2019 - First Years as Faculty in STEM Panel


We think and talk a great deal about what goes into obtaining a tenure track professor position. But what does the day-to-day of a first year faculty position actually look like? From administrative roles to committee meetings, and from teaching loads to setting up your lab — there’s a lot that goes into a “rookie year.” Hear from recent PhD/postdoc alumni about what they learned and did in their first year as a faculty member. This session will be dedicated specifically to faculty in STEM disciplines.


Michelle Driscoll, Assistant Professor of Physics, Northwestern University (PhD Physics 2014)

Dr. Michelle Driscoll is an Assistant Professor of physics at Northwestern University. In 2007 she received dual B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of Texas at Austin. She received her PhD in physics from the University of Chicago in 2014, working on projects in fluid dynamics as well as soft material fracture. From 2014 to 2017, she was a postdoc in the Center for Soft Matter Physics at NYU, working with Paul Chaikin on active colloidal suspensions. Dr. Driscoll is a soft matter experimentalist, working a variety of problems at the junction between soft-matter physics and fluid dynamics. Her lab focuses on trying to understand emergent structures in a variety of systems, and how to use this structure formation as a new way to probe nonequillibrium systems. By developing a deeper understanding of emergent patterns and structures, we can learn not only how these structures can be controlled, but also how to use them to connect macroscopic behavior to microscopic properties.

Laura Merwin, Assistant Professor of Biology, Concordia University Chicago (PhD Ecology and Evolution 2015)

Laura Merwin grew up in Southern California and studied biology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, where she researched life histories of fire-adapted plants. After graduation, she did similar research in Perth, Australia, as a Fulbright Scholar. She received a Masters degree and PhD from the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution. Her graduate research involved local adaptation in beach populations of the plant model organism, Arabiodpsis thaliana. She has been an Assistant Professor at Concordia University Chicago since 2015, where she teaches both upper and lower division biology courses and works on local urban ecosystems.

Yamil Colon, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame (Postdoc Molecular Engineering

Yamil J. Colón is the Melchor Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and is a faculty fellow of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Colón was born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. He received his B.S. from the University of Notre Dame (2009) and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University (2015), in chemical engineering. He then joined the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher until this past July. Yamil was also a Fulbright scholar (2009-2010) and a fellow of the Council on the Future of Advanced Materials of the World Economic Forum (2016-2018). Yamil’s research interests involve the computational design and discovery of materials for energy-related applications.

Derek Wainwright, Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery, Medicine, and Microbiology-Immunology, Northwestern University (Postdoc Neurosurgery 2014)

Dr. Wainwright completed his PhD in 2009 at Loyola University Chicago, followed by completion of a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago between the years of 2009-2014. After receiving an NIH F32 Postdoctoral fellowship, as well as the prestigious K99/R00 NIH awards during his Postdoc., he accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. He has now published a total of 57 peer-reviewed research articles and two book chapters. Notably, he has published in Clinical Cancer Research 7 times as 1st or senior author, and his work serves as the rationale for > 6 clinical trials that have been completed, are currently ongoing, or are under active IRB review.


Erin Adams, Joseph Regenstein Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago and myCHOICE PI

Erin Adams is an expert in molecular immunology. She explores how the immune system distinguishes between healthy and diseased tissue. She specifically focuses on gamma delta T cells, understanding their role in the immune response process and why they proliferate during infection. Prof. Adams is principal investigator of the Adams’ Lab at UChicago which focuses on understanding how events at the molecular level (i.e. protein-protein or protein-ligand interactions) allow the immune system to differentiate between self and non-self. The projects in the lab generally focus on nonconventional T cell recognition, such as that of γδ, MR1-restricted and CD1-restricted T cells. Adam’s Lab is also interested in nonclassical or MHC-like proteins and how/if they present ligands. They approach these questions at many different levels: genetics, protein biochemistry, structure, biophysics, function and cell biology/imaging. In addition, she has received multiple honors, including the Cancer Research Foundation Junior Investigator Award. She has been named a Searle Scholar and a Kavli Fellow.