GRADUCon 2021 - Research at Startups (STEM)


While you may already be very familiar with established, large companies (like Merck, Intel, or ExxonMobil) as places to do scientific research, there is a rich research ecosystem within the startup world as well. Startups are fast-paced, innovative environments, where your success is often tied quite directly to the success of the company. Our panelists will share their experiences conducting research at startup companies, discuss the realities of the “wear many hats” work culture, and delve into how to succeed in this exciting, pressurized environment.


Rachel Eclov, Associate Director, Preclinical Gene Therapy, Adrenas Therapeutics (Postdoctoral Scholar, Pediatric Immunology, University of Chicago, 2018)

Rachel graduated from UCSF with a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics under advisor Dr. Deanna Kroetz. Her thesis was titled “Mechanism Regulating the Expression and Function of MXR,” and her graduate work focused heavily on transporters and enzymes, particularly the mutations that lead to either rare diseases or alteration in drug metabolism and biodistribution. From there, she spent five years as a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Dr. James LaBelle at the University of Chicago, developing a peptide mimic of FOXP3 – which resulted in a sucessful patent. The work revolved around the role of FOXP3 in Tregs and how its inhibition could alter the immune system response to cancer immunotherapy. After her postdoc, Rachel moved to North Carolina, joining the startup gene therapy company Adrenas Therapeutics, a subsidary of BridgeBio, as Senior Preclinical Scientist. She is the lead scientist for the Adrenas program, overseeing preclinical studies to support pre-IND and IND-enabling activities. In her new role of Associate Director, Preclinical Gene Therapy, she is now also lead scientist for Audition Therapeutics, another gene therapy subsidiary of BridgeBio. Rachel’s team and company are growing rapidly, and she is actively seeking candidates for several positions.

Josh Moller, Data Scientist, Evozyne LLC (PhD, Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago, 2020)

Josh Moller is an Illinoisan through and through. He comes from the north suburbs and went to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to study Chemical Engineering. He recently received a PhD from the University of Chicago in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, where he studied in the fields of statistical biophysics, thermodynamics, and molecular modeling. Currently, he is a data scientist at Evozyne LLC. Moller applies both data science and machine learning techniques for protein design.

Colles Price, Research Scientist, Vizgen (PhD, Cancer Biology, University of Chicago 2015; MS, Translational Research, University of Chicago, 2013; MS Biology, University of Maryland Baltimore County, 2010)

Colles is a scientist with over ten years experience in cancer biology and oncology. As a graduate student he was focused on discovering the roles of several noncoding RNAs in epigenetically altered leukemias such as AML and ALL here in the laboratory of Dr. Jianjun Chen and Dr. Janet Rowley. Colles changed fields and went to the east coast to join a lab at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard/Harvard Medical School. There he was focused on using genome-scale CRISPR screening to identify new cancer targets, understand how these targets functioned to drive cancer and develop new small molecule inhibitors against these targets. His training in new target and drug discovery taught him the importance of having the right tools to answer the right questions and how heterogenous tumor and patient responses to therapies can be. So to better understand tumor heterogeneity, Colles joined a small startup named Vizgen where we used a single cell spatial transcriptomics technology called MERFISH to measure gene expression on individual cells throughout a whole tissue. Using this technology he is building a Cancer Atlas to provide single cell spatial information to the cancer community to help drive new discoveries.

Navid Ghorashian, Lead Microfluidics Engineer, BiomeSense (Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago, 2016–19) 

Navid Ghorashian brings more than 15 years of experience from the intersection of biology and engineering. Prior to graduate school, Navid worked at the microfluidics startup, CellASIC Inc., testing and prototyping microfluidic cell culture devices. At the University of Texas at Austin, he developed several optical and microfluidic systems to advance research in neurodegenerative disease. Afterwards, Navid joined Savas Tay’s lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and later on Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at UChicago, where he developed microfluidic cell culture devices to advance studies in stem cell signaling. He then switched tracks back to the world of startups as lead fluidics engineer at BiomeSense, where he led the development of their DNA isolation system and ran lab operations, while raising $500 in SBIR funding. He has published 10 peer-reviewed papers and is part of 4 patents throughout his career.


Yuan Zhang, Director of Scientific Operations, Portal Innovations, LLC (PhD, Molecular Medicine, University of Chicago, 2016)