AWIS Chapter Spotlight – San Diego

May 4, 2023


The Academia to Industry (A2I) Committee of the AWIS San Diego Chapter has done a fantastic job organizing Virtual Coffee Chats with various professionals in STEM to highlight the different types of jobs available outside of academia. These monthly events appeal to students, PhD candidates, postdocs, and early career professionals who want to learn about the different types of jobs available.

Prior to the pandemic, these events were held face to face. When they moved to the virtual format, attendance actually increased. Therefore, the chapter plans to keep the virtual format moving forward. [To accommodate people that prefer to meet in person, the A2I committee hosts in person happy hour events twice a year.]

Chapter president and one of the co-chairs of the committee, Rose Presby, PhD, explained, “We are able to share the virtual coffee chats on the national AWIS calendar and reach beyond our local audience.” One of her co-chairs, Eulalia Coutinho, PhD, theorized, “I think it’s just easier for people to click a button than drive to a meeting location, but even in the virtual format – life happens and not all registrants show up.”

The format of the virtual coffee chats is informal and interactive. The speaker provides a brief introduction describing their career journey, what made them transition to industry, and what their job looks like right now, then attendees can ask questions.

The seven members of the committee take turns hosting the events. In addition to Presby and Coutinho, the committee include Shanna Newton Lavalle, PhD, (former A2I co-chair), Sameera Bilgrami, PhD, (former A2I co-chair), Carolyn McGrail, Melody Zhang, and Federica Klaus, MD-PhD. These volunteers brainstorm potential roles to highlight and search for potential speakers.

Prior to the pandemic, the A2I committee also held company tours and industry panels. As an example, A2I held a writer’s panel in late 2021 that included Monica May, communications officer at the department of neurological surgery at UCSD, and two guests from the Vanium Group Jennifer Yang, PhD, senior medical writer, and Miriam Cohen, PhD, director of scientific communications. The three fielded questions about deadlines, writing samples for job interviews, who they collaborate with, measures of success, and organizations that foster and mentor scientific writers such as the Comprehensive American Medical Association (CMMP) and San Diego Scientific Writer’s Association (SANDSWA). They hope to start holding such events again in the near future.

Upcoming events include: Coffee Chat with Kathryn Zavala, PhD, Chief Operating Officer of MedTech Innovator on May 23rd at 5pm PST over Zoom.

If you are interested in being a speaker at a future event, please email the committee at

If you are interested in attending the series to learn more about the pathways available to you, please visit You may also want to subscribe to AWIS News Brief (it’s free) or become an AWIS member to access all our content and connect with other community members.