A.P. Giannini Foundation

Spring 2021 Newsletter

Fellow Uses Homemade Lightboard to Deliver Dynamic Presentations

Lauren Albrecht, Ph.D., is a 2019 Fellow who is carrying out her postdoctoral training at the University of California Los Angeles Geffen School of Medicine under the mentorship of developmental biologist Dr. Edward De Robertis.  Having earned her Ph.D. in chemistry, Dr. Albrecht studies how cells grow by focusing on their development at the atomic level.   More specifically, Dr. Albrecht studies how diet can impact the metabolism of cells and, in particular, how changes in diet can improve current interventions for various cancers.

Dr. Albrecht’s research has found that decreasing methionine — an essential amino acid in meat, tofu and milk – in the diet reduced tumors of the liver and colon in mouse models.  “The ultimate goal is to determine how we can advance dietary interventions to complement pharmaceutical interventions in treating cancer,” explained Dr. Albrecht.   “Patients will feel more empowered if changes in their diet can have a positive impact on their illness, and by becoming less dependent on pharmaceuticals, patients will incur fewer side effects from those therapeutics.”

Dr. Albrecht has been presenting her research via Zoom at academic institutions around the country.  To facilitate and enhance the explanation of her research, Dr. Albrecht designed and constructed her own lightboard.  Spending a few hundred dollars and time on YouTube, Dr. Albrecht built a lightboard with polarized glass and neon lights.  “The lightboard enables me to get inside my presentation.  To the viewer, it looks as though I am inside a cancer cell, so then I can point out things in a unique way, and my research, which can be complicated, is easier to explain.”

The reaction to Dr. Albrecht’s lightboard and chalk talks has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.  “Everybody loves it!”  Dr. Albrecht shared.  “Presentations look really sharp, and it’s a great tool for teaching.”

2020 Fellows Present Their Research

The 2020 Fellows have completed six months of one-on-one communications training that helps them explain their important work to other scientists and lay people.  The Foundation’s communications training program teaches fellows the essential components of a successful presentation.  At the conclusion of the communications training, fellows present their research as part of the Foundation’s video series, “Crossroads: At the Intersection of Research & Medicine.”  Click here to watch the newest class of fellows present their research.

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Foundation Evolves Its Leadership Award Program

The A.P. Giannini Foundation seeks to prepare fellows to become the most respected investigators in their respective fields.  In addition to providing funding for research, the Foundation launched the Communications Program in 2015 and the Leadership Program in 2018.  The Foundation offers the only postdoctoral research fellowship program in California that provides this unique combination of coaching and professional development.  Fellows have praised the communications and leadership programs for preparing them for the next stage in their careers.

Starting with new fellows in 2021, the Foundation will integrate the communications and leadership program and expand programming in the third year of the fellowship.  Importantly, fellows will form a cohort in the first year of the fellowship to create a learning community and to support one another’s professional development.

In Year 1, fellows will receive individualized and group communications training and learn the essential components of engaging scientific presentations.  In Year 2, fellows will participate in leadership workshops and receive one-on-one coaching.   With this new structure, fellows will benefit from both shared learning experiences and individualized mentoring.

In Year 3, the program will build a bridge to explore career pathways beyond the fellowship.  Fellows will meet with Foundation postdoctoral alumni to discuss topics such as starting a lab and writing Specific Aims statements.  Fellows will also be provided guidance in identifying mentors outside of their current principal investigators.

The A.P. Giannini Foundation is investing in people as much as it is investing in science.  By supporting fellows in their professional development, the Foundation’s  goal is to position fellows to become the most respected scientific leaders in their fields and to serve as mentors to succeeding generations of young researchers.