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Careers in Science From the Field
Elizabeth Marincola is Executive Director of the
American Society for Cell Biology since 1991. The ASCB, a nonprofit
professional organization with about 11,000 members based in Bethesda,
Maryland, is a leading voice in advocacy for federal funding of
biomedical research, for sound science policy, and for access to
Before joining the ASCB, Marincola was Deputy Director for Policy
Analysis & Coordination at the National Institute of Mental
Health. She also served as Director of Development for Stanford
University Hospital and in other administrative roles at Stanford
University and Hospital.
Marincola serves on the oversight Commission for the Division of
Earth & Life Sciences of the National Academy of Sciences and
on the Advisory Board of the Krasnow Institute for Neuroscience
at George Mason University. She also serves as Executive Director
of the Joint Steering Committee for Public Policy, a coalition of
scientific societies dedicated to biomedical research advocacy.
She was a founding member of the PubMed Central National Advisory
Committee at the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes
of Health from 2000-2003.
Marincola received her AB from Stanford University in 1981 and her
MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1986.
What is your profession?
I am Executive Director of the American Society for Cell Biology
(ASCB). The ASCB is a nonprofit scientific society of over 11,000
members who are basic biomedical research scientists in universities,
biotechnology companies, research institutes, government labs and
pharmaceutical companies throughout the U.S. and the world.
What are the responsibilities of your position?
I manage a staff of 25 people, and I am responsible for the Society's
activities in Congressional education, publications, its meetings,
its programs in education, minorities' affairs, etc.
Can you describe a typical week in your position?
The following activities are typical: spending time on Capitol Hill,
and communicating in other ways with Members of Congress and their
staffs about the importance of Federal support for basic biomedical
research and science policy issues (e.g.. stem cell research); overseeing
planning for the ASCB's large Annual Meeting; editing the
monthly newsletter of the Society; discussing and planning programs
with elected leadership of the Society and managers on the staff;
planning and attending meetings of the Board of Directors (called
"The Council") of our organization; planning and attending
meetings of a policy coalition in which the ASCB participates, editorial
What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying?
I enjoy and find challenging the engagement of serious policy issues
with Members of Congress, and I enjoy writing articles to educate
the public, the scientific community or others about important science
What is the greatest benefit of working in this field?
I feel, even on the inevitable days when the work itself has felt
frustrating or trivial, that I am working for a vitally important
purpose: the advancement of basic biomedical research in direct
service to the health of humankind.
What are the biggest challenges facing your field?
Currently the national economy and today's political priorities
make strong Federal support for biomedical research increasingly
What are the skills that are most important for a position
in this field?
Good judgement, good management skills, good writing skills, and
diplomacy are all important.
What kind of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage someone
to gain if s/he is interested in pursuing a career in this field?
I would recommend learning to write concisely and persuasively,
being willing to work hard, and receiving management training.
What type of education background is required?
Many people who run scientific societies are themselves scientists;
I am not. Management skills and experience are a must.
What are the typical entry-level job titles and functions?
What entry-level jobs are best for learning as much as possible?
There are many entry-level jobs in associations of all kinds. These
include assistants in meeting management/planning, publications,
public policy, membership, etc. These jobs provide great experience
and exposure to anyone who wishes to advance in association management.
What are the salary ranges for various levels in this field?
Is there a salary ceiling?
Entry-level people earn modest salaries (minimum wage or comparable)
but obviously salaries increase with increasing responsibility.
Nonprofit managers should not expect to earn as much as their corporate
counterparts, but salaries of executives at large associations can
be comparable to those of senior managers in industry (i.e. mid-six
What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify
for this position?
Work hard and learn to write!
Submitted by: Chris Moore, spring 2004