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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 scientific literature.

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 boards, etc.

What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
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 policy issues.

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 challenging.

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 figures).

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 intern