Oftentimes, a research project, personal experience or an academic course drives students into a particular field of study. For Arizona State University alumna Teresa Brandt, it was her inherent curiosity that lead her to study molecular and cellular biology.
“I’m very curious and this field has allowed me to explore my curiosity in science,” said Brandt. “Exploring science and being a role model for my family and my kids in doing a job that’s meaningful and rewarding drives me to stay in science and to mentor young scientists as well.”
Brandt graduated with a PhD in molecular and cellular biology from the School of Life Sciences, a unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in 2000. She was drawn to the university by the research of Bertram Jacobs, a professor of virology and director of the school. His research focuses on the development of a vaccine for HIV. He is also one of the world’s foremost experts on vaccinia, a cousin of the smallpox virus.
“Dr. Jacobs’ research was very interesting to me as I was reading the different labs I might be able to work in at ASU,” said Brandt. “I know his lab is very high quality and there had been a lot of excellent science coming out of his lab.”
After graduating, Brandt went into a post-doctoral position at Johns Hopkins University in the School of Public Health. She taught and mentored students while conducting scientific research to study the mechanisms of programmed cell death in neurons.
“That was my first stop,” she said. “Afterwards, I went to a company where I was studying neurodegenerative diseases. They were developing drugs for symptoms of patients who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. That was my introduction to the industry, and I’ve been working in the pharmaceutical industry ever since.”
Currently, Brandt is in regulatory affairs as a senior director at ACADIA Pharmaceuticals, Inc. It is her job to match the science of the drugs that are developed with the need of the patients, she said.
“I help the company take the drug from research to Food and Drug Administration approval and also to approval of worldwide regulatory bodies so the drug can then be marketed and sold throughout the world,” said Brandt.
During her time at ASU, Brandt was able to learn a number of skills, including public speaking she would later use for her career.
“The college and university not only expanded my scientific expertise and ability to study new things, but it also provided me with an ability to present publically,” said Brandt. “Also, writing manuscripts and publications. Those skills are all very important for being successful in really any scientific job, whether it’s in industry or in academia.”
She is excited to return to the university this fall as a CLAS Leader, a program recognizing exceptional alumni from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing some old friends and I’ll definitely enjoy giving back to ASU,” said Brandt. “I think it gives me great pleasure and honor to be able to come back and share what I have done since I’ve left and be able to give a vision to the students of at least one life that can be used as an example of what you can do with your degree and career.”
She encourages current students and recent alumni to follow their instincts and to take their time in school.
“Learn everything you can when you’re in school and then follow your gut and your heart,” said Brandt. “I think they will take you to a place where you’ll be happy and you’ll thrive.”