Marjannie talks with someone in her office at swag外流.

Marjannie Akintunde, Ph.D. 鈥15

More information

Senior Career Advisor, swag外流 Internship and Career Center
Program Coordinator, swag外流 Leaders for the Future Program

Marjannie Akintunde sits at the small, brown meeting table, waiting. The round table dominates most of her office in South Hall, but the space still feels welcoming. Sunshine streams over Akintunde鈥檚 shoulder from the window, highlighting a collection of inspiring quotes and colorful artwork from her two children, Banke, age 5, and Seyi, age 3. A box of tissues, a cup of pens and a few pamphlets wait on the table with her.

A Ph.D. student enters and asks Akintunde for help. Her work-day officially begins.

This is not the traditional setting you鈥檇 expect for a scientist. And yet for Akintunde, who holds a Ph.D. in immunology, this is exactly where she wants to be. As a senior career advisor at the , Akintunde provides career development, and coaches and advises master's, Ph.D. and postdoctoral scholars in all disciplines.

She鈥檚 using her expertise as a STEM professional to solve problems, contribute to society and make an impact on people鈥檚 lives. She鈥檚 just doing it wearing a navy swag外流 cardigan instead of a lab coat.

Immunology to advising

While pursuing her Ph.D. at swag外流 鈥 studying environmental chemicals that impact the immune systems of children with autism 鈥 Akintunde developed a passion for mentoring graduate and undergraduate students in her research lab. During an internship at Genentech in South San Francisco, she realized that she was equally excited about training and advising her new interns as she was learning about drug development and discovery.

鈥淭he impact of working with students is immediate. They can come in very unsure and we work together to find a path to keep moving forward.鈥

鈥淲ith science, you鈥檙e trying to solve problems, and the process is a little slow 鈥 you publish a paper and maybe people read it,鈥 says Akintunde. 鈥淭he impact of working with students is immediate. They can come in very unsure and we work together to find a path to keep moving forward.鈥

With help from swag外流鈥 program, Akintunde took a position in Genentech鈥檚 product development regulatory affairs unit after earning her Ph.D. There she was responsible for managing newly developed drugs for clinical oncology trials, to ensure they met regulatory approval by health authorities worldwide.

She didn鈥檛 consider advising as a career until she returned to swag外流 for postdoctoral research with the STEM Strategies Group within the Office of the Provost. In collaboration with the Office of Corporate Relations within the Office of Research, Akintunde led the planning of a mentorship and professional networking event for undergraduate and graduate women in STEM interested in careers in biotechnology.

鈥淭he event had a huge attendance,鈥 says Akintunde. 鈥淚t was diverse, inclusive and inspirational.鈥

Walking in her students鈥 shoes

Akintunde鈥檚 own knowledge of graduate school culture along with her STEM background helps her speak her students鈥 language. She and her husband used the university鈥檚 career services as doctoral students, and she is highly attuned to the importance of empathy, motivation and emotional support as she advises students.

鈥淎 lot of my mentorship experience came from training students in the lab,鈥 says Akintunde. 鈥淣ow I can help them with CVs, research statements, resume writing and applying for diverse career paths.鈥

Akintunde also leads and presents career workshops, helps plan large-scale career fairs, plans networking events and takes students on career exploration 鈥渢reks鈥 鈥 company site visits to sought-after employers like Google and Genentech. As program coordinator of the program, funded by California State Assembly grant AB2664, she connects Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars with internships, job shadowing and special projects in industry, government and local businesses.

Work-life realities

鈥淲hat do you do when there is a lab meeting that starts at 5 p.m. and daycare ends at 6?鈥

Barriers to work-life balance for women in STEM are frequent topics of discussion in Akintunde鈥檚 office. Beyond sharing resources, such as the program and child care options, Akintunde helps students identify transferable skills to a broad range of career paths. Many women feel forced to consider alternatives because they鈥檙e not receiving adequate support, she says, especially in research labs.

鈥淚f you are pregnant or nursing and you鈥檙e working on a lab project that requires constant, round-the-clock monitoring, how do you make that work?鈥 asks Akintunde. 鈥淲hat do you do when there is a lab meeting that starts at 5 p.m. and daycare ends at 6?鈥

Akintunde faced these obstacles herself; she had her children in graduate school and is part of a dual-career family. She recalls a job offer that she received as a Ph.D. student, which would have required her to work in a lab twice a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. She ultimately chose the Genentech position, which gave her more flexibility.

鈥淯ntil structures are in place to accommodate families and motherhood, these problems will continue,鈥 says Akintunde.

Finding a champion

Akintunde urges students to find a champion, someone 鈥測ou can talk to about everything, from personal stuff to academics.鈥

That champion for Akintunde is Judy Van de Water, professor of internal medicine and director of the .

鈥淛udy is my mentor, major advisor and surrogate mother,鈥 says Akintunde. 鈥淪he made all the difference in my time here and helped me develop as a woman, a scientist and a mother.鈥

Making progress

Following Van de Water鈥檚 lead, Akintunde takes a holistic approach to advising graduate students and postdocs. She tracks the progress of students who have used her services and celebrates achievements, big and small. One student she continues to advise is looking for ways to use her scientific education and landed two interviews with state agencies, Akintunde says.

鈥淪he鈥檚 still 鈥榠n the making,鈥 but I can see that her confidence is higher, she feels more motivated and she鈥檚 better at her interviews,鈥 she adds.

She recently heard from another student who had dropped in almost monthly for advising. Akintunde had coached her through job applications and the interview process. She was excited to hear the student had earned her STEM Ph.D. and accepted a research position at a university where she will also have the opportunity to write, another area of professional interest.

鈥淚 try to help students see all their possibilities, and that if they have their Ph.D., they can do anything,鈥 says Akintunde.

Learn more about advising services at the .