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Senior Leadership Insights: Conversations with Distinguished Duke Alumni


Join The Graduate School for a series of conversations with alumni reflecting on the role that their Duke education played in their careers, facilitated by faculty and current students. These 30-minute virtual conversations focus on six key questions:

  1. Tell us about your background. What was your path to your current role?
  2. Can you tell us about your organization and describe a typical day for a Ph.D.-level hire? 
  3. What do you see as the value that doctoral training has added to your professional trajectory?
  4. Beyond strong research skills, what other skills, experience and/or training are important for success in your field?  
  5. Are there any skills, training, or experiences you wish you’d had in graduate school to prepare you for your current career path?
  6. What can students who would like to work in this field (or explore it further) do to prepare?

Thursday, May 26, 2022

12:00 to 12:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Darryl Webster, J.D., Senior Executive and Advisor to Biotech and Life Sciences Companies

Darryl Webster, J.D.Get insight into a career in biotech and pharma with this month’s conversation featuring intellectual property attorney Darryl Webster ‘82, J.D. Mr. Webster has been part of the management team taking Precigen, Inc. public and in-house patent counsel for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (now Pfizer). In a conversation with biomedical engineering Ph.D. candidate Ellery Jones, he’ll reflect on leveraging his 30+ years of global corporate experience as an advisor to life sciences concerns.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

12:00 to 12:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Lori Lehman, Ph.D., Former Vice President, Gilead Sciences

Lori Lehman, Ph.D.Dr. Lori Lehman has spent nearly 40 years in biotech and pharma, and she counts as some of her greatest successes the moments when people tell her, “My HIV is undetectable because of the drugs you made” or “Your drug cured me of Hepatitis C.” In this conversation with Dr. Katherine Franz, Alexander Hehmeyer Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry, she’ll reflect on a career that has spanned leadership roles in research strategy, business development, and R&D at firms such Schering-Plough, Amylin, RiboGene and Gilead Sciences.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

1:00 to 1:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Tomiko Brown-Nagin, J.D., Ph.D., Dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Tomiko Brown-Nagin, J.D., Ph.D.How can scholars both succeed in academia and influence broader conversations as public intellectuals? Tomiko Brown-Nagin, J.D., A.M. '93, Ph.D. '02 has carved a distinctive path through Constitutional Law and History as a faculty member at Harvard University and is now Dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute, where she leads an interdisciplinary community of scholars, artists, practitioners and students in addressing complex questions and challenges.  Dean Brown-Nagin will share her insights with Dr. Adriane Lentz-Smith, Associate Professor of History and Associate Chair of the Department of History.


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Thursday, January 13, 2022

2:00 to 2:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Chini Krishnan, Ph.D., Founder and CEO,

Chini Krishnan, PhDSince the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) of 2010, Americans have had new ways to access healthcare. As individual states have opted to open their own State-Based Marketplaces, they have looked to technology companies to help them enroll consumers and maintain healthcare partners. Dr. Chini Krishnan, founder and CEO of, has been at the forefront of SaaS-based health insurance exchange solutions, and to date, GetInsured technology has enabled more than 15 million enrollments. Dr. Krishnan will share his insights in a conversation with Dr. Jeffrey Chase, Professor of Computer Science and Director of Graduate Studies.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

2:00 to 2:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Susan Wood, Ph.D., President and CEO of VIDA Diagnostics

Susan Wood, Ph.D.What does leadership look like at a lung care company when a pandemic respiratory virus sweeps the globe? As President and CEO of VIDA Diagnostics, Dr. Susan Wood, M.S.’88 leads an organization that leverages AI to create a research-to-treatment deep learning loop, curating data from VIDA Discovery trial services to inform VIDA Insights at the point of care. Hear her executive insights in this conversation with Dr. Fan Yuan, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director of Graduate Studies for the master’s program.

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Friday, October 15, 2021

2:00 to 2:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Bob Beckler, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO at TemperPack

Bob Beckler, Ph.D.If you’ve ever received a healthy meal kit or a shipment of reagents for your research, you know how important it is to protect what’s perishable. As Chairman and CEO of TemperPack, Dr. Bob Beckler leads a company founded to break away from Styrofoam and bring its plant-based, recyclable ClimaCell insulation material to customers around the world. Join us to hear about Dr. Beckler’s career as a leader in the packaging and chemicals industry in this conversation with Courtney Johnson, Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry.

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

11:00 to 11:30 am

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Ron Temple, ’90, Managing Director and Head of U.S. Equities and Co-Head of Multi-Asset Investing at Lazard Asset Management

Ron TempleHow did Ronald Temple leverage his training in economics and public policy to build a finance career that seeks to do public good through global asset management? Join us on September 2 to hear from the host of the Lazard Asset Management podcast “The Question Is…” and frequent contributor to CNBC, in a conversation with Travis Dauwalter, Ph.D. candidate in public policy and economics.

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 Monday, July 12, 2021

3:00 to 3:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Adam Sharkawy, Ph.D.’97, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Material Impact

Adam Sharkawy, Ph.D.How did Adam Sharkawy blend engineering and leadership expertise to launch a venture fund that invests in companies developing novel material technologies? Join us on July 12 for a conversation with the Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. alumnus in dialogue with Dr. Joel Collier, Theodore Kennedy Professor of Biomedical Engineering.


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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

3:00 pm to 3:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Lisa Yvette Waller, Ph.D.’97, Head of School, The Berkeley Carroll School

Lisa Yvette Waller, Ph.D.On June 1, we’ll feature History Ph.D. alumna Dr. Lisa Yvette Waller, Head of School at The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York—a pre-K-12 independent, preparatory school that draws students from a wide range of neighborhoods throughout the city and beyond. Dr. Waller's research and work to resolve the inequities in U.S. education have made her a leading scholar and speaker on theory and practice related to race and education. The conversation will be facilitated by Associate Professor Dirk Bonker, Ph.D., Director of Graduate Studies in History.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

3:00 pm to 3:30 pm

Senior Leadership Insights: A Conversation with Evelyn Murphy ’61, Ph.D.’65, Founder and President, The WAGE Project, Inc.

Evelyn Murphy, Ph.D.How did her Economics Ph.D. training prepare Evelyn Murphy for a history-making career in politics and her fight for equal pay for women? Find out in the inaugural event of the Senior Leadership Insights series. Dr. Murphy is the founder and president of The WAGE Project, Inc., a grassroots nationwide nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the gender wage gap. Dr. Murphy is also the former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts—the first woman in the state's history to hold a constitutional office—and the author of Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men and What To Do About It.

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Help Us Plan Future Conversations

We welcome suggestions of other Graduate School alumni in leadership roles to be featured in future events.

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Melissa Bostrom, PhD
Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Professional Development
Duke University Graduate School