Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in Orlando’s burgeoning Medical City? One person who probably knows better than most others is Carlos Zgheib, Ph.D. Carlos is a postdoctoral fellow at Sanford-Burnham’s Lake Nona campus, but Sanford-Burnham alone was not enough for him – he also works at Nemours Children’s Hospital and the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine. So of the five current organizations based in Medical City, Carlos works for three. We thought that was pretty impressive and asked him for this quick interview. Enjoy!
Carlos, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a postdoctoral fellow at Nemours Children’s Hospital and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at Lake Nona. I am also an instructor at the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine. I received my Ph.D. in medical pharmacology from The University of Mississippi Medical Center.
When was the first time you heard about Lake Nona’s Medical City?
After receiving my Ph.D., I started looking for a postdoc position. I was offered several positions at different institutions including Nemours Children’s Hospital, which opened in October 2012 as part of Medical City here in Orlando. During the interview process, I learned that Nemours is located in Medical City. I looked it up and was fascinated by the concept and the institutions that are part of it.
You work for three Medical City organizations – Sanford-Burnham, Nemours Children’s Hospital, and the University of Central Florida. How did that happen?
I work for Nemours Children’s Hospital and we chose Sanford-Burnham as a location for our lab because the Institute is a great place to work. You can find anything you need to run any test or analysis, and the amount of scientific and administrative support that we get is amazing.
After starting to work with Nemours, I got appointed as an instructor in medical education at the College of Medicine at the University of Central Florida (UCF). I am also part of the UCF Research Network Initiative and I mentor and train several students from UCF that are interested in doing a research internship.
What does collaboration mean for your research?
Collaboration is important for the advancement of any field and especially for biomedical research. Collaboration enables a team or group to tackle problems efficiently once they link up with other research groups. Collaboration is a recursive process, one that develops in stages. It enables people to share skills and knowledge, which then strengthen a group.
Everyone has a different perspective on things, which can bring new ideas to a project. Oftentimes we are able to view situations from many angles, but not all of them. When you collaborate with other people, they see the angles that you don’t. This makes for more efficient and successful research.
Medical City at Lake Nona is the perfect place for collaboration because you have Sanford-Burnham, Nemours, UCF, the University of Florida, and the VA Medical Center. With all these institutions, you can link basic science and clinical research.
Can you tell us about your work here? Why is it beneficial to work at these three organizations? How does your research benefit from it?
My research is focused primarily on the field of wound healing, with emphasis on elucidating the mechanisms involved in the regenerative response to injury in the fetus, the role of stem cells in tissue repair, and the correction of abnormal healing in adults.
Our team has contributed significantly to the understanding of regenerative healing in the skin and tendon, and has recently developed and published the first report of mammalian cardiac regeneration in a large animal model following in utero myocardial infarction.
We are developing novel treatment paradigms to promote healing and tissue regeneration in multiple tissues by modulating the inflammatory response, the composition of the extracellular matrix, and the progenitor-cell content. The goal of this regenerative approach is to restore normal tissue architecture and function and prevent the complications of reparative healing or scar formation.
In our work we collaborate with Sanford-Burnham to screen thousands of molecules and chemical compounds that could become potential treatment for diabetic skin-wound impairment. We also collaborate with The NanoScience Technology Center at UCF to develop and use nanoparticles as a therapy by itself and as a delivery vehicle for our treatments.
Tell us about the Sanford-Burnham Science Network, why you became involved, and why do you think it’s important?
I first got involved with the Sanford-Burnham Science Network (SBSN) last year as the organizer and moderator of the “Jobs in Industry” session at the first career symposium at Medical City. This symposium was organized by the SBSN and hosted by Sanford-Burnham.
In 2013 I became the president of the SBSN. The SBSN is the association of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at Sanford-Burnham. It is very important because we host social and scientific events throughout the year, and these events bring young researchers and achieved scientists from Sanford-Burnham and other institutes together and promote social and scientific networking.
Some of the events that we do include the annual SBSN Poster Symposium, scientist seminars, career-development workshops and seminars, travel awards, Institute happy hours and vendor shows, off-site social events and trips, and much more.
If any of our viewers are currently looking for postdoc positions, what advice do you have for them?
We all know that nowadays the job market is very competitive, not only in science. When you are looking for a postdoc position, the most important thing in my opinion is that you look for a research that excites and motivates you. Second, try to find a position at institutions that greatly invest in biomedical research and have a great reputation and achievements in research, like Sanford-Burnham and Nemours. And, finally, keep up your collaborations and maintain your network. For sure you need to have a degree of independence, but networking and collaborations open new doors for you, help you maintain your reputation as a researcher, and may secure your next position.