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'Don’t Give Up and Keep Working Towards Your Dreams and Goals'

Allison Cohen

"My work embodies the whole continuum from bench to bedside," said Allison Cohen, PhD, an alumni of Moffitt’s post-doctoral training program when asked what she really enjoys about her new position. Dr. Cohen began her new job at MD Anderson Cancer Center in October of 2020 as a Staff Scientist working in the group of Dr. Charles Manning in the Department of Cancer Systems. She’s involved in the discovery of new imaging and therapeutic agents and gets to see these compounds evaluated preclinically. "I truly feel that the work we are doing will have an impact on patients with cancer," Dr. Cohen stated.

Dr. Cohen is in charge of coordinating and managing her team’s preclinical and clinical research studies and oversees research staff and trainees in the lab. She also recently published a paper titled "TSPO-targeted PET and Optical Probes for the Detection and Localization of Premalignant and Malignant Pancreatic Lesions" (read more about it here) and currently has several more papers under review. She is doing great work in her new role and is making a name for herself in the scientific community. She attributes many of the essential research and project management skills she uses every day to her time as a postdoctoral trainee at Moffitt Cancer Center.  

Dr. Cohen started at Moffitt in 2011 as a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of Dr. David Morse and Dr. Robert Gillies in the Department of Cancer Physiology. Her projects focused on targeted molecular imaging probes and therapeutic agents for lung cancer.

A recurring theme we hear often amongst Moffitt alumni is the pivotal role they say the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) played in their training. “The career development sessions organized by the OPA gave me helpful tips for preparing my CV/resume, applying for jobs, and for interviewing,” said Dr. Cohen. She gave a shoutout to the former Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, Tracy Costello, for being very supportive during that process and giving her valuable advice then and even after she left Moffitt.

Another key skill Dr. Cohen picked up during her postdoctoral training was networking. "I attended and presented at several scientific meetings during my time at Moffitt," said Dr. Cohen, "These meetings gave me the opportunity to network with people with similar research interests and are where I eventually met Dr. Manning." Dr. Cohen kept in touch with Dr. Manning through the rest of her time at Moffitt and in 2017 after completing her postdoctoral training, took a position working in his lab at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

In 2020, Dr. Cohen helped Dr. Manning move his lab over to MD Anderson. "Moving during a pandemic was stressful but now we are getting settled in, have recruited wonderful new staff members, and are working on setting up the labs," said Dr. Cohen.

These days, Dr. Cohen is enjoying working on multiple projects and collaborating with people from different departments. She noted that there are so many exciting projects she and her team would like to work on and that the most challenging part of her job is finding time to work on all of them.

A word of advice she offers to current trainees is to believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities. "In science, sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect but you have to keep on trying,” she says, “don’t give up and keep working towards your dreams and goals."