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Dr. Nepon-Sixt's Advice to Trainees: Stay Open and Make an Effort to Discover Opportunities

"I love being on the pulse of current clinical development in the immuno-oncology field," says Brook Nepon-Sixt, PhD, a recent Moffitt alumni. Dr. Nepon-Sixt has a long history with Moffitt. He started out volunteering in Dr. Kenji Fukasawa's research lab in 2008. From there, he joined the Cancer Biology PhD Program in 2010 working in Dr. Mark Alexandrow's lab, completed his PhD and went on to complete his postdoc in the same lab from 2016-2019.

Brook Nepon-SixtWhen completing his PhD and Postdoc at Moffitt, Dr. Nepon-Sixt says he took advantage of the ample opportunities to present his research with posters and from the podium. "I got to listen to other researchers do the same across a wide variety of disciplines and research focuses,” he said, "along with my PI's valuable mentorship in this regard, this allowed me to hone my presentation skills which are crucial for my current career."

Dr. Nepon-Sixt was very active in professional development activities during his time at Moffitt and attended numerous seminars provided by the Moffitt Postdoctoral Association. These events introduced him to various career tracks for a PhD, and it was during one of these events that Dr. Nepon-Sixt heard of the MSL role for the first time.

A Medical Science Liaison (MSL) is a specialist who operates within the fields of biotechnology, medical device, pharmaceutical, and other health-care-related focuses. Currently, Dr. Nepon-Sixt is a Biomarkers & Diagnostics MSL for Bristol Myers Squibb covering Florida. He is no longer directly involved in bench research, but he helps inform and guide the clinical research strategy by connecting with pathologists, commercial diagnostic labs, and biomarker researchers. "Improving patient care is the ultimate goal," he said, "Patients are at the center of this job, and I both enjoy that and take it very seriously."

This past June, Dr. Nepon-Sixt attended an event held by the Research Education and Training department at Moffitt. This event was a virtual Career Roundtable for Moffitt’s three summer programs – SPARK, SPIRIT-CHD, and Ponce U54. It featured current and previous Moffitt team members who shared their academic and career backgrounds by panel discussion to highlight the different career pathways these students can take within research. During the roundtable, Dr. Nepon-Sixt told the story of how he became a MSL, what led him to this career choice, and provided advice that he was given as an undergraduate student that made an impact on him.

His advice for current trainees is to decide what you really want to do with your training and research background, and then go for it. He said, "It will take dedicated effort to explore potential paths. You just have to stay open and make an effort to discover those opportunities, and then be patient and persistent as you pursue the one that drives/excites you. Don't get discouraged."

We look forward to collaborating with Dr. Nepon-Sixt again for future Moffitt events!