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Northwestern University

Ready to Research

The Posner Fellowship Program continues to propel student's career path

For Taylor Shelton, summer can’t come soon enough.

When school breaks in June, the sophomore neuroscience major will travel to Cambridge, Mass., to begin a 12-week internship with Biogen, a pharmaceutical company that specializes in neurodegenerative diseases.

“I can’t wait to get started,” the St. Louis area native says. “There’s so much I’m excited to see and learn.”

Shelton’s opportunity comes with a hearty assist from Brian Posner ’83, whose support of Weinberg College’s Posner Fellowship Program helps rising Weinberg sophomores connect with a faculty mentor and pursue high-level research.

Posner’s assist

Last summer, as one of 23 Posner fellows, Shelton spent eight weeks in the lab of Northwestern-based neuropathologist Eileen Bigio performing Alzheimer’s research. There, Shelton sectioned human brain tissue and analyzed cells, experiences that accelerated her drive to do more research on a disease that impacts her family and so many others.

At the annual end-of-summer Posner Fellows Symposium, Shelton then presented a detailed report on her experience in Bigio’s lab. Posner approached Shelton after her presentation and urged her to explore internship opportunities at Biogen in the summer of 2016.

“Mr. Posner opened the door for me to learn about Biogen and then even made contact with a company executive on my behalf,” Shelton says.

In February, after months of maintaining contact with Biogen, Shelton learned she had landed the sought-after internship.

“I put all of my eggs in one basket, but the basket was fruitful,” Shelton says.

Driving success

For Posner, Shelton’s continued ascent underscores the mission of the Posner Fellowship Program, one first ignited by a $25,000 grant from The Davee Foundation and made possible by the intercessions of Northwestern alumnus Charles Stern ’52.

“The fellowship was borne out of many conversations with students, professors, deans and administrators to figure out ways to improve not only the student ‘experience,’ but to also enhance and improve the likelihood of academic success and satisfaction for Weinberg College undergrads,” says Posner, founder of the Point Rider Group, a Connecticut-based advisory firm to private equity and strategic companies.

The Posner program, which began in 2004 with four students, now features nearly two dozen fellows each year, and boasts an annual budget exceeding $100,000, according to Weinberg associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs Mary Finn.

“Posner Fellows live together, work together and form a community of scholars,” Finn says.

Shelton credits the program with helping her becoming more confident in her research and presentation skills and more determined to pursue a career in Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment.

And thanks to the Posner Fellows program and Posner’s personal help, Shelton’s inspired journey will continue this summer at Biogen.

“I just hope to become better at everything I do, from my research to assessing data and my techniques,” she says. “I certainly don’t take this opportunity lightly, and am excited to do my very best.”

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