Dear Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research board members,
In the event that you are ever looking for a new CEO, I would be grateful if you could keep this letter in the application binder, just in case my skills might be a good fit for the position. I’m currently between jobs, as they say, and I think I would be a good match.
First, it would seem important for you to have a scientist at the helm, and I am one, and have always been one. I started doing research on plants during high school at nearby Denison University, then at Reed College where I did a senior thesis on ethylene-based communication among damaged mint plants. During the summers I’d work in various plant ecology and plant physiology laboratories at the University of Utah (partly because my social life sucked). I received my PhD from Brown University, then did post-doctoral research on genetically modified plants at Washington University and The University Chicago. Finally, I taught Evolution and various plant-themed courses at Swarthmore College from 1997 to 2010, where I was a tenured member of the Department of Biology. One of sabbaticals during this time was at Dupont’s “Plant Solutions” group, so I have first-hand experience of the research demands inside the private sector. I have also published articles on genetically modified plants and the challenges one faces to commercialize them (example). This all might be TMI, but I hope it demonstrates that I have a longstanding interest not just in plants, but in plant biotechnology.
Second, to be a spokesperson for CBPR, I think it would be valuable to have eaten genetically modified plants and survived, and I have. While shopping in Hyde Park, Chicago, during my post-doc in mid 1990s, I had the opportunity to buy a whole bunch of Calgene’s Flavr-Savr tomatoes, and I did. Because I was researching the safety of genetically modified organisms during the day, this was an irresistible real-life experiment that I couldn’t pass up. I don’t recall how I cooked them (probably an Indian curry), but I ate them all myself. I obviously lived to tell the story, and can also say that the GMO meal didn’t make me infertile (I have two kids, and neither got the “FLK” designation that doctors apply to newborns who show a little too much inbreeding or exposure to chemicals in utero). Anyway, this invaluable experience would allow me to truthfully say to both the media and to member plant biotechnology corporations that genetically modified organisms can be made safely.
Third, I look good in a suit and tie. I don’t have a handy photograph to prove it, but will be happy to get one taken if you need it. (But here‘s a photograph of me drunk, in the morning, at a vineyard in Sonoma.) I think being presentable is a huge asset during Congressional hearings and such, and I would be able to move in the D.C. circles to ensure that CPBR gets the allocations it has been accustomed to getting. Please note that I’m not implying that your current CEO is a bad dresser; I’m just stating that I, as a dude, can wear a suit and tie. I think, in fact, I could even get more money. I help our local school district raise money for things like benches, and while CPBR’s needs are much, much larger, I have a good working street knowledge about how to extract money from people.
Fourth, I can make the annual meeting in D.C. not just effective, but fun. I used to be the head of the Swarthmore College Sigma Xi chapter (not real power, of course, but I had option to get my signature made into a rubber stamp), so I have years of experience booking rooms, finding keynote speakers, and micromanaging the caterers. I even ran the annual poster session, so I know how to set up those annoying tripods. In my years as Sigma Xi head I tried to make every event fun, and if the event wasn’t inherently fun, I’d at least try to deliver a speech that was funny. I fully understand that the annual meetings have serious business to conduct, but I think getting academics and corporate types together in the same room creates a little tension, and technology transfer is going to happen better with a little levity on occasion.
Fifth, I can speak a little French. And a smaller amount of German. And a pathetic amount of Spanish (but I’m getting better). I read on your site that forming global contacts is important, so I wanted to mention this ability just in case it might tip the scales in my favor.
Sixth, I can design and maintain web sites. I’m not a professional web admin, but I maintain sites for both my kids’ schools, plus I used to maintain an extensive site at Swarthmore College on the topic of plagiarism (imagine that!). A web site is how biotechnology companies and member universities will first know of CPBR, so it’s good to have a site that looks modern, and has content. I could fix your current site in an afternoon. In particular, I would use it to more engagingly promote ongoing activities of the CPBR so that people visiting the site aren’t left with the feeling that it’s a front for laundering government money back into industry (I know better, of course, but I’m just saying that would be a reasonable guess by just perusing the site content today). I’d also try to make the goings-on more transparent so that more companies and research institutions would join as members.
Finally, I have a zeal for scientific posters, and posters are critical part of your granting process. Not only do I maintain a web page on the topic (“Designing conference posters“), I have given numerous (paid) talks to universities, medical colleges, and societies on the topic. It has also come to my attention that you have 2 1/2 pages of advice on creating scientific posters in your “Call for preproposals” that I actually wrote, so I feel like I’m strangely pre-qualified for the position.
In summary, I am a good fit for the job. If it ever opens up, of course. The funding environment in Washington is extremely fragile, so I’m sure you are not actively looking to replace your current CEO, who has been incredibly successful at getting government and corporate funding for CPBR. But if for some reason the current head left for better opportunities (she only makes $250,000 per year, I think), I’d be honored if you could keep me in mind. I would like to state clearly, of course, that CPBR’s litigation against me does not diminish my desire to work for you. I am actually in need of a salary, to be honest, so that I can pay for some lawyer fees that have popped up in my life.
I have never been to St Simons Island, Georgia, but hope to travel there soon on vacation. If it wouldn’t be too pushy, I’d love to meet everyone.
Thank you very much for your time.