Why I should be the next CEO of CPBR

Dear Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research board members,

In the event that you are ever looking for a new CEO, I would be grateful to be considered.

First, given that you fund science, it would seem important for you to have a scientist at the helm.  I am one. One of my sabbaticals from Swarthmore College, was, in fact, at Dupont’s “Plant Solutions” group, so I have first-hand experience of the research demands inside a plant biotechnology corporation (a CPBR member, by the way).   I have also published articles on genetically modified plants and the challenges companies face to commercialize them (example). This all might be TMI, but I hope it demonstrates that I have a deep interest in plant biotechnology and research.

Second, to be a spokesperson for CBPR, I think it would be valuable to have eaten genetically modified plants. 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. Because I was (during the day) researching the safety of genetically modified, this was an irresistible real-life experiment that I couldn’t pass up. I don’t recall how I cooked them (probably in an Indian curry), but I did and I survived to tell the story. Consuming this transgenic “frankenfood” didn’t make me infertile or make my kids look funny.  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 (and eaten) safely.

Third, I can ensure that the annual meeting in D.C. is a success. 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 caterers. I even ran the annual poster session, so I know how to set up those annoying tripods.

Fourth, I can speak a little French. And a smaller amount of German. 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. Alas, my PhD is not in French Literature, so I could never fill the shoes of your current CEO.

Fifth, 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!).  CPBR’s 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.

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 pre-qualified for the position. E.g., if you hired me as CEO, your non-profit wouldn’t be in breach of copyright infringement, and thus wouldn’t be at risk of being sued.  That’s just a thought.

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 would keep me in mind. I would like to state clearly, of course, that CPBR’s pending 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 legal fees associated with your suit.

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.

Colin Purrington
Swarthmore, PA

About Colin Purrington

PhD in evolutionary biology • twitterinstagram
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