Executive Director

GarypicGary S. McDowell, PhD is the Executive Director of The Future of Research, Inc. and runs the day-to-day operations of the organization, funded by a grant from the Open Philanthropy Project.


Gary grew up in Belfast, N. Ireland and then Elgin, Scotland. He studied Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, specializing in Chemistry, graduating in 2007, with both BA(Hons) and MSci. He did his master’s work in the lab of Professor Jane Clarke on the kinetics and thermodynamics of protein folding. He stayed in Cambridge, moving to the Department of Oncology in the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre, to study for a PhD with Professor Anna Philpott investigating protein degradation in a developmental biology context, where he discovered the joy of working with the frog Xenopus. He graduated in 2011 and moved to Boston, where he spent 2 years as a postdoc in the lab of Hanno Steen learning mass spectrometry and studying changes in protein levels during Xenopus embryo development. Then he moved to the lab of Michael Levin, Vannevar Bush Professor of Biology at Tufts University. There he studied the role of the cytoskeleton in early left-right patterning of embryos, again in Xenopus, until May 2016.


As coincidence would have it, during his time at Tufts, Gary began expanding his interest in studying the very scientific enterprise that Vannevar Bush proposed in Science: The Endless Frontier. He became involved with The Future of Research during the early days of the Boston Postdoctoral Association, and was an organizer as part of the team led by Jessica Polka and Kristin Krukenberg to generate the first Future of Research Symposium in Boston. He was an author on the resulting paper, Shaping the Future of Research: a perspective from junior scientists. He was co-lead organizer with Sarah Mazzilli for the 2015 Boston symposium, and attended all other FoR symposia in 2015, as well as co-chairing a workshop at the FOBGAPT meeting in Michigan. In 2016 he co-chaired a subgroup at an ASBMB-led national summit to identify action items to implement consensus recommendations identified by the biomedical research community, and as a result is currently driving efforts to better categorize postdoctoral researchers at universities, recently resulting in publication of “What’s in a Name?” in eLife.


In 2017, he was corresponding author on the comment piece in Nature, “The New Face of U.S. Science” and the corresponding working paper, the result of a collaboration with labor economists at the U.S. Census Bureau that was initiated at the 2015 Boston FoR Meeting. In 2017 he was appointed to the Next Generation Researchers Initiative, a Congressionally-mandated committee convened by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine which will examine the policy and programmatic steps that the nation can undertake to ensure the successful launch and sustainability of careers among the next generation of researchers in the biomedical and behavioral sciences in the U.S. The report was published in April 2018.


Gary currently sits on the advisory board of Impossible Labs, the American Society for Cell Biology’s LGBTQ Working Group, the steering committee of Rescuing Biomedical Research, and is an advisor to the Genetics Society of America Early Career Scientists Policy Group.


Associate Director for Fundraising and Strategic Initiatives

Adriana Bankston, PhD is the Associate Director of Fundraising and Strategic Initiatives.


Adriana is a skeletal muscle biologist by training, with the overall goal of improving the biomedical research enterprise. In 2005, she obtained her B.S. in Biological Sciences from Clemson University with a Magna cum laude distinction. She then moved onto Emory University, where she completed her Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology in 2013. Her Ph.D. dissertation studies with Dr. Grace Pavlath centered around skeletal muscle growth and repair using primary muscle stem cells and rodent models. Her postdoctoral studies at the University of Louisville were initially focused on membrane trafficking, followed by the regulation of mammalian myogenesis with Dr. Ashok Kumar until September 2016.


During her postdoctoral studies, she developed an interest in training practices and policies affecting junior scientists within U.S. institutions. To this end, she co-founded and co-organized two initiatives to improve professional development for graduate students and postdocs while at the University of Louisville. The first is the Career Research Advancement Focused Training (CRAFT) seminar series, with the goal of exposing trainees to various career options. The second is the ASCB-sponsored Midwest Membrane Trafficking & Signaling Symposium, with the goal of creating a community of scientists in the Midwest working in this field, as well as give junior scientists an opportunity to present their work to local experts.


Following these events, Adriana became interested in improving the environment for junior scientists at the national level. During the last month of her postdoc, she obtained a travel award for the 2016 Advocating for Science meeting (co-organized by Future of Research and other groups). Subsequently, she became involved with Future of Research on a volunteer basis, collecting data to monitor the compliance of institutions with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was published in F1000Research in 2016 and updated in 2017 following the injunction. She was elected to the Future of Research Board of Directors in July 2017, where she continued working on the postdoc salary project, leading to the publication of a preprint on Assessing the Landscape of U.S. Postdoctoral Salaries together with members of the data collection workstream. In addition, Adriana collaborated on an effort led by Dr. Christopher Pickett, Director of Rescuing Biomedical Research, on a publication assessing the ability of the GSS to predict postdoc population trends. Adriana has given numerous talks and workshops related to both the postdoc salary project and other projects for Future of Research, with the goal of promoting and developing future directions for the organization. To this end, she was a member of the organizing committee for the 2017 Future of Research meeting on Expanding Leadership Roles for Early Career Researchers, which will be developed in the future.


In addition to the Future of Research, Adriana has also been a leader in various others organizations with similar goals, including American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and Graduate Career Consortium (GCC).