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.