Torrey Pines Leadership Development Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys

August 2020 - June 2021

This premier leadership development program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute is designed for early career PhDs. In this program, participants will learn more about their leadership styles and preferences, and the leadership styles and preferences of others, towards understanding how they and their future teams can succeed. Certificates will be awarded to participants who complete all program requirements.

What Makes the Program Unique?

  1. It is grounded in the belief that there is no single right way to lead and no prescription to being a good leader. There are, however, choices to be made each and every day that either do or do not align with who you want to be as a leader, and we educate you about frameworks and concepts to help you analyze those choices.
  2. We utilize multiple personal assessments throughout the program, but not to explain to you who you are destined to be. The assessments are not meant to create limits in your thinking, but give you freedom to choose the behaviors you want to display and what you want to change by providing you with an understanding of your inherent priorities and preferences.
  3. The cohort model creates an instant network of like-minded individuals with whom you will work closely throughout the program. This has also founded an alumni community for the program.

Program Outline

    Understanding Yourself and Others

  • Module 1: Who is a Leader? Understanding Your Unique Value - Part 1
  • Module 2: Understanding Your Unique Value - Part 2
  • Module 3: Understanding the Unique Value of Others
  • Module 4: Understanding Your Unique Value – Part 3
  • Understanding Relationships and Interacting with Others

  • Module 5: Understanding Conflict
  • Module 6:Communication as a Tool for Managing Challenges
  • Module 7: Communication as a Tool for Building Better Relationships
  • Developing as a Leader

  • Module 8: Building a Highly Effective Team
  • Module 9: Expanding the Team for Success
  • Module 10: Maintaining a High Performing Team and Developing Future Leaders

  • Module 11: Program Finale


The 2020-2021 program cohort will include 30 postdoctoral scholars and advanced graduate students. Participants will virtually attend classroom-style modules one Friday per month (4 hours each, starting at 9:00 am PT/12:00pm ET), and engage in discussions and assigned projects in between modules. Participants will work in groups to develop a program project for presentation at the finale. See Program Timeline for more information.

Program Faculty

Program Director
Diane Klotz, PhD
Director, SBP's Office of Education, Training, & International Services

Dr. Diane Klotz is Director, Office of Education, Training, & International Services and Associate Dean of Administration and Professional Development in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, CA. In these positions Diane oversees a team responsible for creating and delivering innovative programs to support the professional growth and complement the scientific education and training of Sanford Burnham Prebys’s graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. She also participates in institute-wide efforts in strategic planning with respect to education and training initiatives, serves as an advisor to faculty on education and training best practices, and consults to executive leadership on education and training policy. Additionally, Diane serves as an internal educator for Sanford Burnham Prebys on topics surrounding leadership and management development, team building, conflict, and interpersonal dynamics.

Diane received her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Tulane University, and pursued her postdoctoral research training at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS, NIH). Diane’s research focused on cross-talk between steroid hormone receptor and growth factor signaling pathways in the female reproductive tract and the impact of environmental chemicals on these pathways. Outside the lab, Diane served as a member and chair of the NIEHS postdoctoral association, and was a member and chair of the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) Board of Directors, where she remains active as a member of the NPA Advisory Council. Beginning in 2014 Diane served as a member of the External Scientific Panel of advisors for the recently completed NIH Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) Award program.

Diane’s career path has been shaped by her observations of and experiences with how scientific organizations function and how scientific leaders strive to effect change and make progress. Her focus in the education and training of scientists at all levels and in all career paths is on helping scientists find their voices as high impact leaders who are able to guide their teams with compassion, clarity, vision, and intent. Diane has worked with academic labs, professional associations, and biotech companies towards developing high-performing teams and cultures that support them. Diane has achieved a certification in Conflict Management and Change Management, is a certified DiSC® facilitator and MBTI® practitioner, and obtained a certificate for Negotiation and Leadership from the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

Nisha Cavanaugh, PhD
Sr. Manager, Career Development & Postdoctoral Programs

Dr. Nisha Cavanaugh is the Senior Manager of Career Development & Postdoctoral Programs within Sanford Burnham Prebys' OETIS. In this role, Nisha oversees the portfolio of career and professional development programming for Sanford Burnham Prebys postdoctoral scholars and the co-curricular activities for graduate students. Additionally, she collaborates with OETIS faculty and with the SBP Science Network to design new professional development workshops, programs and opportunities to enhance the postdoctoral experience at SBP. Nisha has completed the ADVANCED Training in Conflict Management from Kilmann Diagnostics, the Influencing Style Indicator certification, and the Gallup Successful Strengths Coaching course, and she is a certified MBTI® practitioner.

Nisha received her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder where she elucidated the primase-polymerase enzyme mechanism in Herpes Simplex Virus-1 DNA replication initiation. As a postdoc at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), she analyzed the structure-function relationship of DNA polymerase beta and the misincorporation of ribonucleotides during DNA repair. Nisha is passionate about creating and developing innovative programs for early career PhDs that complement the education and research training they receive to provide them with the necessary tools to successfully achieve their career goals. This desire stems from her own graduate education and postdoctoral training experience as well as her time spent as Chair of the NIEHS Trainees Assembly, the NIEHS postdoctoral association.

Program Facilitators

Heather Dillon, MSc
Career and Professional Development Program Manager
UC-San Diego

Heather Dillon is the Career and Professional Development Program Manager in the Office of Postdoctoral and Research Scholar Affairs at the University of California, San Diego. In this position, Heather develops, coordinates, and presents programs to meet the training and professional development needs of the UCSD postdoctoral community. Heather serves as an ex-officio member and advisor to the UC San Diego Postdoctoral Association Board and collaborates with partners across UC San Diego to facilitate high-impact career development programs for PhDs and Postdocs.

Heather graduated with Highest Honors from the University of California, Davis with a degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and has a Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience from Dartmouth College. She is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and MBTI® Certified Practitioner. With over a decade of experience in recruitment and advising, Heather has assisted hundreds of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with their job searches and application materials. She is devoted to helping trainees succeed in their chosen professions by providing career guidance and advice through seminars, workshops, and individual meetings.

B. Bea Rajsombath, MBA
Manager, Postdoctoral Office,
Salk Institute for Biological Studies

B. Bea Rajsombath oversees the Postdoctoral Office at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She has been employed at the Salk since 2010 and has successfully served in various instrumental roles during this time. She earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management with an emphasis on strategic management and international business. In her current position, B. Bea’s responsibilities include assisting postdocs in identifying funding, providing ongoing career development programs, developing strategies and tools to aid postdocs in finding independent positions and collaborating on diversity initiatives for Salk.

Ee Phie Tan, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Sanford Burnham Prebys

Dr. Ee Phie Tan is a postdoctoral fellow in the Hansen lab at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. Ee Phie’s current research project is to understand the role of a cellular recycling process, called autophagy, in organismal aging. Ee Phie received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Kansas Medical Center where she demonstrated a single sugar post-translational modification, called O-GlcNAc plays critical role in maintaining the proper functions of mitochondria.

Outside of lab, Ee Phie currently serves as one of the Co-Chairs for the SBP Science Network, an organization of postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. Ee Phie was also one of the participants in the 2018-2019 Torrey Pines Leadership Development Program cohort. Ee Phie was so fascinated with all the knowledge she gained through the leadership program that she returned the following year to observe the program. Now she is serving as one of the facilitators for the program.

You can contact us at!

Jennifer Whitaker, CCP, PHRca

Jennifer Whitaker is the Director, Talent Management at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute. In her role she oversees recruitment and onboarding, employee engagement, and employee learning and development initiatives. She has been with Sanford Burnham Prebys since 2016.

Prior to joining Sanford Burnham Prebys, Jen was at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, Illinois and served as Director, Human Resources for Northwestern Medical Group, the physician primary and specialty practice plan serving two counties and over 3500 physicians and staff. During her time at Northwestern Medicine, Jen led key integration and culture initiatives for the human resources function as the organization experienced tremendous growth and expansion through mergers, acquisitions and opening of new facilities.

Before moving to Chicago, Jen was a consultant with Waldron & Company, a boutique human resources consulting firm with offices on the west coast.

Jen graduated cum laude from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Spanish. She is a Certified Compensation Professional and holds a Professional in Human Resources - California designation. She is certified in Crucial Conversations.


You MUST be a:

  • Postdoc (Postdoctoral Scholar, Postdoctoral Associate, Postdoctoral Fellow, or similar title) at any eligible institution
  • Sanford Burnham Prebys Graduate Student (SBP graduate students MUST have passed their qualifying exam and be admitted to candidacy)

The program's cohort of peer emerging leaders will be committed to fully engage in all program activities and support their fellow participants.

Application Process:

To be accepted into the program, complete the application form in full. The parts of the application include:

  • General Demographic & Contact Information
  • Copy of CV (as a PDF file)
  • Statement (as a PDF file) that includes answers to:
    1. What is your motivation for participating in the SBP Leaders Program?
    2. What do you hope to gain from the SBP Leaders Program that will help you be successful immediately and in the future?
  • Acknowledgement that you will participate in the program fully (attendance will be required for every module and completion of all assignments and projects)
  • Program cost ($160) covers assessments and all program materials (to be paid only if you are accepted into program). We will work with institutional career development offices to receive payment on your behalf should you decide to use available professional development funds.
Postdocs can apply here

SBP Graduate students can apply here

Contact us at if you have any questions.

Deadlines & Important Dates:

  • Friday, July 24, 2020: Letters of acceptance into program sent
  • Friday, July 31, 2020: Deadline for participants to pay program fee
  • Friday, August 21, 2020: Torrey Pines Leadership Development Program begins