life in two fast tracks
MÉNAGE À TROIS
By David Schrieberg
o those of her colleagues who say she wants to have her cake and eat it
too, Phyllis Gardner offers this answer:
Gardner can afford a touch of conceit. She is in the unique position of
carrying two business cards: associate professor of molecular
pharmacology at Stanford University on one, vice president for
research/principal scientist at Alza Corporation on the other. The jobs
are as different as the titles. At Stanford, she has a lab, conducts
research, teaches and does committee work. At Alza, a Palo Alto
drug-maker, she travels around the world, supervises 160 people and
administers a $22 million annual budget.
Gardner stands out and not just for her 6-foot frame striding in
jeans and black baseball jacket down the sober halls of Alzas corporate
headquarters. As Stanford looks for new ways to reach out to the
industrial world, Gardner has built an unusual doorway between the
executive conference room and the university laboratory. Despite a
grueling schedule of 11-hour days and working weekends, she has
happily put herself in the unique position of life in two fast lanes.
I love university life, says Gardner, who, as the daughter of an
agronomy professor, grew up on college campuses in the Midwest and
South. Yet no one has been as surprised as she by her transformation to
I found Im fascinated with the corporate world, says the 47-year-old
scientist. Its very innovative, dynamic, intellectually challenging.
Now my problem is I love both worlds.
Her ménage à trois is welcomed by Alza, where executives
were surprised by Stanfords willingness to try something so
unconventional. For them, the timing could not have been better
they wanted to branch into new fields of drug delivery that were
Gardners specialty. We found that we really had shortage