Monday, July 6, 2009
Biological Sciences Doctoral Graduates and MBAs
After an elementary, secondary, undergraduate, masters and doctoral education, what motives would lead someone to go back to school again?
Three Department of Biological Sciences doctoral graduates, Pamela Bush, Anupam Goyal and Surya Viswanathan, share their stories about what drove them to enroll in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, their future career plans, and how their doctorate and MBA will ultimately work together.
In the eighth grade, Bush dreamed of curing cancer, hence she decided to become a biologist. Today, she continues to dream of working on scientific endeavors, although her focus has shifted to the business side of science.
Her path from curing cancer to an MBA began during her doctoral studies. With support from her faculty advisor, Dr. John Woolford, Bush registered for a business course. Her curiosity and interest in business solidified after completing a few more courses.
She also realized that gaining work experience before she went back to school for an MBA was extremely important. “I thought I would get more out of the program that way. Just from seeing my classmates, they were able to put their own experiences into what they were learning and I did not have that,” Bush explained, “So when I finished the Ph.D. program, I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to stay in science, but work on the business side of science.”
Bush landed a job at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, whose basic function was to invest in start-ups. During her five years with the company, she worked with numerous entrepreneurs and scientists, assessed their technology and evaluated the technology’s need within the marketplace. Throughout this process, she learned that she excelled at serving as a bridge between people who spoke science and those who did not. She had the capability to translate scientific language into lay terms and back again.
“It is very important when you are dealing with scientists to have a science background. It gives you credibility about your scientific understanding and your scientific knowledge. I think that was really important within the job I had and going forward. A business education is important because it gives you the same credibility on the business side. It shows that you have at least taken the time to try to understand how a business works. I got exactly what I wanted [from my time at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse] and I really enjoyed it, but I realized that if I wanted to grow more that I needed to have more business education,” said Bush.
Prompted by this realization, she resigned from Director of Investment Programs at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse and enrolled in Tepper’s MBA program.
As a May 2009 graduate of the program, Bush will continue to utilize all of her business and life sciences knowledge as an Associate Financial Consultant at Eli Lilly and Company. Within this new position, she hopes to gain a more profound understanding of the company and industry as she move towards a business development position in the future.
While obtaining his doctorate, Goyal worked with Dr. Jonathan Minden studying the role of the cytoskeleton during development. Academic research was always the career path that he saw for himself, until he enrolled in a business course during his doctoral studies. Goyal stated, “[Within the class,] I realized that business people have very little understanding of research and science when they enter the pharmaceutical or medical industry.” Therefore, he saw a gap that he could fill if he received more business experience. As a result, he entered business school after graduating with his doctorate.
During the first-year of his MBA studies, he worked on multiple projects combining science and business. One collaborative project with the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center involved the development of new product strategies for automated healthcare solutions that enable the elderly to remain in their homes longer instead of entering long-term care facilities. One solution included the capability to control all home appliances from a single device. Another project entailed performing a competitive analysis for a Pittsburgh-based personalized medicine company.
Upon receiving his MBA, Goyal plans to pursue a career in product management and development within the pharmaceutical or healthcare industry.
Viswanathan is also a graduate of the Minden Laboratory, where she studied how cells compensate for changes in gene dosage. Throughout her time in the Ph.D. in Biological Sciences program, a strong desire for her work to have an immediate and far-reaching impact developed. This desire translated into the pursuit of a career within industry.
Therefore, upon graduation in 2003, she accepted a position as a founding employee of the biotechnology company, Proteopure. The company is actually based on a technology developed within the Minden laboratory. During her time at Proteopure, her interest in the business aspect of the biological and pharmaceutical industries solidified. “Having decided that I wanted to [remain] in industry, I knew that I would get an MBA at some point. After working for the company all the way through commercialization and gaining experience in different functional areas, I felt that the time had come for me to go back to school and receive formal training in business,” said Viswanathan.
Thus, she began her MBA in the fall of 2008 with plans to prepare for a career in strategy and business development. “In addition to having people that specialize within a field, [biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies] need people who can understand and communicate across disciplines. I realized from my work experience that I really enjoy such interdisciplinary functions. I think my MBA in combination with my Ph.D. will make me uniquely qualified for a role at the interface of science and business.” said Viswanathan.