Distinguished Alumni Share Career Advice at the Life Sciences Symposium: Part 2

“Big Data” was the theme of this year's Life Sciences Symposium, held on May 23 at Alumni Hall, Hopkins Centre for the Arts, Dartmouth College. Several distinguished speakers in the field of the life sciences, including professors and alumni from the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, the Thayer School of Engineering and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, shared their knowledge on efficient data mining methods in the investigation of biological systems as well as advice on transitioning from academia to life science industries.

Shinchiro Fuse, PhD, was one of the three alumni speakers at the Life Science Symposium. He received his PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies at Dartmouth in 2008. He spoke to gathering about how his PhD contributed to his success in the business world and offered seven key tips for students considering a transition from academia into industry.

Fuse joined MPM Capital, a life sciences venture capital firm, as Principal in 2016. Prior to this, he was Director of Business Development at Bluebird Bio. Fuse shared his experiences as a PhD student, his initial plan to go into academia, and then his decision to transition into consulting, business development and venture capital.

While Fuse loved his lab work and was seriously considering an academic route, McKinsey & Company had an information session at Dartmouth and his interest was piqued. “I realized that businessmen in the science industry didn’t know much about science,” Fuse said, recalling the class he took at the Tuck Business School and his networking interactions with people in the business world.

He landed an internship at Morgan Stanley as a consultant for four years, covering about 60 small and big projects. Fuse said the experience taught him a lot about himself, besides strategy, venture capital, and business development. When he found a place for himself at Bluebird, Fuse was thrilled because he missed science and his role there involved both science and business development. “It was very satisfying to be involved in the process directly from the start till the end goal.”

Fuse presented seven tips for students in academia who are considering going into industry.

  1. Your research should be your number one priority
  2. Communicate with your PI and your committee
  3. Understand your strengths and passion
  4. Think about commercialization of your research. This makes you think about the future in addition to being interview-ready.
  5. Learn about industry and trends
  6. Talk to people – Network!
  7. Get experience through internships

In addition to Pendergrass and Fuse, Yolanda C. Nesbeth, who is also an alumna from the sciences, spoke of her experiences and translated them into practical advice for graduate students. Nesbeth, who received her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies in 2010, inspired students to learn to “always say yes” to the opportunities that are offered to them.

During her graduate career at the GRAD school, Yolanda had developed therapeutic cell-based technologies and immunotherapies against ovarian cancer. She is now Director at Celdara Medical and the Site-Head for the Washington DC office, where she leads multiple internal therapeutic development programs, in addition to managing a CLIA certified lab providing molecular diagnostics for systemic sclerosis patients, clinicians and drug developers.

“The art of saying ‘no’ can only be learned if you first amass things to say no to,” Nesbeth said, calling on students to make use of all the opportunities around them. She stressed that it is okay to be underqualified, because saying yes to opportunities you are underqualified for will give you the benefits of creating broader relationships that will turn into your future contacts and network, will allow you to learn new things and learn more about your strengths, demonstrate competence, even if it is just to yourself, by managing multiple projects.

“In the earlier stages we tend to be self-selecting and end up surrounded by many persons similar to us; the more we embrace alternative opportunities, the more exposure we gain to multiple perspectives, working with people with different personalities and under different circumstances,” she stressed. She talked about a personal experience where networking at a Thayer Friday beers event led to her getting an invite for an interview and then a job offer that she wouldn’t have otherwise had. “I met an engineering student and we became fast friends. She went on to do consulting at IMSHealth. When the company came to recruit only Dartmouth students but only from the Tuck Business School, my friend was able to get me an invitation to interview that I otherwise wouldn’t have got,” she shared, highlighting the importance of networking.

Nesbeth also talked about how as a student she got her internship at Celdera without a formal interview process. She met the cofounder of the company, Jake Reder, during a Contemporary Issues in Biotechnology course at Tuck Business School. Reder worked to get a project for a her as an intern, which led to a full-time job. Today, Nesbeth is the Washington DC site-head and director for the company.

One of the nuggets of advice Nesbeth offered was to learn to see competitors as allies, because you may end up working with them in the future, they will form your network and can be the source of your next potential job.

For more career advice, network with our alumni on the Dartmouth Alumni Network, join the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies LinkedIn Group, watch out for the career workshops hosted by Kerry Landers, Assistant Dean of Graduate Student Affairs, and stay tuned to the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies website.