When the Guarini board members were in town last fall for their inaugural meeting, students from across the Guarini School had an opportunity to network and to share ideas with them. Graduate student Rachel Brog, along with colleagues in the Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) program, had been mulling over the idea of a club that would highlight the growing rate of employment opportunities in the biotech field through career symposia.
"Careers in industry are growing at a faster rate than those in academia," noted Brog in a recent Zoom interview, "we were looking for ways we could better prepare ourselves as top candidates for these positions."
"We know that our advisors do an excellent job of facilitating our academic trajectories and are able to put us in touch with their networks," adds vice-president Muhammad Abubakar Khan, "and so we wanted to harness that power and connect to alumni and others working in industry to get deeper insight into what those roles looked like."
Guarini Board Member Dr. Shinichiro (Shin) Fuse (Ph.D. Microbiology and Immunology, Guarini '08) was enthusiastic about their ideas and generously offered to provide support to what would become the Dartmouth Biotech Club as a mentor and to further facilitate their venture.
"It was really a matter of good timing," says Khan, of the collaboration with Dr. Fuse. "We knew there were all these opportunities out there, but we weren't quite sure how to prepare effectively for them during our time as graduate students. Having someone like Shin on the board means we have a mentor who has shared our experiences and become highly successful in industry." Khan adds.
Brog now serves as president of the club along with vice-presidents Khan, Nicholas Priess, and Nikhil Katawani, also in the MCB program. Along with the student committee, Dr. Randolph Noelle serves as their academic advisor and Jay Rothstein, Micah Benson, Kristen Garner Amanti, and Shin Fuse serve on the scientific advisory committee.
The Dartmouth Biotech Club were just getting things off the ground, submitting their application for and receiving Graduate Student Council recognition, just as the pandemic hit forcing campus to ramp-down research. Nonetheless, they responded quickly and have held several successful events during the new COVID-19 virtual reality.
On September 18, an impressive line-up of Guarini female alumni in industry offered advice and strategies for breaking into biotech from an international student perspective. The panel featured Ekta Seth Chhabra, Executive Director at Bioverativ, and Nadia Kumbal, Scientist at Intellia Therapeutics, Inc. and a guest panelist, a Weill Cornell graduate Annum Munir, who works at Sound Biologics.
The panel encouraged applying for positions that students may overlook, feeling they may not be qualified for such roles. They also suggested networking early and often and offered tips on navigating visa sponsorships. They inspired students to recognize the marketable skillset PhD students bring to the table, and to strive for the positions they deserve in industry.
Coming up on October 5, the Dartmouth Biotech Club is partnering with their peers at Harvard for the Harvard Biotech Club Career Fair 2020. This event will be held virtually, and attendees will have an opportunity to liaise with an impressive list of biotech companies.
For the event, Brog advises attending the career fair, regardless of whether or not you are ready to apply for a position. "It's an excellent opportunity to ask several biotech companies what they're looking for in strong candidates so students can prepare early for submitting applications," she says.
"If students are looking for a job now, companies will definitely be taking CVs," adds Khan, who attended the in-person event in 2019. "However, students should not shy away if they're not ready. I attended in person last year with only questions on what people were looking for, what skills I should be looking acquiring, should a do a post doc or not, how competitive was the job market? All of which I could ask to companies over and over again to survey how I should be structuring my education path."
Also scheduled for fall is a Guarini alumni panel offering advice and tips on securing a position in consulting with a STEM background. The impressive lineup includes Dartmouth alumni Uciane Scarlett, PhD, Principal at Oxford Sciences Innovation, Peter Bak, PhD, who is the senior Vice President at Back Bay Life Sciences, and Regina Salvat, PhD. Private Equity Associate at Sofinnova Investments.
If you are interested in joining any of the events, would like to keep in touch or get involved, please visit the Dartmouth Biotech Club website, follow their Facebook page, or if you have a suggestion for a guest or would like to host an event with them, you can contact them directly by filling out this form.