Building my own MBP experience

Nisar Parekh talks about honing his technical skills while also developing skills to transition into biopharmaceutical market research and strategy roles.

When Nisar Parekh was applying to the Master of Science in Biotechnology program (MBP) at Northwestern University, he had an idea of what his experience in the program would be like. He also had a vision of what he wanted his career to look like, and he wasn't sure the two would be the best fit.

Nisar ParekhIt was at that point that he began talking to potential preceptors who could help guide him during his time in MBP, and suddenly he realized MBP could give him the education and training he was looking for — and then some.

Today, Parekh is a student in MBP and also serving as an Early Stage Development intern at Pfizer. Parekh took some time to talk about his work at Pfizer and how MBP's flexibility is helping prepare him to realize his professional goals.

What was it about MBP that initially appealed to you?

MBP appealed to me because of the emphasis the program places on producing well-rounded scientists. Unlike many other programs, MBP students have a wide range of career interests and goals that can range anywhere from academic bench-work, industrial bioprocessing, life science consulting, and even data analytics. MBP was the only master's program that would allow me to further hone my technical skills while also developing skills to transition into biopharmaceutical market research and strategy roles.

How important was the research emphasis of the program — specifically the 1,000 hours of research — in your decision to enroll in the program?

Entering the program, I was expecting to use the 1,000 hours of research to gain an in-depth understanding of the research conducted in one of Northwestern's world-renowned labs studying neuroscience, materials science, or oncology. During the recruitment process, however, I was able to speak to potential preceptors about my future goals in life science entrepreneurship and strategy. These conversations actually contributed to my current position at Pfizer within the Early Stage Development group.  

How would you describe your current research to someone with no technical experience or expertise?

I am currently conducting my research within the Early Stage Development (ESD) group at Pfizer. ESD is responsible for taking an initial product concept and conducting preliminary due diligence to determine whether the product concept will provide value to the organization. This means that our group is responsible for developing a case on a potential product from the perspective of each functional area (Pharmaceutical Science, Commercial, Regulatory, Legal, Manufacturing, Medical, Quality, and API Sourcing). This case is then presented to Pfizer's strategy team which determines whether the concept will obtain the resources to turn into a full-fledged program. My current role within ESD is in conducting market research to help our team develop an understanding of a product's competitive landscape. In addition, I am helping in the development of an "innovation database" with the goal of streamlining the methods by which my department evaluates potential programs. In the past, I have also developed trackers to monitor the progress of various projects for our management team.

What do you hope to accomplish with that research?

My goal in the work that I am doing at Pfizer is to develop a holistic understanding of product development while gaining experience in market research and project management. I have already begun to see the effects of my work as projects that I contributed to early in my time at Pfizer are progressing through the development stages. Being able to point to my specific contributions on projects that could both provide value for the company and also improve the lives of our patients is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling feeling.

What are your professional goals after MBP?

I hope to use my experiences in MBP to transition into a full-time role in biopharmaceutical market research, project management, and strategy.   

How do you think MBP will prepare you to make that happen?

MBP has done an excellent job at ensuring that its students are prepared for whatever career path they want to pursue. The core curriculum has ensured that students have the technical expertise to work in the bioprocessing industry, while the regulatory and technology commercialization courses have allowed students to tailor their focus based on their individual goals. The program's emphasis on developing soft skills and connecting students with scientists in the industry also contribute to the future success of MBP students. MBP has prepared me by allowing me to personally tailor my experience in the program based on my interests and goals, while I was able to use my electives to take courses through the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Kellogg School of Management.

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