Following a Love for Research

Northwestern MBP student Hannah McDowell reflects on her first quarter and why she's excited to explore more opportunities within the program.

Hannah McDowell pursued a double major in molecular biology and chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Along the way, she discovered a love for research.

That is why she was so intrigued by the Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) at Northwestern, and specifically the program's 1,000-hour research requirement.

Hannah McDowellMcDowell wasn't exactly sure what industry she wanted to work in after Northwestern, but she figured she would be exposed to a variety of career paths during her time in MBP. She's only one quarter into the program, but so far, her prediction was right.

As McDowell prepares for her second quarter, she took a few minutes to look back on her first quarter and her hopes for the rest of her time in the program.

Where did you do your undergraduate study and what did you major in?

I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and double majored in Molecular Biology and Chemistry.

What was it about MBP that appealed to you?

The program at Northwestern was very intriguing to me considering it was way more research-based than other programs. I truly loved my undergraduate research experience, however, I wasn't dead set on going into academic research. Joining this program gave me the opportunity to learn about other lab cultures while having the chance to do a Co-op for a Biotech company. Being an MBP student puts me into contact with a wide variety of professionals which allows me to explore so many opportunities.

What is it that you want to do professionally?

I’m still not exactly sure what I want to do career-wise, which is why MBP is great. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in an interdisciplinary group creating a product for an unmet need within the medical field, I’ve joined an amazing research group, and I get to work with the IGNITE PICU Innovation center at Lurie Children’s Hospital. I may not know what I want to do yet, but by the end of this program, I’m sure I’ll have had the chance to try everything I desire, which will help push me to the area where I’m meant to be.

How important was MBP's research requirement — specifically the 1,000 hours — in your decision to attend Northwestern?

It was very important to me as I fell in love with research during my undergrad. The fact that this program puts you into contact with some amazing and diverse groups here is perfect.

How would you describe your first quarter in the program?

The first quarter was great. It’s a relatively small program and we have almost every class with each other, so I made some great friends that helped me adjust to the program. It was difficult moving from semesters to quarters, but all the students and teachers helped make the transition easy. The classes were very engaging and useful. I’m excited to dive deeper into the program and choose more electives.

What were one or two highlights from your first quarter?

For my elective, I joined NUvention, which was one of the best decisions I've made. We have a great team made up of students from the Feinberg School of Medicine, the Law School, Kellogg School of Management and McCormick. We identified an innovative product that addresses an unmet need and we’re currently in the process of designing and translating our prototype into a business opportunity by creating a commercial model and pitching to potential investors. This class is extremely fun and I’m learning so much.

What surprised you during your first quarter in the program?

There are a lot of team workshops, and it’s nice to learn about how each individual works in a work setting and how we can build ourselves as professionals.