Setting a Path For the Future

Bettina Wunderlich (MBP '17) shares how two MBP internships impacted the trajectory of her professional career.

There was a lot about the Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) at Northwestern that appealed to Bettina Wunderlich (MBP '17).

Bettina WunderlichThere was an emphasis on the theoretical and practical aspects of biotechnology. There was a diverse array of engineering, biology, and even professional development classes. There was a focus on lab experience. There were internship opportunities.

All of those aspects were important in Wunderlich's decision to enroll in MBP, and yet none of them were the most important to her. She recently shared what she thought was the program's biggest selling point, what she learned from her time in MBP, and how the experiences she had in the program directly related to her decision to pursue a PhD.

What was the most appealing thing about MBP to you?

The biggest selling point to me is the certificates MBP allows students to pursue if they have a specific interest. The fact that I could focus on global health and sustainability, take classes on the topic as well as complete an internship in South Africa was unique to Northwestern MBP and exactly what I was looking for.   

How important was the research emphasis of the program in your decision to enroll in the program?

The research emphasis did weigh significantly in my decision to enroll in the program. Before enrolling, I was still unsure whether I wanted to pursue a PhD down the line, and I believe that the exposure to research gives students a very clear idea what research entails and helps determine whether students want to pursue a research career or not. It gives students a greater choice in career after the program.

What was the primary research project you worked on during your time in MBP?

As I was pursuing the “Sustainability and Global Health Biotechnologies Certificate”, I wanted to focus on sustainability as my primary research project. For this reason, I decided to work in Dr. Kimberly Gray’s lab studying the effect of phototoxic nanoparticle mixtures on bacteria when exposed to light. We employed environmentally relevant concentrations and natural aqueous medium so that our findings would be relevant for what currently exists in freshwater bodies.

What were two or three of the most important things you learned during your time in MBP?

While it's hard to single out the most important things I learned, I believe the 1,000-hour lab component was extremely valuable as it allowed me to experience planning and carrying out my own research project. Additionally, the internships allowed me to experience different career options that helped me decide what I ultimately wanted to do after the program. MBP also offers many trips to different biotech and pharma companies, as well as brings in speakers from diverse industries so that students can explore different career possibilities.

During your time in MBP, you had two different three-month internships. What were you doing for each of the internships?

My first internship was at Deloitte, where I worked as a Business Technology Analyst for Life Sciences. I was always interested in consulting as a possible career choice and this internship allowed me to experience the day-to-day of a technology consultant. This opportunity provided me with a better understanding of how biotechnology companies work and polished my interpersonal, communication and business skills, such as facilitation, public speaking, time management, and teamwork.

The second internship took place in South Africa, where I worked for a lab at the University of Cape Town conducting literary research on the cost-effectiveness of new point-of-care diagnostics for Tuberculosis. There, I witnessed the effects that Tuberculosis, especially in a high HIV environment, can have on a community. This experience also made me aware of the importance of cheap, point-of-care diagnostics, and the impact they can have on both the health and economy of a country with a high disease burden.

After graduating you returned to Deloitte full time. What were you doing while working there?

During my time at Deloitte, I worked as a Business Technology Analyst for Life Science and Health Care companies. This involved working in a multicultural team collecting requirements and developing custom-built software for biotech, health care, and pharmaceutical companies. This position provided invaluable insight into how business, science, and technology can work together effectively.

What led you to decide to leave Deloitte and pursue your PhD?

After having worked at Deloitte for over a year, I decided to change paths and pursue a PhD at Johns Hopkins. I will be focusing on infectious disease epidemiology and control in developing countries, and my interest in public health classes, as well as my time in South Africa, both had a very big impact on my decision. As I had already accepted a full-time position at Deloitte, I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity and polish my teamwork, public speaking, and communication skills. I believe I grew and learned a lot at Deloitte, but my passion to help those in need and play a part in our public health system ultimately made me decide to pursue my PhD.

What advice would you give to someone considering MBP?

I would say that MBP provides many different opportunities depending on one’s interest. It is a great starting place for someone interested in working at a biotech or pharma company, pursuing a PhD or even working in consulting.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Not only is MBP a great program with lots of opportunities, but it also has fantastic faculty who are very capable and invested in the students. Furthermore, students can take advantage of all Northwestern has to offer, including taking classes at the renowned Kellogg School of Management and using the brand new sporting facilities.