MBP Students Learn About Career Options at Biotech-Nexus

Panelists at the MBP-hosted event shared their stories and offered career advice to students interested in biotechnology.

The date was March 6, 2020 — a mere two weeks before Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide "stay-at-home" order to slow the spread of the coronavirus — and COVID-19 was not top of mind for most students in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology program (MBP). On that Friday, dozens of MBP students came together in the Segal Visitors Center for Biotech-Nexus, a new event aimed at informing students about the variety of opportunities available to them within the bio-pharma industries.

Natalie Champagne, the assistant director of external relations & career management, organized the event in hopes of giving students the opportunity to network with industry professionals. 

"Many of our students are unsure of their career goals and hosting events such as Biotech-Nexus allows the students to begin establishing clearer career goals for themselves," Champagne said. "Additionally, this sort of event is a great way for employers to begin engaging with talent."

The event featured a panel discussion with seven industry professionals — including three MBP graduates — about the latest trends in biotechnology and how students can help themselves stand out in the job market. 

The panelists were:

  • Louisa Carr (MBP '05), associate project manager at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals
  • Andrea Redd, senior director of regulatory affairs combination products at Fresenius Kabi
  • Angela James, director of clinical pharmacology and exploratory development at Astellas Pharma
  • Bradley Biggs (MBP '14), PhD candidate in chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern
  • Phillip Wagner, director of manufacturing science and technology at AveXis (a Novartis company)
  • Ruiying Zhou (MBP '18), organic synthesis chemist at Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Steve Sharpe, engagement partner at PharmaAce

Topics touched on in the conversation ranged from networking and mentorship to comparing work life at a startup vs. a larger corporation. The event was moderated by Champagne and Josh Leonard, an associate professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern and an MBP research preceptor. 

Biotech-Nexus stemmed from a previous event MBP hosted called Biotechnology Day. In 2019, that event featured a keynote speaker and a collection of breakout sessions with other guest speakers. Based off of attendee survey responses, Champagne decided that a format change would be best for 2020. 

The panel discussion was followed by a cocktail hour, where students were able to network and talk with panelists as well as MBP alumni who attended the event. 

"I saw industry professionals, alumni, and students sharing their stories and business cards with one another," said MBP Program Director Danielle Tullman-Ercek. "To me, helping attendees expand their visions of possible biotech careers, as well as their network, is the definition of a successful event!"