Presenting Your Research to Industry Leaders

Two recent Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) graduates shared their experiences presenting their work to the program's Industrial Advisory Board (IAB).

A commitment to research is one of the biggest differentiators of Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology program (MBP) as approximately 40% of the  curriculum is dedicated to research opportunities. Students select a research topic of their choosing and compile a final report modeled after a research article.

Beyond the core research work, students practice communicating their research by preparing a presentation to deliver to members of the program's Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), made up of industry leaders from across the country. This past year, students presented to the IAB virtually, but the opportunity was still valuable. Students got to answer questions about their research and receive feedback on their presentations, as well as commit time to networking with IAB members. 

Amy Lee (MBP '21) and Prerana Mantri (MBP '21) reflected on their presentation to the IAB and the lessons they took away from the experience. 


What research did you present?

Amy Lee: For the research component of MBP, I am working at a small startup called BiomeSense, which is working to develop a biosensor that can facilitate an automated and continuous workflow for collecting microbiome data. Automating the process and expanding the gut microbiome database can allow for interstudy standardization and collection of more time-dense longitudinal data, and creating a user-friendly, automated device can allow for increased data collection. My current project is focused on developing a COVID-19 detection assay that can be implemented onto the biosensor. 

Prerana Mantri: My research is focused on the factors associated with the progression of oncology clinical trials. We are analyzing the probability of success and likelihood of approval of oncology trials by mining and collecting clinical trial data from the Aggregate Analysis of (AACT) database. We are then exploring the characteristics that influence oncology clinical trials’ success by comparing clinical trials that progressed to the next phase and led to approval to those trials that did not progress and lead to approval. Apart from this, we are performing statistical analysis and studying associations between variables to better understand and design oncology clinical trials.

The purpose of this research is to streamline the clinical trial process to reduce not only the time required for clinical trials but also their associated costs. Reducing the time required to conduct clinical trials helps bring drugs and treatments to the market faster. Reducing the cost of clinical trials, not only reduces the cost of the drug but also allows companies to invest more funds in research and development. The final goal is to improve patients’ lives.


How did the IAB members respond to your presentation?

AL: The IAB members were surprised by the progress that was made within a few months and the number of projects I had the opportunity to take on during my time at BiomeSense. At a startup company, there are a lot of opportunities to explore different parts of the business. I worked on assay development and optimization, quality control implementation, biological hardware validation, and operational planning.

Hearing the feedback from IAB members on my presentation gave me a new perspective on how someone unfamiliar with my project would understand and perceive my presentation. It gave me ideas to further improve my presentations and to communicate more effectively. Their feedback will be invaluable to future presentations in my academic and professional career.

PM: The IAB members were pleased with the research focus. They mentioned that this is a niche research area but at the same time, extremely pertinent for oncology studies. I was asked quite a few questions about the methods that were being used since this is something that hasn’t been done much before and the members were interested in understanding how we were tackling such a huge dataset. 


Why was this presentation opportunity important for you?

AL: The opportunity for MBP students to showcase their work to industry professionals is important for developing our scientific communication skills. No matter what job or career we end up in, effective communication is one of the most important skills to have. This opportunity was good practice for learning to gauge our audience and to present technical topics to people from different backgrounds from ourselves. 

PM: MBP is highly reliant on leveraging networks and connections that will allow students to grow and develop their professional portfolio and relationships. Not only that, but this type of opportunity also gives MBP students a chance to showcase their research and communicate their findings to broader audiences and enhance their professional skills and encourage them to develop professional relationships.


What was the biggest lesson you took away from this opportunity?

AL: The key takeaway I got was to do what’s right for you. Everyone’s journey looks a little different and that’s OK. It’s important to find what you’re passionate about. 

PM: Networking with IAB members gave me an opportunity to communicate with industry leaders, and that is a skill that cannot be taught in a class.  Apart from that, the connections I made through this session helped me learn about the demands of the modern industry.

McCormick News Article