Saying Goodbye to Stage Fright

Eleanor Daugerdas (MBP ‘22) used to get stage fright, but lessons learned in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) helped her recently overcome that and win the Industrial Advisory Board’s award for best oral presentation.

Eleanor Daugerdas (MBP ‘22) would not usually call delivering a presentation for top biotech executives a comfortable experience. Yet that's what she found herself doing this spring when she gave a presentation about COVID-19 messaging to the Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) of Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP).

“Presentations have always been a struggle of mine, since I have a bit of stage fright,” she said. “They always make me incredibly anxious, but it's a weakness I've been working to improve.” 

The work paid off. 

Eleanor DaugerdasDaugerdas earned the Best Oral Presentation award from the IAB for her study on the importance of health education to help people from different cultures understand the ins and outs of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the United States, a country whose citizens speak more than 350 languages and a world whose inhabitants use nearly 7,000 different tongues, the challenge is immense. 

“Health literacy has always been something I have been passionate about, and the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need for equally accessible health information,” she said. “Winning the Best Oral Presentation meant I was able to achieve my goal to make people feel something about the health literacy and equity space.” 

The IAB is made up of industry leaders from AbbVie, Eli Lilly, Genentech, and more. The group gathers annually to discuss the MBP curriculum and the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the biotech space. Listening to current student research projects is always part of the schedule.

Daugerdas embraced the opportunity to present to the IAB. Instead of stressing over stage fright, she tried to let her natural passion for the topic shine through. 

“I knew the kind of results I was presenting weren't conventional, so I wanted to spend more time explaining why this study and any study like it was so important to the healthcare industry,” she said. “It was important to me that people left with a new perspective on how they can help us move toward health equity.” 

Daugerdas entered MBP in September 2020 with the goal of developing both her biotechnology skills and the soft skills needed to succeed in leadership positions – traits like the presentation abilities she demonstrated to the IAB. Internships with Merck and the Center for Applied Health Research on Aging (CAHRA) gave her industry experience; her MBP classes deepened her technical knowledge and sharpened those soft skills.

The combination helped her land her first post-MBP job as a senior analyst with PRECISIONadvisors, a consultancy that helps pharmaceutical and life-science companies successfully bring innovative treatments to the marketplace. She started in July. 

"In this role I help clients solve issues, including product value positioning, access improvement, and launch pricing and contracting by understanding the ever-changing and complex healthcare market," she said. "As a senior analyst, I will serve as the content expert on assigned projects and am responsible for actively participating in the development and delivery of all client outputs."

As she looked back on her time in MBP, Daugerdas said there were two lessons that helped her grow more than anything else — two pieces of advice she'd offer future MBP students. 

“Find a research group that really aligns with your career goals and personal passion,” she said, "and don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone.”

McCormick News Article