Back to the Board

Paul Collins returns to the MPB’s Industry Advisory Board after a six-year absence to find the program has kept up with the rapid pace of biotechnological advancement.

As Paul Collins prepared to begin his second stint on the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) of Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP), he took a look around and saw something important.

The research being done in MBP today is vastly different from what was being pursued when he left the IAB in 2017.Paul Collins

“The faculty have evolved as the needs of biotechnology have changed,” said Collins, vice president and senior research fellow for bioproduct research and development at Eli Lilly. “It’s still biotech research, but I don’t see the same people or research areas anymore. That’s a good sign.”  

Good, because the pace of biotechnological advancement has accelerated rapidly since the first time Collins served on the board. The IAB is meant to ensure the MBP curriculum remains aligned with industry needs.

His first tenure, which began in 2011, not only helped the students of the day have a curriculum relevant to the working world but established a strong link between MBP and the company for which Collins has worked for nearly two decades.  

“My company wasn’t doing much with the MBP when I got involved, and they weren’t certain that involvement was beneficial,” Collins said. “I was happy to connect MBP with Lilly, and we’ve had a steady involvement for over 10 years now." 

Links with high-level executives such as Collins and industry-leading companies such as Eli Lilly are part of the draw for potential students to join MBP. The IAB is designed to provide the mutual benefit of a curriculum that prepares students to be valuable employees and a streamlined way for companies to find industry-changing professionals to join their ranks.  

Collins said he has long been impressed with the quality of students MBP produces.  

“Students were always ready to jump into biotech labs and do high-quality research,” he said. “That appears to have held true for many years now.”  

Collins’ first experience on the IAB came through his connection with Northwestern. He earned his PhD in biochemical engineering from the University in 1997 and, during that time, his thesis advisor was former MBP director Bill Miller.  

The two remained in contact through the years, and Miller invited him in 2011 to be a part of the IAB. Collins is excited to return, in part because of the commitment by program leadership to listen intently to the board’s input.  

“I always enjoyed some of the creative ideas they had about adapting the curriculum to achieve goals for students,” he said. “I’m looking forward to finding out what’s happened in that arena the last six years.”  

Collins’ return to the IAB comes as he settles into new responsibilities at Eli Lilly. He was promoted in March to his current position from his role as vice president of delivery/device search and evaluate.  

The new role took Collins from the company’s formal management group to a senior technical role. His responsibilities now involve helping develop technology platforms in newer treatment areas such as those associated with genetic medicine.  

Collins may not have been affiliated with the MBP program for six years, but he still strongly recommends biotech professionals looking to accelerate their career growth to consider the program. The most effective students, he said, are those who know what they want to get out of the program before getting started.  

“Many students see higher educational opportunities as good without knowing what they want to get out of them,” he said .”If you know that you want to do research and want to understand how research fits into the broader picture, then you are probably a person who will enjoy MBP.”

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