IAB Members Discuss Ideal Job Candidates

Industry leaders who advise the MBP program shared their thoughts on how students can differentiate themselves in the job market.

The Industry Advisory Board for Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) ensures the program is preparing students for the realities of life in the workforce, be it working in industry or academic research.

A collection of IAB members, who represent an array of industry expertise from across the biotechnology space, recently sat down to answer a question on the mind of every MBP student: What do you look for in a prospective job candidate?

Here are their responses: 

Felicia Bogdan 

Director of Research and Development, Abbott 

When I have to differentiate between candidates, I will look at candidates that are more well-rounded. When you understand a language that another specialty area speaks, I think that is an advantage. 

Albert Schmelzer 

Executive Director for Research and Development, AstraZeneca 

Students completing the MBP program have the fundamental tools about how to do bioprocessing and can quickly contribute to the day-to-day operations in our industry. However, with the transition into more complex therapies, including cell therapy and gene therapy, thinking about the best way to manufacture these products in a more strategic view is really valuable. What we need from these new graduates is their ability to think “out of the box” and leverage broader experiences to help our teams innovate. Finally, clear communication is key – both for conveying the science and ensuring that their own needs for growth and happiness are met by the organization. 

Andrea Schoen (MBP '10) 

Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Hyfé 

One of the strengths of MBP is that the students are interdisciplinary. You're not going to have that deep expertise in a very specific subject matter like you would with a PhD candidate, but you have somebody who has a breadth of experiences across a number of different subject matter areas and can act as a connector between different disciplines and a problem solver.

Being on the biomanufacturing side and the startup side, I would favor a candidate who is conversational in a lot of the techniques and analytical metrics, but can also be presented with a complex, nuanced problem that the company doesn't have the knowledge to answer, and find the solution. Somebody who knows enough to have those conversations but then is self motivated enough to look both internally and externally to pull together the viewpoints necessary to propose a solution.

Jeff Boesiger 

Managing Partner, Ospree Consulting Group 

The modalities of everything are changing so fast. What we're looking for is someone who can logically attack a new problem in a manner that makes sense and apply principles they may have to a new problem they've never seen before. You're never going to be able to predict what they may be working on in industry, so being conversational in different modalities would be great, and then being able to apply foundational principles and critical thinking to it and communicating effectively is going to be really important.

Vic Vinci 

Vice President for Global Product Development - Cell, Gene, and Protein Therapeutics, Catalent Biologics 

Students and current industry scientists need to have a holistic set of skills. Therapeutic focus and technology evolution will drive change in the needs for skills, regardless of whether they start their careers in a specific niche (upstream cell culture, purification, or analytical) or modality (cell, gene, or protein therapies). Fundamental understanding of the biology, biochemistry, and bioengineering will be transferable over time. A grounding in analytical methods and how that is linked to what a therapeutic protein — or cell or viral vector — is intended to do in the clinic is important. Also, understanding the business of biotechnology and the pharma industry and how a scientist or other lead fits into that process is important for advancement over time.

Paul Collins 

Vice President and Senior Research Fellow - Bioproduct Research and Development, Eli Lilly and Company 

What you want, ideally, are people who understand there is a bigger picture than just the work in the lab, although you certainly need to have strong lab work. Understanding how your science connects to the patient taking the drug allows you to work on the most important elements – and it allows the scientist to know how what they are doing is vital.

Andy Lin 

Vice President and Global Head of Individualized and Cell Therapy Development, Pharma Technical - Genentech 

We aim to train and mentor our scientists and engineers to think holistically, putting patients first in their decisions. At the end of the day, our mission is to develop medicines that transform patients’ lives.

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