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PhD Students Learn the Business of Science

Certificate program teaches scientists and engineers about management

Administrating a lab is like running a business. Resources must be split for salaries and expenses, and workers have to be scheduled and managed. But PhD students in science and engineering are rarely taught business and management skills to effectively run their labs after graduation.

To meet this challenge, Northwestern offers the Management for Scientists and Engineers certificate program through a partnership between the Kellogg School of Management and The Graduate School. Each summer it’s offered to post-candidacy doctoral students in science and engineering who want to gain management tools for running a future lab or working in the commercial sector.

Twenty-four McCormick PhD students were selected to participate in the 2014 program. 

“After I graduate I expect to be somewhere at or near the interface between scientists and management,” said Todd Eaton, a PhD student in chemical and biological engineering. “Fluency with the terms and thought processes of those on the management side will be hugely beneficial. Without this course, I’d have to pick it up piece by piece without any formal education.”

“As an engineer, I need to be able to frame an idea in terms of cost, investment, and uncertainty,” said Paul Jones, a PhD student in mechanical engineering. “This is especially true when pitching novel ideas for funding to senior management or when deciding how to allocate resources across teams.”

Classes meet one day a week for eight weeks, and coursework includes finance, accounting, strategy, negotiation, new venture financing, and intellectual property. Taught by Kellogg faculty, the teaching is interactive, with case studies, simulations, and team-building and crisis management exercises.

“It’s fun being in a classroom environment again,” said Nikhita Mansukhani, a PhD student in materials science. “The lectures are extremely informative, and I’m getting to know students and professors outside my discipline.”

This summer’s session began June 23 and will wrap up August 11.