PPM Preview Day Draws a Wide Mix of Students and Working Professionals
Moving across the country and leaving a good job as a staff scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) isn't a cause for anxiety as far as Billy Chen is concerned. He's focused on the fall when he'll enter KGI's Postdoctoral Professional Masters (PPM) program, which was created to help PhD scientists and engineers acquire the business and management skills needed to commercialize technologies developed in laboratories and pursue senior management positions within the life sciences industry. In fact, he attended PPM Preview Day held on KGI's campus June 8 in order to "really narrow down a direction [for his studies] and hit the ground running."
"KGI's strong ties with industry and reputation for providing many networking opportunities definitely helped me get over any anxieties I felt about career possibilities," said Chen, who is interested in the entrepreneurial and start-up aspects of the drug discovery and drug development process. "The Team Masters Project was also a strong draw for me. I'm really excited about working with my fellow classmates and corporate sponsors on such an in-depth project."
Chen and his future classmates as well as several prospective PPM students started the day off with a welcome and introduction from President Sheldon Schuster, who emphasized the truly unique aspects of what the PPM program offers its students and gave the group some brief background on KGI. "They're interested in our organization because of you," he said while discussing the board of trustees. "They want to see young people succeed in the life sciences industry."
In fact, the featured speaker for the day was board member Judy Heyboer, former senior vice president of human resources at Genentech, whose talk "What Do Employers Want? Career Guidance for Scientists Looking to Work in Industry" was designed to help young people find their ideal path in the life sciences industry. "If you love what you do," she said, "work/life balance is not an issue."
Also on hand was board member Dr. Rod Markin, associate vice chancellor for business development and chief technology officer at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Prompted by President Schuster, Markin gave an impromptu talk about some of his work including at Prairie Ventures, where he sits on the board, and at LAB-InterLink, a technology transfer company of the University of Nebraska Medical Center that he founded and which provides products for hospital-based laboratory automation systems. "Many people on the business side don't understand the science and vice versa," he said. "So I've spent a large part of my career acting as a translator - getting the science and the business people to communicate."
Preview Day participants also toured the campus and got an overview of the curriculum from Dr. Steve Casper, director of the PPM program, who emphasized professional development opportunities and how the program was designed to fill in the gap between the more traditional academic experience of a scientist and the MBA-style experience needed to get a job. "Research jobs account for only about 8% of jobs in the industry, so that means that 92% of you will end up doing something else," he told the group, adding that PhDs account for 42% of senior management in the life sciences industry.
The day ended with a student and alumni panel discussion and a closing/networking reception. For Billy Chen, the day confirmed his decision to pursue a PPM degree at KGI and, subsequently, a career in the life sciences industry. "What President Schuster said about making a difference and knowing that at the end of the day you've done something to help people really resonated with me," he said.
Another PPM Preview Day is scheduled for November.