3 17 15Club de Ciencias

PhD Student Shares Career Pathways in Science and Entrepreneurship

KGI PhD student Paola Hernandez is committed to science, but she’s also committed to being of service to her country. In fact, Hernandez has already started combining her passion for science and public service by participating as an instructor in the 2015 Winter Edition of Clubes de Ciencia in the Mexican city of Merida, Yucatan.

Clubes de Ciencia (Science Clubs) is a non-profit organization that brings  a series of intensive and project-oriented science workshops aimed at getting Mexican high school and undergraduate students interested in pursuing a career in science. Its mission is to expand access to high quality science education to youth in Mexico and inspire the future generation of scientists by giving them access to an international network of mentors engaged in scientific research. The idea for the Clubes de Ciencia was formed by Mexican PhD students and postdocs at Harvard. It quickly developed through the funding support of COMEXUS, Fundación México en Harvard and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Academia Mexicana de Ciencias, as well as  other institutions.  

“I wanted to share what I’ve been able to learn throughout these years as a graduate student in the US. From my experience working in cross-cultural teams in my MBS courses or during my internship at Life Technologies, to trying to start a small-scale biofuel production systems company with two of my KGI classmates. People tend to think that professional development in STEM is only about working in the bench. The workshop I launched with Clubes de Ciencia combines life sciences and entrepreneurship along with soft skills development, which is much needed in industry”.  

Each club is taught by a team of instructors, one coming from an institution in the United States and one established in Mexico. Students who participate in the program get a taste of the real world of research, from the conception of ideas to the designing and execution of experiments and the communication of their results to others. Topics include energy, engineering, math and health sciences, among others.  

Working with a PhD student from CINVESTAV Merida, Hernandez, who is originally from Mexico City, taught her students “How do you build a company based in technology?” using her background in genomics, marketing, and technology transfer. The workshop encompassed hands-on experiential exposure by writing a concept plan for a new venture based in technology, pitching the idea to “potential investors” in a Shark Tank format, and included public speaking, project management and networking activities to improve soft skills.  

“We also had the participation from two local entrepreneurs in renewable energy, the coordinator of medical devices from the US-Mexico Science Foundation to talk about ecosystems of innovation, and a Toastmaster International coach that gave the students some motivational tools. Finally, we held a meditation session with an ex-Buddhist monk from the positive psychology program at CGU that helped us to incorporate our one week training through mindfulness. Clubes de Ciencia has been an amazing experience for the students and especially for me, since I’ve been able to inspire a new generation of smart and very talented Mexican individuals”.  

As for her own career goal, Hernandez says her experience in KGI’s PhD program is helping her gain technical proficiency that she can combine with past business experience to serve her country. “I’m really thankful to KGI and my mentors throughout this journey. So along the way, I want to take every opportunity I can to mentor another young person who is intrigued by science. You never know what can happen.”