biotechin.asia organized its first event, the first of a series of Career talks, “The Right track for you” on August 27th 2015 at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
The event was sponsored and supported by Student Affairs Office, BMES-NTU and School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering (SCBE), NTU.
The event featured speakers from various career paths of biotechnology and biomedical sciences.
The speakers and topics featured were:
- Dr Sierin Lim (SCBE, NTU) – Why should you pursue Academia as a career?
- Dr Vandana Ramachandran (IMB, A*STAR) – Alternative careers in science
- Dr Shuwen Koh (Consultant) – Innovation and Commercialisation
- Dr Sandhya Sriram and Dr Laxmi Iyer (biotechin.asia) – Startups and Entrepreneurship
Dr Sierin Lim’s talk titled “How I ended up being a Prof” was on her personal journey in academia and she inspired the audience, mainly comprising of students, to pursue academia. She spoke about her passion for science, in particular proteins, and her research interests and work done in her BeANs Lab. She showcased as to how exciting research can be and rewarding as well. Being an Associate Professor, she plays the roles of a scientist, teacher, mentor, motivator, business manager, writer and many more. It is a role that encompasses all careers in the biotech field. Her passion and interest in science started at a very early age and was inspired by her mother, her professor and her postdoc advisor. She is also an ambassador for Women in STEM, and hence spoke about the gender inequality in science, technology and engineering fields.
Dr Vandana Ramachandran or Van, as known by all, went through the research and academia career path before switching to research administration. She spoke about her personal journey and how she made the switch from fulltime research to an administrative role. She enjoys her current position as Head of Administration at the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB), A*STAR. Her role includes grants management, business development, industry liaison, financing and budgeting, scientific outreach/communications, organizing scientific conferences, monitoring health and safety at the institute, research operations, lab management and she is also part of the Career Development Committee for Postdocs and PhD students. She was inspired to move to an admin role during her postdoc years when she was actively a member of the Postdoc society at The Scripps Research Institute, California. This eventually made her start the A*PECSS (A*STAR Postdoc Society) at A*STAR, Singapore.
Dr Shuwen Koh is currently an independent consultant who manages strategic alliances and innovation development activities of the National University Hospital. She helps run the Innovation Transfer Office at NUHS. She is also the business advisor of a private medical device start-up, working closely with the CEO to fund-raise as well as chart and execute clinical and regulatory strategy. She is an adjunct lecturer at the Centre for Technology and Development at Duke-NUS. Among the multiple roles that she portrays, she is a dynamic personality who spoke about her personal journey from doing a PhD to not being in research anymore. She was sure during her PhD that she did not want to pursue a postdoc and she wanted a more “exciting” role. Hence she went into more of a consultant role but still in the field of biotechnology and the sciences. She emphasized on key innovation and commercialization strategies and said, “People invest in a business, NOT a technology”. She discussed about the transition from academia to industry and said that fear is a good thing.
Dr Laxmi Iyer and I (Sandhya Sriram) had the wonderful opportunity to talk about our journey through the process of having our own startup, biotechin.asia, and how Singapore is the best place to be in for starting your own company. Laxmi spoke about the current and future trends in healthcare and about how biotech/healthcare startups are booming now with millions of dollars being pumped into this industry. She touched upon her personal journey from graduating PhD to being part of a startup and how challenging and exciting it was and still is. The risk is very much worth it in the end. I spoke on how exciting it is for me, personally, to be able to have a startup as well as have a full time job as a postdoc fellow. I spoke about the pros and cons of having a startup and the challenges that come with it. “A small idea might be worth a million dollars” was the theme of my talk and I spoke on how a simple idea of yours can actually be turned into a million dollar company.
All the speakers emphasized on the importance of networking, talking to people, working or doing an internship for free to gain experience and building on your resume, discovering yourself and knowing for sure what you want/do not want, the importance of good mentors, being tenacious and creating your own brand and being unique.
The panel discussion was interactive with the audience asking questions on making the transition from academia to industry or startups, on taking the risks, experience of the speakers on doing a PhD/postdoc and so on.
Overall, the event showcased the myriad of career paths and options that is available for students and people who are in the biotech and biomedical sciences field.
The event is open for discussion and the speakers can be contacted at the Declara channel. Click here to access it.
Photography, videography and volunteers (Credits: Jithin John Varghese, Margaret Phillips, Areetha D’Souza, Reelina Basu, Lavanya, Archana Asokan, and BMES-NTU members- Javid, Kritika, Molly, Srishti)