MIT Biotech Group Inspires the Next Generation
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At one of MIT’s recent major career fairs, only 3% of the employers in attendance represented the life sciences. Surprising? Yes, considering that MIT is in the heart of Kendall Square, recently named the number one hub for life sciences in the world. It certainly shocked James W. Weis and Nathan Stebbins, PhD students at the prestigious institution and co-founders of the MIT Biotech Group.
"There’s a lot of anxiousness towards careers [you hear statements like] ‘there’s no faculty jobs’ and ‘what’s everyone going to do’. James and I originally started digging around to understand what resources exist at MIT for students that want to get connected to the biotechnology industry and what avenues exist for students who want to be entrepreneurs in the lifesciences. We actually found that MIT students, surprisingly, have a small connection with the outside biotechnology world.” – Stebbins.
About 25% of PhD students at MIT are doing research directly involved in the life sciences and many more are doing tangential work. Weis and Stebbins recognized a need to close the gap between academia and industry at MIT, and decided to take the necessary steps to make it happen. After countless hours of brainstorming and meetings with high level executives from academia and industry, the empowered entrepreneurs launched the MIT Biotech Group in April of this year – with the full support and encouragement of MIT’s administration. Their hard work has paid off. Within a few days of the inaugural email invitation, over 200 students signed up to get a taste of the life sciences industry. The group currently has over 500 members comprised of undergrads, graduates, and PhD students.
The group has a number of different initiatives. The focus areas include:
- Industrial Pharma & Biotech
- MIT Undergraduates
These initiatives are geared towards helping students discover the wide range of possibilities available to them in the life sciences.
"The goal of these initiatives is to get students’ hands dirty with industry work, building a company, or even just running through the motions of building a company.” – Stebbins
Weis explained the overarching philosophy of the group by drawing comparisons between other career paths and the disparity that exists when pursuing a PhD in the life sciences.
“If you go to medical school, you graduate with experience directly relevant to a career in medicine. If you go to business school, you spend significant time networking and securing internships in preparation for your career after graduation. When you get your PhD, much of your work is focused on the academic side—even though most students do not end up in academia. If you aspire to a career in entrepreneurship or venture capital, for example, you should be building expertise in that area while in school so that you graduate competitive and well-prepared for success.” – Weis
These two co-founders are working hard to do everything they can to help expose students to the depth and breadth of options available to them in the industry. Since the Group’s inception they have already hosted a luncheon with prolific biotech writer Luke Timmerman, multiple networking events, and next week are heading over to LabCentral for a tour and meet and greet with co-founder Johannes Fruehauf and Unum Therapeutics CEO Charles Wilson. But there’s still more to do. Weis and Stebbins have a grand vision for the MIT Biotech Group to be a catalyst for students. They envision future companies’ inceptions beginning with the group. The ambitious duo know they can’t do it alone. They are eager to connect with industry professionals and work with them to inspire and enable fellow students. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved and they are encouraging professionals from every sector in the industry to help out.
- Host a luncheon seminar or Q&A session to share your experience in the industry,
- Interview for the MIT Biotech Group’s blog to share your advice and perspective on the industry,
- Present a case study—from starting a company, to valuations of private or biotechnology firms, to undergoing FDA approval,
- Sponsor the group or an event,
- …and more!
Please contact the MIT Biotech Group’s leadership at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MITBiotechGroup if you want to help catalyze the next generation of biotech!
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