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NewsPathways to Professional Success for Trainees at St. Paul’s

Jan 3, 2024

TAHLI hosted its third networking event of 2023 (Pathways to Professional Success) on the evening of December 7th in the James Hogg Conference Centre at HLI. The goal of this event was to connect trainees with industry professionals and help trainees learn about career paths in STEM.

Trainees and staff from HLI and the Centre for Advancing Health Outcomes had the opportunity to hear from four industry professionals working at STEMCELL, AbCellera, Lululemon, and Integrated Nanotherapeutics. The speakers first took the audience through their educational and career paths.

Drs. Hitesh Arora (STEMCELL) and Shauna Crowley (AbCellera) talked about their passion for bench science, which brought them to their current positions as research scientists at two local companies that have made a global impact in multiple fields, including regenerative medicine and therapeutic antibodies. They have played roles in developing and commercializing medicines for sepsis, COVID-19, and other diseases. Dr. Mirza Saquib us Sarwar shared his journey of becoming an electrical engineer to merging machine learning with sensors for a company known for its yoga pants (Lululemon). His story of creating an opportunity for himself to work on innovative projects in a new setting was inspiring. Finally, Dr. Azadeh Goudarzi gave her perspective of having worked across different industries over the past 14 years. Her diverse background in pharmaceutical science and business led her to become an instructor for SFU’s Invention to Innovation (i2I) program for which she has mentored many scientist entrepreneurs. She is now the Director of Business Development for Integrated Nanotherapeutics and is leading business and innovation strategy for mRNA-based therapeutics.

TAHLI invited these four industry professionals by working with a local non-profit organization (HirePhD), which helps talents with advanced degrees navigate career paths outside of academia. Firoozeh Gerayeli, TAHLI Chair, and Tong Li, Director of Talent Management, People & Culture at HirePhD, introduced how the organizations have complementary interests and are now partnering to co-host professional development events. Also in attendance were Associate Professor Dr. Denise Daley and VP, Research and Academic Affairs at PHC, Dr. Darryl Knight.

After learning about the speakers’ career paths, the attendees had the opportunity to network with the guests to ask more specific questions about their roles and to gain advice about career development. From conversations with the speakers, trainees learned, for example, that volunteer experience and people they meet in extracurricular settings can have a huge impact on their career paths. The trainees loved this event as it gave them an in-person networking opportunity, the first for some. Josie Tuong, a Master’s student who attended, said “The speakers are inspirational. Listening to their experiences, what happened that lead them to who they are now, not only reassures me that everything will turn out fine, but also makes me feel more confident that I have just what it takes to be successful and fulfilled in science.”

It was an absolute privilege having these professionals who work across many areas of biotechnology, research and development, and business development share their insights and help trainees as they look to begin their own careers in STEM. The attendees and organizers are grateful for the financial support provided by HLI and the Centre for Advancing Health Outcomes to make this event possible. TAHLI is now coordinating with SFU’s i2I office to introduce potential resources available for future scientist entrepreneurs interested in commercializing their research.