BioHealth & Life Sciences / Education / Job Creation
Bridges to Biotech: preparing tomorrow's workforce today
By Amanda Winters /
July 10, 2018
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With more than 500 biotechnology companies and 2,300 life science firms in Maryland, our state has one of the largest bio clusters throughout the country. In order to stay at the top of our game, it is critical that we prepare our future generations for the workplace. This is where the Bridges to Biotech Fellows Program comes in.

Bridges to Biotech is a collaboration between the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, the National Institutes of Health, and the Maryland Department of Commerce to provide Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows with additional training and networking within the industry. The academic and research partners work to recruit qualified science students and postdocs through a competitive application process, while Maryland Commerce identifies companies that are interested in serving as mentors.

Each Bridges to Biotech session is hosted by a different Maryland biotech business. Each session allows companies to discuss the skills needed to be successful in the science sector, as well as help students understand the variety of employment opportunities available throughout the company and the state.

“At Johns Hopkins, we strive to give our PhD students and postdoctoral fellows the opportunity to interact and learn from professionals in an array of careers,” said Caroline Pounds, assistant director of biomedical careers initiative & employer relations at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Doing so offers the opportunity to gain exposure to different types of jobs as well as to build a network – critical pieces of a successful job search. The Bridges to Biotech program has been a great way for the local talent to engage with employers; our trainees are eager to take advantage of these opportunities.”

By hosting a session, companies are given the chance to raise their profile in the region and stand out among other workplaces in the life sciences industry. Participating companies also receive resumes from each attending student, which helps the host find all-star candidates for future employment.

“A program like Bridges to Biotech is important because it gets into the nitty gritty of each bio sector,” said Jennifer Aumiller, director of postdoctoral scholars and GPLIS/OPS career and professional development at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Each field is very different and this program gives students an idea of the different types of positions they could pursue, different roles they could have, and difference between academia and the biotech industry.”

Over the past eight months, sessions have been held by Personal Genome Diagnostics, BioReliance, and Noble Life Sciences, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. After hearing about the program’s success, Emergent BioSolutions – a global specialty biopharmaceutical company with locations in Baltimore and Gaithersburg – expressed interest. The company hosted its first session earlier this summer with approximately 30 students.

“We were pleased to partner with the Maryland Department of Commerce in hosting Bridges to Biotech at our Gaithersburg headquarters,” said Katy Strei, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Emergent BioSolutions. “Our goal is to be instrumental in connecting the scientific talent, grown from within our local, world-class academic institutions, with the experienced life sciences professionals in our industry.”

In order to host more sessions, the program needs more host companies like Emergent to participate. According to Aumiller, Bridges to Biotech is a win-win for both company and student.

“The feedback we’ve received from students and hosts has been very positive,” said Aumiller. “The sessions have resulted in both informational meetings and job interviews. Some employers are alumni at the school they present at, thereby creating a pipeline from Maryland student to Maryland employee to Maryland employer.”

Companies like Emergent understand that one of the state’s most critical assets is the talent pool.

“Maryland is home to a rich and vibrant biohealth ecosystem teeming with talent, and the Bridges to Biotech program is a perfect stepping stone for our local Ph.D. students and post-doctoral fellows to engage with the life sciences and biotech companies across the state, with the hopes of fueling our workforce of tomorrow,” Strei said.

If your company is interested in hosting a Bridges to Biotech session, please contact Nina Lamba, Ph.D., Business Development Manager for the Office of Biohealth and Life Sciences at the Maryland Department of Commerce, at 410-767-6799 or nina.lamba@maryland.gov.

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