Speed Networking for Grad Students and Industry

Barry Schweitzer, Elm Street Ventures, meeting with grad student Menghan Du.

By Brittany Knight, graduate student at UConn Health

You’ve heard of speed dating? Well, how about speed networking? An inaugural event was held this spring at UConn Health’s academic rotunda with positive reviews. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows met one-on-one with industry representatives who included start-up CEOs, venture capitalists, patent agents, technology transfer professionals, and scientists.

“I loved the energy and the curiosity of the students and post-docs I met.  They all seemed excited about their science, but wanted to learn more about the business of biotech,” said Barry Schweitzer Ph.D., partner at Elm Street Ventures and entrepreneur-in-residence at UConn. “Their number one question was ‘How do I get my first job at a biotech company?’ Unfortunately, there is no easy answer – it’s really hard to get that job. Nevertheless, my advice is to network, network, network. Most often, getting a position in industry (like in academia) comes about through personal connections and recommendations. It takes time to build that network, so start now.”

Marcia Fournier, CEO of Bioarray Genetics, meeting with students.

Marcia Fournier, Ph.D., CEO of Bioarray Genetics, said, “It was refreshing talking to UConn Health graduate students and to share my experiences with them.”​

One of the students that attended said, “It was really great to have several professionals together in one room just to talk to us. I really appreciated how friendly and open they all were, and they provided some great career advice.”

In a survey conducted among the student attendees after the event, 71 percent of the respondents found the event informative and 86 percent said they are likely to recommend it to others.

“These types of events are incredibly insightful and productive for students and the business community,” said Carrie White, senior investment associate at Connecticut Innovations. “As the innovation ecosystem continues to grow in Connecticut, we look forward to seeing more of these vibrant events at UConn and at other universities around the state.”

Coordinators Cory Brunson and Robert Pijewski

Biomedical scientists and biotechnology companies have been collaborating since 2003 through the Technology Incubator Program (TIP) at UConn. The program has sponsored 96 independent start-up biotechnology companies.

Robert Pijewski, president of the Graduate Student Organization, and Cory Brunson, Ph.D., president of the UConn Health and Jackson Laboratory Post-Doctoral Association, coordinated the inaugural speed networking event. Robert and Cory received encouragement and mentorship from Vaibhav Saini, Ph.D., who is the licensing director for Life Sciences, Office of the Vice President for Research.