On Monday, October 19, the O’Brien Center for Career Development hosted its annual Careers in the Life & Natural Sciences Panel. Although last year’s event was hosted in-person with an optional networking reception to follow the career panel, this past Monday looked a bit different due to COVID-19. Hosting a virtual event that sparks high attendance and engagement is difficult to do, but in fact, the virtual opportunity led to record-breaking attendance numbers this semester.
Alumni from companies like Vor Biopharma, Gritstone Oncology, Booz Allen Hamilton, the DNC Council on the Environment & Climate Crisis and Genentech as well as medical and doctoral program candidates from Boston University, George Mason University and the University of New England readily awaited the opportunity to speak with Merrimack students hoping to expand their networks and receive vital information to aid in the advancement of their career development. From research to pharmaceuticals, environmental science to biotechnology, our five panelists had much to offer in the way of advice and industry knowledge to our students. Taylor Hunt, senior biology and psychology double major, was thankful to have attended the event. “As a senior, I had been feeling more and more anxious about applying to jobs after graduation amidst the pandemic. However, after speaking with different alumni with similar Merrimack experiences, I immediately felt relieved when I learned each of them had taken different paths. After asking specific questions about their work life balance, resume tips, and even connecting with them on LinkedIn, I felt much more prepared to take on the working world.” While many career events focus on different career paths one could pursue, for many life sciences majors, graduate or medical school is in their futures. Thankfully, three of the five panelists were pursuing medical or Ph.D. programs, offering advice for how to best prepare in the application process.
One of the more touching moments of the panel was to hear from Alison Hanlon ’18 and how she overcame a setback within her career. After suffering a medical injury, she was forced to transition from her bench scientist role to another, gaining new skills and perspectives within her field. “I basically had to figure out what I wanted to do again. Thankfully, I’ve had extremely good mentorship at my company and switched into the quality assurance side of things. So I work a lot with our quality team submitting documentation to the FDA and I still work with all of our bench scientists now to document any deviations in the lab. It’s been really cool to liaison between the lab and other groups in the company. And I think that that’s something that’s really important that you don’t necessarily hear about a lot in college because we don’t have a quality assurance group. So unless you go into biotech or have that experience, you don’t really know a lot about it.” Her inspiring story and new experience allowed Alison to speak to an area of the life sciences that many Merrimack Warriors may not know about.
With Alison’s advice and the knowledge of many other panelists, Merrimack students gained takeaways to enhance their own career development in the life sciences. “The O’Brien Center for Career Development has provided me with great opportunities to build my network. At this event, I was able to learn how alumni have applied their time at Merrimack to their careers. They were also able to give me advice on how to make the most of my college career,” says Alexandra Gioia, sophomore environmental science and communication and media double major.
Although the desire to come back to Merrimack College virtually and provide advice to current students was the main reason for our alumni to attend, the choice for the panelists to give back to Merrimack College was a no-brainer. “Merrimack really helped me flourish the idea that I wanted to be a research scientist. While I was there [at Merrimack College], I was one of the first Pfizer interns and that really sparked my interest in being a bench scientist,” says Gabriella Angelini ’14, associate scientist at Vor Biopharma. Attending events and offering current students the knowledge to pursue a meaningful career path is just one way our alumni Warriors can support the College during unprecedented times.
The Careers in the Life & Natural Sciences panel offered an essential opportunity for students to create vital connections with alumni, explore career paths available to them in the life sciences industry, and increase their chances for employment, furthering the development of their careers. If you’re interested in learning more about our five panelists, you can access the recording of the virtual event here. For more opportunities to connect with alumni, enhance your skill set and make your career development a top priority, see the full list of upcoming events here.