16 August 2017
(Pictured: Michelle, far right, at CSIRO IMPACT7 with, from left to right, Dr Marguerite Evans Galea of the IMNIS Program, Dr Fiona Cameron of the ARC, and PhD student Jess Vovers)
MTPConnect Communications Intern, Michelle Mendonca, gives us a look into her life as a graduate student in the biotechnology industry, and how networking and mentoring shaped her journey so far.
So, what is it like to be a graduate student in the biotechnology industry? Since my first tryst with biotechnology in high school, I have always aimed at expanding my knowledge and contributing to the sector. My Master’s degree at University of Melbourne, has allowed me to work with big names in the sector, including Trajan Scientific and Medical where my work as a student consultant allowed me to draw together my analytical and theoretical skills to solve an industry-based challenge.
Last year, I got the opportunity to volunteer for the 2016 AusBiotech Conference, which gave me invaluable exposure to and understanding of the current state of industry in our sector. As a volunteer, I was provided access to various sessions where a common theme for a stronger collaboration between industry and universities was emphasized.
During the conference, I got to speak with prominent individuals and learn more about their work and research. Through these interactions, I was gradually able to develop my “networking ninja” skills. I have met some inspiring leaders turned mentors, who continue to be an important part of shaping my personal and professional development.
The most interesting aspect that caught my eye was the frequent use of twitter, which showed me the power of social media to bring together an international scientific community on one platform. This experience motivated me to explore the area of communications.
Following the conference, I went on to intern with MTPConnect – a position that I came across via the Ribit and MTPConnect ‘Medtech Mingle’ speed-dating internship event that connected industry and students. A key part of my work revolves around working with social media tools to relay information about current updates in the life science industry. The need to produce simple and concise messages has taught me the purpose and power of strategic and effective writing. Also, working with strong female leaders with diverse career trajectories has inspired me to take initiative and pursue my ambition relentlessly.
Recently, I got the chance to attend the IMPACT7 Conference, where innovators had three minutes to pitch their projects to IMPACT leaders, followed by a round of questions from the leaders. It was an exhilarating experience to watch the presentation of novel ideas such as building a high-speed rail project, zap wave for disinfestation of fruit flies and wearable electronics to name a few. My biggest take away was from the keynote speaker, Dr Fiona Wood, with her advice “Don’t get up in the morning to be average! Be the best you can be.”
Staying up-to-date with a constantly evolving industry can be quite hard, but being aware of the changes as they happen helps stay on top of the game. I learnt about AusBiotech by doing a simple google search about the biotechnology organizations in Australia. Subscribing to their newsletters helped me keep track of the various events. I also gained a first-hand experience of the conferences by engaging with former students who had volunteered previously.
Connecting with alumni and professors through LinkedIn helped me learn about potential opportunities in my field of interest. In fact, I was introduced to the MedTech Mingle event through an email sent by my professor.
My internships have translated into a lifelong learning experience, where I have gone beyond a structured learning environment and developed critical soft skills and gain exposure to and connections with industry – something I learnt was critical from the AusBiotech Conference. As I graduate end of this year, I look forward to applying my new knowledge to my future career – the opportunities are endless!