Please tell us about yourself

Bhavna is currently a 6th year graduate student pursuing a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology in Dr. Sheila Stewart’s laboratory at Washington University in Saint Louis. Her thesis work is focused on understanding how age-related changes in the tumor micro-environment impact tumor progression. She joined BALSA in January 2017 and has completed three projects. We asked Bhavna to tell us more about why she joined BALSA and what she values most about her BALSA experience. Join us in congratulating Bhavna on her excellent work with The BALSA Group!

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What is BALSA?

The Biotechnology and Life Sciences Advising (BALSA) Group is a nonprofit organization that provides consulting services for a variety of clients, ranging from individual faculty members up through multinational corporations. BALSA specializes in market research, technology assessment, competitor analysis, business plan development, and consumer-facing materials. Consultants come from diverse backgrounds, including postdoctoral research fellows, Ph.D. students, pharmacy students, law students, and MBA students in the St. Louis region.

What motivated you to join BALSA?

I became interested in BALSA when I learned that it provides a unique opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with tackling real-world problems and interacting with clients. As I began exploring alternative career opportunities for PhD scientists, BALSA appeared to be the perfect platform to gain insight into the business perspective of science.

What did you study?

I did my Bachelors in Biology from Ohio Wesleyan University and PhD in Molecular & Cell Biology from Washington University, St Louis.

Tell us about your work

I provide strategic recommendations to clients in the life sciences and healthcare industry. I also managed a project analyzing over 250 drugs for a large biopharma company to identify profitable and efficacious generic drugs for development. I have conducted primary and secondary market research, drug evaluation, competitive analyses, technology assessment, marketing, branding, business plan development and provided recommendations on exit strategies for early-stage companies.

What have you learned by working on BALSA projects?

Overall, I have learned a great deal from participating in BALSA projects – both on a professional and personal level. It has helped me develop valuable skills such as market analysis, technology assessment and marketing. Moreover, working on projects outside the biomedical field has been refreshing and provided an opportunity to apply my graduate training beyond science. Besides business skills, BALSA projects have also helped me strengthen my communication skills by learning how to present data in a client-focused manner and offering feedback to other team members. I look forward to expanding my knowledge of the business aspect of science and continuing to develop these skills.

What did you hope to accomplish by working with BALSA? Were these goals fulfilled?

I joined BALSA to understand if a career in consulting is right for me. Beyond that, I wanted to learn professional skills that would help me transition away from bench science and expand my network. Every BALSA project so far has helped me learn new business skills. Additionally, by working on a team of consultants with diverse academic backgrounds and experiences, I learned to approach problems from different perspectives.

What do you envision your career in 3-5 years and how do you think our BALSA experience will help with your goal?

After graduating, I wish to pursue a career in consulting with a healthcare firm. The experience of working on a team, interacting with clients and building connections beyond academia will be invaluable in achieving this career goal.