University of Georgia

Graduate School’s xPD program offers career guidance with industry day

Keynote speaker Sonia Hall
Keynote speaker Sonia Hall of BioKansas discussed the growing trend and importance of industry days among universities. (Photo by Ashley Crain)

Nearly 150 graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and undergrads in life sciences took part in UGA’s inaugural Life Sciences Industry Day on Sept. 23.

Hosted by the Graduate School’s Experiential Professional Development (xPD) program, the conference featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, exhibitor booths and multiple networking opportunities aimed at connecting graduate students with industry, nonprofit and government experts in their fields.

“Events like these are so important for graduate student career preparation,” said Andrew Crain, director of experiential professional development at the Graduate School. “Hearing about possible career paths directly from alumni and other experienced professionals is crucial and helps students begin to understand how their experiences translate to various settings.”

Industry days are a growing trend among universities. These events not only provide a vital opportunity for students to connect with industry professionals outside of their day-to-day network, but the industry and science communities also get a glimpse of the next generation of emerging scientists and researchers, according to Sonia Hall, president and CEO of BioKansas and the event’s featured keynote speaker.

“Events like Life Sciences Industry Day are critical for raising awareness of the diversity of career options available to scientists,” Hall said. “The investment that UGA is making by offering these programs speaks volumes about their commitment to their students and the larger scientific ecosystem.”

An array of industry professionals from fields such as biotechnology, medical technology, science communication, bio-risk management, intellectual property, regulatory affairs, consulting and business development filled the day-long schedule with discussions, presentations and panels.

Government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and nonprofits like the American Cancer Society also were represented at the conference, as well as UGA-affiliated companies such as biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim and bio-risk management company Inspirion Biosciences.

Craig Reed, CEO of Inspirion Biosciences, spoke about biorisk management career opportunities, and praised the value of events like Life Sciences Industry Day.

“Connecting industry professionals and students at this critical juncture in a grad student’s career path is important,” he said. “Networking events and seminars like this are invaluable in helping [to] build Inspirion Biosciences into a company recently recognized as No. 5 in the 2019 Bulldog 100.”

With the first industry day under his belt, Crain is optimistic about future career networking events and opportunities that cater to multiple fields of study.

“We were very pleased with the success of the event and will evaluate moving forward the ways in which this format may work well for other disciplines,” he said. “Anytime you can bring together students, alumni, faculty and industry professionals to create some meaningful dialogue, it can be a really powerful experience for all.”

Life Sciences Industry Day sponsors included Georgia Bio, International Biomedical Regulatory Sciences at the College of Pharmacy, Innovation Gateway, Office of Research Postdoctoral Affairs and the Graduate School.

For more information about the Graduate School’s xPD program, visit