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CSU biotech alumni reunite with faculty mentors at CSUPERB Summer Meeting




​​​​​​​​​This summer's CSUPERB Faculty Consensus Group (FCG) meeting on Monday, August 5, at the Chancellor's Office in Long Beach featured the stories and perspectives of 22 alumni currently working in the biotechnology industry. 

Each FCG campus team invited one graduate to represent their campus at the summer meeting. Participating alumni were undergraduate or master's researchers during their time on CSU campuses. Today, the returning alumni are graduate students, entry-level scientists, managers, executives, and professors working in large corporations, start-up companies, and universities across the biotech ecosystem. During the meeting, alumni participated in panel and roundtable discussions with CSU faculty researchers and administrators from all 23 CSU campuses. Several alumni asked "why it took so long" for us to invite them back, but all participants voiced great interest in helping current CSU students navigate life beyond the university. ​

CSU participants were keen to hear about alumni job searches, career trajectories, perspectives on a CSU education, and what it takes to be successful in a biotech or life sciences career. Alumni emphasized that critical thinking and problem-solving are fundamentally important for any biotech job, so students need hands-on design and research experience while in college. In describing their day-to-day lives working in biotech, alumni participants emphasized the need for "essential skills," collaboration, interdisciplinary work, and networking. They encouraged faculty to "continue pushing" current students to present at the annual CSU Biotechnology Symposium and to learn how to work outside their comfort zones. 

After discussion tables at lunch, participants wrote that they learned about "all of the possible biotechnology careers," "that there are regional biotech associations that hold networking events...that students can attend," "LinkedIn is...a lot more important than I thought it is," and "how to network today instead of [like we did] in the past." They also reported out the importance of leadership training and data analysis in biotechnology jobs, whether working in academia or industry.

Next steps include the creation of a CSUPERB alumni taskforce, projects to connect faculty and current students with CSU alumni working in biotech, video interviews and webcasts, and an alumni advisory board. By deepening alumni involvement within CSUPERB, we learned that we can enrich student success and broaden research perspectives system-wide.

Summer 2019 FCG Meeting Alumni Participants (current organization, CSU campus):  Lina Ahlberg (Illumina, CSU San Marcos graduate), Stacy Abidayo Chan (Zymergen, CSU Bakersfield), Timothy Chang (Zymergen, CSU Long Beach), Jesse Garcia Castillo (UC Berkeley, CSU Los Angeles), ​Humberto Contreras-Trujillo (University of Southern California, Humboldt State University), Michael Diaz (US Analytik Jena AG, CSU Monterey Bay),  Kaitlin Fisher (Mira Costa Community College, Sonoma State University), Vahid Hamzeinejad (ViaCyte, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo), Alex Jacobitz (Amgen, CSU Channel Islands), Kota Kaneshige​ (Roche Sequence Solutions, Cal Poly Pomona), Angela Kim (Zymo Research, CSU Fullerton), Mirna Lopez (Illumina, San Diego State University), Anthony Luu (Zymergen, CSU East Bay), Samara Munoz (Kite Pharmaceuticals, CSU San Bernardino), Brian O'Roak (Oregon Health​ and Science University, CSU Fresno),​ Cynthia Ouandji (​Verb Surgical​, San Jose State University),  Grace Prator (Arsenal Biosciences, CSU Chico), David Puerta (Forge Therapeutics, CSU Dominguez Hills), Terry Reyes (Impossible Foods, San Francisco State University), Lauren Ryan (Color Genomics, CSU Stanislaus), Manmeet Singh (Genentech, CSU Sacramento), Sam Tran (Kite Pharmaceuticals, CSU Northridge).​