Matthew Engel

Science and Technology Advocate

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The Best Industries for Starting a Business Right Now

December 15th, 2010 · 1 Comment

In the New York Times on Monday, there was a very important article on young entrepreneurs entitled: No Jobs? Young Graduates Make Their Own. With the lack of traditional jobs on the market, young people are blazing a path to success by creating their own companies. These organic businesses, started from the ground up are what the U.S. needs to revitalize it’s economy. One must never forget about the roots of companies such as Facebook and Google, which of both started in a college dorm room or one bedroom apartment. And in 2010 you could look to Groupon, for example, which started in 2008 and recently refused a $6 billion bid by Google. Granted, most of us will not be forming the next multinational enterprise, but with a vision, tenacity, and good business acumen there are always possibilities available to the budding entrepreneur.

The NYT article describes the failures and success of a NYU film student, Scott Gerber, who used nothing but his passion and the last $700 in his pocket to start an internet company. While there are many opportunities for forming novel businesses online, I think the biggest game changers will be in the energy sector. Since starting his business, Gerber has also founded the Young Entrepreneur Council which mentors early stage entrepreneurs primarily through web forums, Q&A articles and video conferences. Scott also writes prolifically for several websites, such as this article on how to raise capital for your business based on first hand experience from various new entrepreneurs on youngentrepreneur.com.

energy industry, alternative energy

While there is still room for virtual businesses to grow, a truly sustainable company should focus on solving unmet needs. In the U.S., the primary unmet needs are in the energy sector. Therefore, many investors and serial entrepreneurs are moving into this arena trying to bring new products to market and bridge the cap between new technologies that are challenged by consumer adaptation and habit.

The Best Industries for Starting a Business Right Now

Recently, Inc.com published an article describing the 18 best industries to pursue for starting a new business. One of those was energy, and their take on this field can be found below:

The energy industry is full of start-up opportunities, so it’s no surprise that it was the fastest-growing category among privately-held companies on the 2008 Inc. 500 | 5000 list — with a median four-year growth rate of 287.5 percent among 79 companies on the list. These companies run the gamut from dealing in solar energy to alternative fuels. Due to growing consumer demand to save on energy costs, companies that install efficient lighting systems or cut down on heating costs by installing solar panels are well positioned for future growth. In addition, economic stimulus funds for energy projects nationwide amount to $43 billion, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs with a scientific background to break into areas such as biofuel and wind power. – Jason Del Rey and Tamara Schweitzer

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The HERA Group Presents: Life After Stony Brook

March 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

Taking Your Career Path Beyond the Zebra Path

Zebra Path by spyffe. Well, I have been extremely tardy in updating my blog. For that, I apologize. In fact, I am so late, I am posting an advertisement for an event which already happened. However, from the post I think you will still be able to read about the event and learn about the speakers, who were extremely interesting. It was a complete success – we had good attendance, the speakers gained invaluable experience, and the audience, including myself, learned alot about the career paths of these two unique Stony Brook University alumni.

The talk was organized by the HERA Group at Stony Brook University. The University Career Center helped us advertise on their website, as well. Below, I’ve included the speaker’s bios and will just give a few points of advice the speakers gave out. Adam DeRosa suggested that if you are doing a PhD to find a young advisor who is trying to publish as much as possible. Luke Suroweic suggested hitting as many networking events as possible with your suit on, business cards and resume out – that is how he got his first internship. And the rest is history!

Life After Stony Brook: Taking Your Career Path Beyond the Zebra Path
Organized by the HERA Group

by Stony Brook Alumni Luke Surowiec and Adam DeRosa

Wednesday, March 3, 2010 @ 3PM
Wang Center, Room 201
Free Coffee and Snacks!

Supported by the Career Center and GSO

View the PDF

Ever wonder how your degree will lead to a career? Are you interested in what happens when you graduate? Ever wonder how other people get to where they are today? Then you may want to attend ‘Life After Stony Brook organized by the HERA Group.

As a group of students in interested in science and technology, that’s just …what we decided to ask two recent Stony Brook Alums. Join Luke Suroweic and Adam DeRosa as they discuss their careers after graduating from Stony Brook. From Green technology to intellectual property and business management, ‘Taking Your Career Path Beyond the Zebra Path’ will talk about these graduates careers in environment, sustainability, science, new business, and law. Come here what Luke and Adam have to say about life after Stony Brook and ask some questions!

Sponsored by the Stony Brook GSO.

Speaker’s Bios

Luke Surowiec graduated from Stony Brook University in 2008 with an MBA (Marketing Concentration) and BA (Environmental Studies Major, Biology Minor) as one of the first participants of the fast-track MBA program.  During his studies, he completed internships in energy efficiency, green design, biofuels, and environmental remediation.  Since graduating, Luke has held two very different positions in both an environmental consulting firm and as project manager for a building and general contracting firm. As an environmental consultant, Luke supported the EPA with a variety of projects and helped establish their new sustainability management consulting practice by conducting marketing research as well as business and product development.  Along the way, Luke learned of a unique opportunity to shift gears and contribute to the growing field of green building and is in the early stages of launching a green enterprise.

Adam DeRosa began his academic career at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD where he graduated with a BS in biology and a minor in business administration while conducting research at John’s Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.  Adam graduated from Stony Brook University’s graduate program in genetics in four years and co-authored eight scientific publications, four as first author. Adam continued his research as a post doctoral fellow in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics publishing twice more. Following his interests in biology and law, Adam began his career as a Licensing Associate in the Office of Technology Licensing and Industry Relations (OTLIR) at Stony Brook where he identifies, protects, and commercializes intellectual property developed by university researchers in the fields of health science, genetics, physiology and biophysics. Since joining OTLIR in 2008, Adam has developed expertise in translational research and business development strategies focusing on IP management, technology commercialization and assessment, intellectual property contract law, and licensing negotiations.

Below are some pictures from the event.

Upcoming Spring 2010 Lecture Series
Human Evolution by Frederick Grine: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 @ 3PM
Stem Cell Research by Nurit Ballas: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 @ 3PM

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New Fundamentals of the Bioscience Industry Program Alumni Website

November 12th, 2009 · No Comments

On Oct. 25, 2009 the Fundamentals of the Bioscience Program Alumni Organization launched its official alumni website: fobip.org/alumni. The Fundamentals of the Bioscience Industry Program is a semester long collaborative course covering information critical for students to prevail in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and business worlds. Graduate students are able to hear and watch seasoned professionals from both start-up and established companies describe their career paths and discuss their business models. The program has an excellent reputation for producing bright, motivated students who have been extremely successful in their careers.

The target audience for the alumni website is professionals working in the biotech and pharma industries. I wanted to create a resource that would feature useful articles from alumni and guest authors with experience relevant to program graduates. One of my goals was to put a spotlight on the alumni and draw attention to the high caliber of its course instructors, graduates, and applicants. We hope to feature articles covering the the financial industry, venture capital, intellectual property, technology transfer, recruiting, and academia in relation to biotechnology. We want to provide information that will be useful to the start-up entrepreneur, industry veteran, and job seeker. Without any advertising we have had already 1,000′s of page views and hundreds of unique visitors. I am hoping that the content we generate will be a useful resource and we are aiming to add interviews and new articles approximately every 2 weeks.

I dreamed up this concept in early Summer 2009 and discussed it with Kate Posnanski, Manager of Programs at the Center for Biotechnology. With the help of many program alumni such as Jenne Relucio and Banke Fagbemi, we were able to bring the project to fruition and launch the website this Fall. I decided to use my experience creating websites use WordPress to generate the blog format with some additional features. We have an alumni page we are trying to build on every day featuring over a dozen of our graduates.

On the techie side, I used WordPress as my publishing platform with the Red Evo News Blue theme from Red Evolution installed. This theme evens offers a modest support forum which was able to answer some of my questions about theme customizations about controlling the length of the except. The except is the text displayed on the homepage describing the content of an article in brief. Also, I took advantage of using custom fields for the first time. Before creating this site, custom fields were a complete mystery to me. I found this video tutorial EXTREMELY helpful, and now I use the custom field to display images on the homepage for each post. There are both thumbnail and featured image custom fields available, built into the Red Evo News Blue theme. This was also the first time I embedded a Google Calendar into a website. That part was extremely simple, and if you want to know how to do that check here.

In summary, I hope to continue building this special website, which I hold dear to my heart and hope it will bring alot of benefit to the Fundamentals Program and its graduates. Cheers!

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My First Experience Giving an Interview

June 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

This month, I had a new ‘first’. It was my first experience administering an interview. I was on a panel with three others, and we interviewed roughly five candidates for one position. The experience has given me a whole new outlook on the interview process, and I believe it will improve my own skills, now that I have gained perspective sitting on the other side of the table. Several of the candidates were very qualified, and each seemed to have skills or traits which would make them a good fit for the position. However, once the interviewers began discussing the candidates amongst ourselves in private, we began to make consensus finding some strengths and flaws in each one and determining how each would hypothetically fit into the position. Since the job is flexible, the candidate would have potential to do alot with it so we were looking for someone relatively outgoing. This maybe unfair of me to say, and I will admit this is a biased weakness – but one of the candidates just ‘rubbed me the wrong way’. The only reason I mention this is because I am sure it must happen in many interviews all the time, and that the candidates are judged the instant they open their mouths – maybe even before. Likewise, I am sure the reverse is true in that some people just ‘click’. For example, one of our most promising candidates began the discussion with an extremely powerful statement which highlighted their experience and showcased their intelligence. I was quite taken aback, and duefully impressed. I would have liked to hire this person right away.

I also found that it was not just the questions and answers which mattered to me, but more how the person responded to them and were able to handle their composure in a stressful situation. The body language and sound of their voice told me a lot more about their attitude and demeanor than their words alone.

However, people who are going into interviews always wonder about what sorts of questions are asked so I will tell a few good ones I thought were interesting:

  • What makes you uniquely qualified for this position?
  • Can you tell us about a time ______ (fill in the blank). For example, tell us about a time when you came across a difficult situation and how you overcame it?
  • What about this job would give you the most trouble?

During the interviews, I spent some time writing notes mostly to myself about the good questions I heard being asked, and my response to the candidates physical and mental composure. Here are several of the points I noted down, but keep in mind this is just my personal opinion and I am obviously by no means an experienced interviewer. You may not agree with these observations, however I felt strongly about these points during my experience.

  • Do not voluntarily talk about any of your flaws! If you are forced to, admit only a small one and instead capitalize on this opportunity and turn it into a strength. I noticed one candidate doing that and I was most impressed.
  • Be silent when listening to the interviewer. I found the little “mmhmmm’s” and “ahhaa’s” to be distracting and were perhaps a sign that they were not focused while the question was being asked.
  • Enforce the point that you have an open mind. I find this extremely valuable and shows that you can learn and grow as the work progresses.
In summary, this was a very good experience for me and I hope it will help you and I increaes our interview-based performance in the future!!

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The Importance of Networks and Their Role in the Job Search

May 20th, 2009 · 3 Comments

On April 16, 2009 I was privileged to give a short talk at the Fundamentals of the Bioscience Industry Program at Stony Brook University. This program is part of a collaborative curriculum provided by the Center for Biotechnology and Business School. It is intended to give science based graduate students a crash course in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.

The program remains an outstanding opportunity for academic researchers and students who otherwise may never have had personal interactions or exposure to seasoned professionals and industry veterans. Actively participating in the course gives job seekers many advantages, and as an alumni I can attest from my own experience and from the experiences of others that it can open many doors. However, like any good opportunity, your results will depend on what you make of it. This year I was invited back to give a short talk on a topic of my choice. As a successful job seeker, I have found that one of my personal strengths is the ability to make connections and find work in a field that interests me. Lorrence Green, President and owner of Westbury Diagnostics Inc, was present that day and set to teach the course. Larry and I have worked together, successfully launching his corporate website which has increased his company’s visibility, in addition to retaining and attracting customers. 

Therefore, I decided to give a talk on the importance of professional networks and other traits which will give the job seeker an advantage. I began by asking “Who wants to work in industry?” and “Who wants to stay in research?”. These are very important questions to consider when embarking on a scientific, legal or business related career in biotech. Most of the class knew they wanted to go to ‘industry’, though the majority of students don’t know how to make this transition occur. Therefore I focused on three main points: (1) Networking (2) Internships and (3) Skills with an emphasis in their relation to the job search.

From my experience I have found that meeting new people is the key to finding those covented jobs which may be available, but often unadvertised. For example, at conferences it is to one’s advantage to speak out and ask questions. This is a great way to get noticed, spark conversations and find out some new information about a speaker’s presentation. It also allows you to more comfortably introduce yourself to a speaker after their talk, if you have already addressed them in a public forum.

I find it helpful to attend any conference I can which is related to my field that has professionals available to rub shoulders with and ask for advice. Here, one should take the opportunity to meet new people and even collect their card, if the situation warrants. Often, I notice the ‘pathological’ networker, moving quickly from one ‘victim’ to the next in an effort to collect as many business cards as possible. I occasionally see this technique in action and find it unsuccessful (by observation only!). I would rather make 3 excellent contacts who I stay connected with, rather than many ‘weak’ contacts with individuals who would not remember my name or face the next day.

With today’s job market being so competitive, companies are often looking for people who mostly have experience. But without experience, how does one gain experience in the new field they are interested in? First of all, there is always demand for great people. Next, there are frequently internships to aid in this transition process. Apply for every job you can. As my father once told me, “if you never apply, you’ll never get the job”. It is important to consider different opportunities, have an open mind and think “I can do this” – meaning that you are motivated and interested in learning new skills which will make you more valuable in the market. These skills do not include just hard science skills, or research abilities.

There are a multitude of jobs available in quality assurance, scientific writing, FDA regulatory affairs, and intellectual property. Alot of this work can be found in government agencies themselves, such as the USPTO. Remember to always keep your resume up to date. Mine can be found here. I keep multiple versions available – some for private distribution and others for public distribution. When looking at a job advertisement, keep in mind it is not necessary to meet all their requirements listed in the ad. These are often just desired characteristics, such as “6 years experience”. They may very well end up hiring someone with 4 years experience, if they fit best into the company’s culture. 

Once, you are on the job, a whole new set of rules applies. A great tip I heard from Saied Tousi, VP at the Pall Corporation, was to always arrive before the boss. Another is to dress well. It pays dividends to consistently look professional. At conferences I recommend to dress as well as you can. There is a large difference between the what professionals can wear to work in academia and industry. Show people your resume and get feedback. This has been invaluable to me, and has allowed me to adjust my CV frequently with the help of a more experienced eye. Finally, it is important to always be on the look out. I suggested taking advantage of the corporate culture module portion of the class and to network with the course instructors themselves. Coincidently, the main presenter for the day was Bill Liggan – an energetic human resources professional at Icon Laboratories. Bill is an experienced recruiter with great knowledge about cultivating relationships and marketing yourself. It was a great opportunity to meet and share ideas, since our topics were so related. 

But most importantly, you are in control of your own destiny. When you finish graduate school, a job is not just thrown at you. Doctoral students have a very specific set of skills in their field. Our strength lies in the ability to leverage our analytical powers and determined nature to complete difficult tasks. So to all the job hunters out there, good luck and best wishes!I hope these little tidbits were helpful and maybe even inspiring. When you land that big job, don’t foget to say hi!

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