Poojan Suri, PSM in Biotechnology '17

Developing Better Treatments

Just one year after completing the PSM in Biotechnology, Poojan Suri ‘17 already has an important role as a Research Associate for Annexon Biosciences. Annexon is a biotech startup using cutting edge science to develop better treatments for many disorders, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.

Poojan is part of a drug development team of scientists, whose mentorship and guidance she says is invaluable. Her days are filled with experiments that keep her on her toes — thinking, researching, and staying up-to-date with scientific progress within the biotech community. Working for a startup, Poojan has a key role and many responsibilities, but she says her time in the program prepared her well for her career as a Researcher.

Why did you choose the biotech program?
The idea of being able to take MBA courses along with research classes was the most enticing. This opportunity is rare among most programs and few result in job placements at the rate at which the PSM program does. Those were definitely things that made my decision easier. Not to mention, the Bay Area is the hub of innovation. USF had the upper hand with location and network.

Did you encounter any challenges as an international student?
Not at all. The process of applying to the program was very smooth and I found that the USF international center was very responsive with all my concerns regarding visa transitions and international travel.

How did the program help to prepare you for your career?
Most of my undergrad education focused on pure science and research. None of it was able to give me the professional direction, guidance, or opportunity like USF and my advisers here did. The PSM program was the perfect bridge between academia and industry. It trained me with cutting edge molecular bio/biochemistry skills that made me more desirable in the job market and also exposed me to the right connections that enabled fruitful internship and job opportunities. I was really able to get a taste of the entire biotech industry and find a niche for myself in it.

How did your advisers support you in finding your internships?
All my internships were through my advisers and I was lucky to never have to go on a job search engine. They already have a professional network in the Bay Area and have become a source for companies to recruit students and for the students to get in touch with suitable placements. For example, an industry connection working for a company like Amgen who is looking to hire student interns might reach out to an adviser at USF, who will then forward resumes of interested students.

Within this biotech network, our alumni have also created a good reputation for the program and that is what drives the scientists to keep coming back to the program to recruit more students. I was fortunate to be able to intern at the Blood Systems Research Institute and EpiBiome; each internship was an insight into the industry, an added personal reference on my resume, and a stepping stone to getting my job with Annexon.

What is your favorite memory from the program?
Day one. We had an orientation and tour at JLABS, which has a gorgeous view of the boats and the bay in South San Francisco. It was my first time at a biotech company/incubator facility. We heard from a few scientists about their work and the visit elucidated the job market we would be getting into. I remember walking through the labs and thinking that I can't wait to be a part of all this cutting edge science. I felt more driven, excited, and hopeful about the industry I was getting into.