Johns Hopkins graduate reflects on time with the Commercialization Academy
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 2018 graduate Leah Walker is fully engaged in her new role as a consultant in the Greater Boston area. As she reflects on her transition away from academia, the Ph.D. graduate says she partially credits her experience as a member of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures’ Commercialization Academy for her new role.
The Commercialization Academy, which Walker was chosen to join as an intern in 2016, provides experiential learning opportunities to select graduate and undergraduate students interested in the commercial assessment and marketing of Johns Hopkins technologies. In addition to exposing interns to emerging technologies and commercialization pathways, the program’s curriculum includes networking and career exploration opportunities that relate to the business of science.
“In my third year of the Ph.D. program, I started to look at internship opportunities and learning experiences that would help me reach beyond academic science,” says Walker, who came across the academy through the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s professional development office.
Walker’s thesis focused on the optimization of anti-malarial drugs by improving treatment models of delivering existing drugs with the goal of enhancing efficacy. At the Commercialization Academy, Walker was introduced to industry science and gained a unique knowledge of pharmaceutical partners by sitting in on industry partner meetings and hearing the way they approached problems.
“I found it helpful to talk to people at Tech Ventures with Ph.D.s to see where and how they got where they are now,” says Walker. “I was able to build that network and have exposure to people who have done it before.”
The goal of the Commercialization Academy is to provide scientifically trained graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with commercialization experience that opens opportunities to diverse careers and deepens technically minded undergraduate students’’ relationships with the university while providing a hands-on program that fulfills the institution’’s mission to bring life-changing discoveries to the world .
This idea falls in line with a campus-wide commission spearheaded by Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels to try to address the employment challenges faced by most post-docs.
Though many pursue training expecting to secure careers in academia, the majority end up employed outside of it, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Among the recommendations of the commission is to make better data on career paths inside and outside universities available to students and post-doctoral researchers.
Interns in the Commercialization Academy are selected for demonstrating intellectual curiosity that extends beyond their area of expertise, an ability to think abstractly and communicate clearly, a passion for problem solving and persuasive storytelling and the desire to work hard and to receive coaching.
“The Academy teaches interns both how to determine whether a particular technology addresses an unmet need in an industry as well as how to create a value proposition for the same technology that details how it can address this need,” says Benjamin Gibson, who manages the Commercialization Strategy Group of Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, which employs 10 to 20 interns per year. “The ability to identify and articulate these existing problems and potential solutions is applicable in many different employment fields.”
The program is open to full-time undergraduate students, master’s students, Ph.D. candidates or postdoctoral fellows.
Undergraduate and master’s students accepted into the Commercialization Academy make a two-year commitment. Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows must discuss this internship with their PI or faculty mentor before making a commitment, which typically lasts one year.
“It’s a great learning opportunity and career development opportunity for students,” says Walker. “It’s motivating for students and Ph.D. program students to be in a different environment if they don’t want to be on an academic track.”
Applications for the fall cycle will be announced soon. Please visit the Commercialization Academy website for more information about the program and the Fall 2018 application cycle.