Meet the Newest Biotech Workforce: A Spotlight on Recent Grads Starting Careers in Biotechnology 

The Biohealth Capital Region is experiencing rapid growth in the biotech sector, brought on by the booming cell and gene therapy industry and the leading role that several local companies are taking in the fight against COVID-19.

Fortunately, the region is also flush with new talent that recently graduated from the many top universities and colleges. This May, thousands of new graduates set out to follow their passions and begin their careers. This is a spotlight on nine of those graduates who have now started their careers in the biotech industry.

These nine students graduated from the region’s top biotech industry feeder schools; including, Montgomery College, University of Maryland’s Biotech Research and Education Program, Georgetown University and Loyola University and are now working in manufacturing, laboratory research and project management careers for some of the region’s top companies.

Meet the newest biotech workforce and hear their stories below.

Biomanufacturing

Name: Jillian Stabile

Current Employer: Catalent Pharma Solutions, Process Engineer I

University & Major: Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP), at UMD, Bioengineering 

Internships: 

  • Research Associate at 3i Diagnostics
  • Researcher in the Huang Lab in the Bioengineering Department at UMD

Why Did You Choose A Career In Biotech?

I was very unsure of what I wanted to do when I started at UMD. After gaining some lab experience at UMD, I looked into how that experience translates into a career. I took a course through BREP which truly inspired my interest in pharma. Although I knew it was out there, the career path and goals were laid out in a way that I related to.

What Was Most Appealing About Your Current Job?

I felt that my two years of experience prepared me for the role I am in now and I am passionate about making advancements within the biotechnology field. 

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?

My education has prepared me to be confident in a laboratory setting and has also taught me how to problem solve and work hard. Graduating with an engineering degree prepared me to face conflicts with positivity and persevere through obstacles. The course requirements laid a foundation supporting the work I do as a process engineer now.

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

Reach out to alumni or faculty that have experience in this field, or any field of interest. My experiences and career goals were shaped by conversations with faculty about where I wanted to be in the future. Never give up if you have your heart set on a goal and don’t be afraid to try new things — it will pay off!

Name: Robin Brocato

Current Employer: Catalent Pharma Solutions, Process Engineer I

University & Major:  Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP), at UMD, Bioengineering 

Internships: 

  • Hardwire LLC, Engineering Intern

Why Did You Choose A Career In Biotech?

As a child, I loved math and science, figuring out how things work, and building things, so engineering was the natural career path. Without the guidance of the teachers in each part of my life, I would not have stayed on this path. My first engineering role model was the mother of a classmate who ran the robotics club at my middle school. I was the only girl in the club, and I like to think that she saw a little of herself in me. She was a mathematics professor, not an engineer, but through her example and her excitement about my love of robotics, I realized that engineering was a career option.

During my senior year of college, I became excited to enter the biotech industry after meeting the two instructors that run the Biotechnology Research and Education Program (BREP) at the University of Maryland, College Park. Just like my high school teacher, these two men are truly passionate about teaching and helping students. And without all the STEM teachers that have impacted me, I would not have become a bioengineer. 

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?

By taking their biopharmaceutical production class and working in the BREP lab, I gained technical skills that prepared me for biotech. They even edited my resume and prepared me for interviews. Without these men, I would not have landed my first and current post-grad job. 

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

Seek out mentors. 

Name: Philip Sacdalan

Company: Thermofisher Scientific with the position of Manufacturing technician associate

University & Major: Montgomery College, Associate of Applied Science Degree (Biotechnology)

Why did you want to pursue a career in biotech?

I want to pursue a career in biotech because of the opportunities and possibilities that would be available to me and have a wide range of positions that I could work in. I wanted a career that fits the modern world and be able to help with real world issues right out of college.

What was most appealing to you about the job you chose after graduating?

The most appealing aspect about my job is the rigorous job experience. Working in a BSC (Biosafety cabinet), learning SOP’s (Standard operating procedures), learning cGMP, learning proper documentation, learning to wear proper PPE in the workplace, learning how to handle stress, learning how to cooperate with coworkers, helping create products that could directly or indirectly help in the real world, and learning the entire process of manufacturing a Biotechnology product. 

How has your education prepared you for your career?

My education has prepared me by being able to understand many terms that is used the workplace, having knowledge of the reasoning behind why certain procedures are done, knowing some of the different chemicals that are used daily, knowing how to work safely and properly, and having the theoretical and lab experience to quickly learn in a work environment. 

What advice do you have for others pursuing a similar path?

My advice for others is to try to get a glimpse of the daily work in a position of interest and also positions that you are not sure of, apply yourself in class to understand the importance of the class material relating to real-world situations, and know the importance of the field you are interested in the real world. 

Laboratory-based Research & Development

Name: Ashton Green

Current Employer: Children’s National Medical Center, Research Center for Genetic Medicine, Research Technician II

University & Major:  Georgetown University

MS in Biotechnology, BioBusiness Track, Class of Dec 2019
, Biomedical Graduate Education, Biotechnology


Internships:

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Georgetown University Office of Technology Commercialization, Graduate Intern

Why Did You Choose A Career In Biotech?

I wanted to pursue a career in biotechnology to understand how to help people on the most basic of levels live healthy and happier Lives. With a lot of health disparities overwhelmingly present within communities of color, I looked at this opportunity to not only help and educate the global community, but more importantly get in to change my own.

What Was Most Appealing About Your Current Job?

The lab I work in is new to the DMV area so I am tasked with a lot of responsibilities to get our priorities off the ground. This responsibility provides me a greater platform to learn and grow within this industry, while at the same time getting to help move research forward that directly will help communities here in the District of Columbia.

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?


I can trace a portion of my scientific origins in biotechnology back to labs at Georgetown. With that I’m applying a lot of that experience to my position now and building on top of it. Without the guidance/training from those PIs, mentors and instructors, I would not be as proficient as I am today.

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

My advice would be to talk to whoever you can in the field. There are so many avenues within biotechnology that you may find interesting, and that first-person perspective shapes how you view your own path. Being able to meet, talk, and just listen to people’s stories is a very strong and timeless resource. You never know who may have the answer to a question you have.

Name: Justin Bambara

Current Employer:  United States Pharmacopeia (USP), Lab Specialist

Major: Montgomery College, Associate Applied Science (Biotechnology)

Why Did You Choose a Career In Biotech?

It’s the leading future of biological science and its applications.

What Was Most Appealing About Your Current Job?

The seriousness of the company when it comes to quality medicine and Reference Standards.

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?

It has given me a strong background for biology and chemistry and a hands on experience in its laboratory related work and techniques.

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

Biotechnology is today one of the most essential branches of biology and provides science learners the most effective tools for scientific accomplishments.

Name: Gerardo Martinez-Cardiel 

Current Employer: Amelia Technologies, Laboratory Technician  

University & Major: Georgetown University, Master of Science in Biotechnology 

Internships:

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Graduate Research Associate  

Why Did You Choose A Career In Biotech?

I have always been keen to biological sciences and all sorts of technologies—that is why I embarked on pursuing a career that merges two of my biggest interests into an area of limitless opportunities, which is constantly creating and refining products to improve the lives of people. 

What Was Most Appealing About Your Current Job?

That it presents me with the opportunity to apply and develop my laboratory skill set, in addition to exploring and expanding a focus on the business side of the biotechnology industry.  

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?

The MS in Biotechnology is a hybrid program where science and business meet, regardless of what concentration one chooses. Although I chose to pursue the Industrial Sciences concentration, some core courses of the program offered essential knowledge in the entrepreneurial and business aspects of the Biotechnology Industry. This program was ideal for me since I am beginning my professional journey in a start-up. 

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

You should always keep focus on what fulfills your personal and professional needs. Asking for advice or help is always a good choice. It is very difficult for another person to guess one’s thoughts, so develop those skills, and try to connect with people, while you absorb as much as you can to better prepare for the journey you are about to begin. If something does not go as planned, it is not the end, but a chance to take a step back and re-evaluate what one can do to achieve anything. 

Project Management

Name: Marlene J. Jordana

Current Employer: Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC), Clinical Science Project Manager

University & Major:  Georgetown University, MS in Biotechnology, Entrepreneurship Track 2020

Internships:

  • Clinical Science & Technology Intern at Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) 

Why Did You Choose A Career In Biotech?

I have always wanted to make an impact on the lives of patients. I originally grew up wanting to be an orthopedic surgeon but found that it was not the right fit for me. By entering the medical device and biotech industry I have the ability to impact numerous patient lives by combining my passions for science and business. What drew me most to this field was its diversity, complexity, and constant growth. I enjoy being involved in innovative science and working closely with driven and intelligent individuals. 

What Was Most Appealing About Your Current Job?

Working for MDIC allows me to work closely with a variety of stakeholders for the advancement of patient access to innovative technology. I am excited by the opportunity to work with regulators (such as the CDRH), government agencies, patient advocacy groups, and leading medical device industry leaders.

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?

My very technical science background from Tufts University has been instrumental in understanding the different patient markets requiring devices, therapies, and treatments from a scientific perspective. It has allowed me to have a better appreciation for the technology and science. Georgetown helped me take my science and technical background to the next level and become a well rounded individual for the biotechnology industry. I was able to apply my academic and professional background as a clinical technician for minimally invasive surgery to my learnings in my business courses. I have gained a better understanding for the regulatory processes at the foundation of our industry and I have also been able to understand what it takes to bring innovative science to the hands of patients all the way through the commercialization of these products.

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

My advice would be to first find what you’re passionate about and then the way in which you pursue that will reveal itself. I have always been passionate about science and helping others. At first I thought the clear answer was to become a doctor, but the more I researched and my experience working within surgery opened my eyes to a career in biotechnology. I am still able to pursue my passion for helping others, it is just in a different way than I had thought before. 

I would also say to network as much as possible. Reach out to alumni from your school or from programs you’re interested in and learn about their journey and what they do now. This can help you figure out what you want to do and even what you don’t want to do. Every conversation is helpful and will help you move forward in the right direction.

Name: Grace LaMoure

Company & position: Scientific Program Analyst with the National Human Genome Research Institute

University & Major: Loyola University, Biology and Spanish

Internships:

  • Loyola Center for Community Service and Justice; Project Manager (2019-2020), Service Coordinator (2017-2018)
  • My Sister’s Place Women’s Center; Client Relations Intern (Summer 2019)

Why did you want to pursue a career in biotech?

Since 8th grade, when I made a National History Day documentary about germ theory, I have wanted to work in public health. At the beginning of my senior year, I wasn’t really sure how I could utilize my degree in biology in a public health career. However, after a semester spent doing genomics research, I realized my interests lay at the intersection of biotech and public health. As biotech expands into all areas of healthcare, it is essential to me that I be knowledgable about advancements in medicine as it relates to public health.  

What was most appealing to you about the job you chose after graduating?

I applied for this job for two specific reasons: first, it is a two year contract position, which is the exact amount of work experience I need before graduate school. Second, it is an extension of the research I was doing during my last semester. 

How has your education prepared you for your career?

Attending a smaller school allowed me to have closer contact with my professors which afforded my opportunities to do research. Additionally, having a liberal arts education and working at CCSJ has helped me become a better writer and has improved my communications skills greatly. 

What advice do you have for others pursuing a similar path?

Even if you are confident in the career path you want to pursue, always push yourself to take classes or try extracurriculars that are outside of your interests. I actually became interested in genomics after hearing about its connection to eugenics in a philosophy class. This prompted me to ask one of my professors to do research with her which led to me finding the job at NHGRI. The rest is history.

Other

Name: Zachery Keepers

Major: Bioengineering

Internships: 

  • BioProcess Scale-Up Facility (BSF), Scale-Up and Scale-Down Technician
  • UM Scholar Program at University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), Student Researcher

Current Employer: Olney Pediatrics, Scribe

Why Did You Choose a Career In Biotech?

Biotech was appealing due to my interest in both scientific discovery and translational research. I initially wanted my work to have a tangible impact on people through improving therapeutic methods. I’ve always wanted to feel my work was in service to others, and I believe careers in biotech provide opportunity to do so. 

What Was Most Appealing About Your Current Job?

I chose to work as a scribe to pursue an interest in medicine. I wanted to further explore the opportunities medicine provides to make a personal, tangible impact in people’s lives through relationships.

How Did Your Education Prepare You For Your Career?

Studying bioengineering has challenged me to think critically and problem solve. Work in a healthcare setting can be chaotic and complex, and I feel my education has prepared me to successfully approach such circumstances.

What Advice Do You Have For Future Graduates?

Pursue work that is challenging but satisfying, and take time to think about how your work impacts others. Know that you will fail but do not be discouraged; failure is an important part of learning!

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Chris Frew
Over the past 8 years, Chris has grown BioBuzz into a respected brand that is recognized for its community building, networking events and news stories about the local biotech industry. In addition, he runs a Recruiting and Marketing Agency that helps companies attract top talent through a blended model that combines employer branding and marketing services together with a high powered recruiting solution.

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