By: Mariana Padilla
On November 8, the MCB Department held an MCB Alumni Careers Path Panel on Zoom showcasing 5 undergraduate alumni from varying fields who shared advice, their experiences, and career journeys with current MCB undergraduates. Among the alumni serving on the panel were Jessica Bonnar, a graduate student researcher at the Department of Biology MIT; Philippe de Gaiffier, an associate strategy officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Jennifer Hall, a medical student at Duke University School of Medicine; Muskan Sheth, a research associate at Ascend Gene and Cell Therapies; and David Wei, a senior toxicologist at the US Food and Drug Administration. Each panelist shared the impact of their life and undergraduate experiences on shaping their career paths and how as trying these paths may have been at times, their hard work has led them to a path that heightens their passions and allows them to pursue their interests. Panelists expressed the benefits of developing social and soft skills in order to open possibilities within career paths that will lead to new doors. Although each panelist's path developed in different forms, they all also collectively stressed the importance of utilizing the many resources accessible to students. Particularly, the panelists expressed the importance of taking advantage of the many resources available to undergraduates at Berkeley.
Each panelist shared and elaborated on some of the keynote events that marked their careers. Bonnar shared how her experience in research, specifically a research lab she worked at during her senior year at Cal, reshaped her view on academia and stimulated her interest in pursuing a PhD as she felt it was a curiosity-driven environment which would cater to endless career possibilities. de Gaiffier shared the impression that working in strategy consulting in the Bay Area left on him and how it exposed him to the intersection of business and science where his interests were amplified. Hall highlighted the benefits of engaging in research outside of traditional settings as she shared the influence of her experience working at Stanford in translational research which cemented her interest in medical school. Sheth shared her experience in a biotech lab during her senior year and how it cemented her interest in the biotech industry where she can pursue interests in creating therapies for cancer research which she currently works on in her current position at Ascend Gene and Cell Therapies. Wei, a first-generation college student and first-generation scientist, expressed the impact that research and networking had on his career which have taken him to unexpected but eye-opening career avenues that have helped him refine his interests and goals. The alumni panelists commonly expressed the importance of taking advantage of academic, research, and career opportunities available to help narrow career interests. The advice and experiences of the panelists could be best summarized by some advice that Wei offered during the panel where he mentioned, “Have an idea of where you want to go but don't be married to that, because things will change and be open to new ideas and be flexible because I think you will be surprised what life has to offer.”