Cellular & Tissue Engineering (CTEng) training program building biotech leaders.
The biotech industry keeps evolving, as discoveries are made and concepts become reality, making the transition from gray matter to the lab and eventually to the clinic or bedside or marketplace.
It takes well-trained, creative and nimble-minded humans to keep this massive, growing machine moving, which is why Andrés J. García always gets a little thrilled when he introduces a new crop of trainees for the Georgia Tech Training Program in Cellular and Tissue Engineering (CTEng), like he did recently. They are: Tom Bongiorno, Jose García, Joscelyn Mejias, and Sanjoli Sur.
“This is the next generation of leaders for the biotech industry,” says García, director of the CTEng training program, who holds the Rae and Frank H. Neely Chair in Mechanical Engineering and George W. Woodruff Professorship. “These are the people who are going to have an impact in the field. That’s who we’re trying to develop with this program.”
And they’ve been doing it for more than a quarter century, thanks to sponsorship from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH. The grant provides eight training slots per year and supports students for two years, or four new trainees each year, who join a comprehensive, integrated training program that comprises fundamental and interdisciplinary courses, multiple activities to promote interactions with training faculty and industry representatives, an industrial internship program and an industrial partners symposium. The CTEng training program also features a short course called ‘Learn about Industry From the Experts’ (LIFE), a clinical seminar series, and a trainee journal club.
Professor García says the broad range of activities and offerings not only contributes to the trainees’ knowledge and skillsets, but really helps them make vital career decisions. That’s what new trainee Joscelyn Mejias is banking on. “In terms of potential career opportunities, I think the internship requirement will be useful to understanding and eventually deciding whether I would prefer a career in industry or academia,” she says.
It worked the same way for trainees who have been through the program, graduated and gone on to pursue their careers. And for some who already had an idea of where they might be headed after Georgia Tech, the CTEng training program solidified their decision or helped make their paths a bit smoother.
“I worked in the biotech industry for four years before going to Tech for grad school, so I had an industry orientation, but the seminar series and the industry partnerships really gives students exposure to real world thinking, which I thought was very useful,” says Chris Gemmiti, who earned his Ph.D. in 2006 and is now managing partner of Ridgewood Consulting, a firm he founded, focused on biologic and device development.
Ted Lee, who graduated in December and is now a biomaterials scientist in advanced research for San Diego-based Dexcom, says he also had an industrial career in mind, and the training program helped open some doors.
“With respect to research, the training grant was helpful to interact with people in other labs and talk about science that was tangentially related to your specific project. So, it helps you diversify your knowledge base and talk with others in varying areas of expertise,” says Lee. “But mostly, it gave me the opportunity to have an industry internship, which is critical for finding a job after graduation. If I didn’t have industry experience, I would not have found a good job, period. Furthermore, the prestige of an NIH grant always looks good on your resume.”