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Interview with Greta Holland

Palak: Hi Greta, welcome! Let’s begin with you telling us a little about yourself.

Greta: Sure, after studying for what felt like my whole life (essentially that is true) I have graduated with an undergraduate double major in Biology and Psychology, and a Masters in Biology, where I did a research project on 3D bioprinting of sweat glands.
Through out university I was always involved in extracurricular activities such as Summer Lab, iGEM and Chiasma. I believe these were key to where I am today, particularly through Chiasmas mentorship program I met my current employer. In my mentorship meetings we would discuss the business side of science, which I got increasingly more and more interested in. Halfway through my masters he offered me a job as a Technology Analyst for Canterbury Scientific Ventures (CSV), part time until I graduated which then became full time upon graduating, where I have now been working for about a year.
I am the only employee of this venture initiative, so my role includes a lot of diversity. But essentially, I search the globe for early stage in vitro diagnostic technologies for CSV to invest in. My usual day includes sending many emails and having meetings with university technology transfer offices (TTOs), discussing technology they have to licence and develop. If we find something particularly interesting, I will do the due diligence for the investment, finding out everything about it, the market, the investment predictions, etc. We also scout technology by visiting TTOs in person, so I have recently returned from the USA visiting 30 universities, including Princeton, Yale, NYU and Cornell. Part of my job is to organise these trips, which I am doing for our scouting trip to Europe in November at the moment. I will be visiting 9 European countries within 3 weeks, and attending a diagnostics conference in Germany.

Palak: That sounds awesome! Could you elaborate on your experience with Chiasma and how it has helped you develop in the personal and professional sphere?

Greta: I joined Chiasma in my first year as a post-graduate, I was the oldest, and furthest in my university carrier but that didn’t stop me fully engaging and making lifelong friends.
I started off in the industry team which means getting in contact with industry professionals to organise the mentorship program, synapse stalls and speakers. It is one of the most full on roles within Chiasma as you are often cold e-mailing and sending out a million and one emails, plus you interview students for the mentorship program. However, in my opinion it is perhaps the most rewarding as you get to see all the hard work come together at events and meet lots of interesting people.
During my second year in Chiasma I became the Industry team lead, which is even more demanding as the success of much of Chiasmas events rests in your hands. Although these roles added a lot of pressure on to of my university work, I wouldn’t take it back as I learnt a lot about leadership, organisation and event management. Plus being part of Chiasma means you get to choose your mentor. This, along with the people you met in Chiasma and in the events, gives you great networking opportunities. I still love meeting up with my Chiasma friends as we all have jobs in similar industries now so we can keep each other up to date with what is happening in the field and can relate to each others struggles. Plus, there are alumni events where we can easily keep in touch with each other.   

Palak: That’s true. Chiasma does provide a wholesome experience! How can one make the most of being part of Chiasma?

Greta: Become a part of the team as early in your university career as you can so you get a sense of where you want to go after university, meet people who are just about to go in the industry who will be great contacts, and work your way up in the organisation.

Palak: What do you think is the importance of the bridge between STEM and industry and business? How do you think this bridge can open doors to amazing careers?

Greta: Most students go into a STEM career not knowing what they want to do once they graduate, or even know what is out there. The events Chiasma organises are great at discovering what careers there are, plus Chiasma always has some great personal development events which can help you discover yourself and gives you an overview of the expectations in the field.

Additionally, I cannot drive home enough the networking opportunities that come as a result of just attending events, getting a mentor, and becoming part of Chiasma. You never know where they may take you, at the worst you will make some amazing, like-minded friends!

Palak: Agreed, that is such good summary of what we do at Chiasma! Let’s end with some tips for STEM students and recent STEM graduates.

Greta: For STEM students, I think it’s important to remember that grades are not everything (although they are important), make sure you have some extracurricular activities in your CV as it shows you have skills other than regurgitation.

In saying that, if you want to get into research/PhD, forget about the extracurriculars, grades and laboratory experience are all that matter.

Secondly, for recent STEM graduates – you make your own luck, luck is where persistence and hard work meets opportunity. And as a TED talk once said, persistence is one of the best predictors of success, along with an increased number of chores you were made to do as a child, but you’re a bit late for that one, so work on being persistent 🙂

Palak: You’ve been amazing, Greta! Our readers have some great takeaways from this interview, thank you for participating.

Greta: Thanks for the invitation Palak, always happy to help!

Greta Holland