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Interview with Jessica Chiang

Palak: Hi Jessica, we are so pleased to have you join us. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself to begin with?

Jessica: Hello everyone, my name is Jessica. I am a PhD student who designed the R&D activities in BioFab, which is a start-up and also incorporated one of them into my own PhD. I am playing the role of CSO (Chief Scientific Officer) and a founding team member at BioFab. I make a biodegradable bio composite out of NZ fungi to replace expanded polystyrene.

Palak: Amazing! Could you elaborate a little on your experience with Chiasma and the ways in which Chiasma helped you develop in the personal and professional sphere?

Jessica: Sure, I was in Chiasma for 6 years starting from my second year in Uni. I worked as an Events team member, Marketing team member, Strategist, CEO, and worked with the National team as well. Chiasma exposed me to the world outside of my science degree very early on. I quite immediately was attracted to the career prospect of a high-tech start-up and it was the Chiasma alumni, networks, and mentors’ guidance and advice that propelled me towards a career in science beyond just academia or lab occupations. Chiasma also offered sponsorship to send me to overseas conferences like the Gap Summit, which most definitely proved to be a life-changing experience of my learning journey.

Palak: That’s brilliant! In your opinion, how can one make the most of being part of Chiasma?

Jessica: It’s very important to connect to people in the Chiasma ecosystem- peers from different fields of study, mentors, speakers, team members. Learn about them, be curious, be authentic, and make friends! A lot of connections I made in Chiasma turned out to be extremely influential in my life. From mentors working with me to get the start-up going, to peers who became life-long friends, the opportunities that you can be exposed to from different people lead you to very different and amazing journeys. The possibilities are endless!

Palak: Absolutely agree! Could you talk to us about the intertwined nature of New Zealand’s STEM sectors and industry roles? What is the importance of understanding and making use of this bridge?

Jessica: Understanding how both sides work will help bridge the gap. It is when science, technology and industry work together that research that has been worked on for years in academia can be transformed into real life technologies. The interconnection is what makes knowledge of science travel from being buried in the deep web to the fingertips of anyone and everyone. So, don’t limit yourself, a science degree can open doors to so many career opportunities.

Palak: Excellent! To finish it off, what would be your top tips for STEM students and recent STEM graduates?

Jessica: Connect to people in different disciplines, ask people for coffee chats to learn about their experiences and attend networking events. Have those conversations, understand different people’s point of view and  career choices. Don’t be intimidated by working professionals, learn not to be intimidated by those environments. Use the fact that you are students to reach out to people in the name of learning- lots of people like to help proactive and curious students. Make the most of it!

Palak: That is such helpful advice! Thank you for joining us, Jessica. I’m sure you’ve provided our members with a new perspective and direction in looking for careers after a STEM degree. 

Jessica: It’s my pleasure, Palak! Always happy to help,  thank you for having me. 

Jessica Chiang
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