Incorporating Academia Into Industry: Sidra Speaker Fall ’13

After a semester in the Biomedicine program, Academic Excellence Award winner Sidra Speaker, discovered that DIS provided a fantastic opportunity to interact with concepts learned in the classroom. By meeting professionals that work with drug development daily, Sidra felt the semester provided a way to enjoy a fully holistic academic experience.

Sidra_Speaker_croppedName: Sidra Speaker
Home University: Pitzer College
Academic Program: Biomedicine

DIS: What influenced your decision to choose your particular DIS academic program and why did you choose it?

I’ve been interested in pharmacology ever since I took a neuropharmacology class at my home college (Pitzer), where I learned a lot about some existing drugs and their effects on the brain. The biomedicine program was a perfect opportunity for me to explore the more practical side of drug development, and to get a more international perspective on pharmacology in both industry and academia.

DIS: What do you want to do in your future and after graduation? How have you been affected by your academic program in a way that changed your career path or perspective?

After graduation I plan to remain in academia to pursue my Ph.D. in something related to neuropharmacology. After this I had planned to work as a researcher strictly in academia, but my experience at DIS has changed this to some extent. My DIS experience gave me a great sense of the differences between an academic setting and one in industry. Too often, in the US, the worlds of academia and industry are presented in a false dichotomy, as completely separate and even opposing entities. My DIS visits to institutions where industry sponsored Ph.D. students, and where universities put effort into making their research available for public application showed me a space that bridged these nominally different worlds. I’m intrigued by this collaboration, in which applied research can be purpose-driven and yet retain the expansive quality of the academic approach. I still like the idea of working in academia, but it is important to me that the results of my research are applicable and have some potential for benefit in the world.

DIS: What would you recommend future students in your program do to maximize their experience?

I would advise future students in the Biomedicine and Drug Development program to ask questions freely and to make particular effort to talk with our lecturers during visits. We were given wonderful opportunities to listen to, and have discussions with, some remarkable researchers in a great variety of fields. Many of the most valuable things that I learned from the program came from talking to these people after the formal lectures were over. DIS gives you a chance to see what it’s really like to work in these areas and it really helped me to form an idea of where I want to be in fifteen years and what I want to be researching.

Also Käre, Susana, and Richard were fantastic teachers and they made the program a lot of fun as well as being a great educational experience. So enjoy it!

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