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BiotechND launches science majors into industry

When junior biology student Maeve Murdock, BiotechND founder and president, transferred to Notre Dame in the fall of 2021, she found a gaping hole in the University’s career development planning for undergraduates in the sciences.

While Notre Dame advises sending science majors to medical school or postgraduate research, at Xavier University, where Murdock studied her first year of college, and Northwestern University, where Murdock spent summer 2022 as a research intern, she said there is a much greater awareness of the job possibilities in the $2.9 trillion U. S. biotech industry.

“Notre Dame really, really pushes sciences for pre-med, and they don’t really tell you about any other options. If I say I’m a bio major, people [assume I’m] pre-med, because people don’t even know what the other options would be here,” Murdock said. “Notre Dame is behind that they didn’t have a biotech club. This is a big thing that’s been going on the last 20 years.”

Murdock founded the Biotech Club of Notre Dame (BiotechND), alongside vice president Jack Meyer, to alleviate this discrepancy and to educate and inform Notre Dame science undergrads of career opportunities in biotech.

The club defines biotech as “the integration of natural sciences and engineering in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells and molecules for products and services in industry.” The three main sectors of biotechnology are agricultural, biomedical and environmental.

Murdock added that anyone with an interest in biotech can join the club, whether they’re looking for more of a “hands-on science” or business role.

“Some [opportunities in biotech] are more finance-related or marketing and sales-related, but there’s also many where you’re applying your science background in a business way,” Murdock said. “At the end of the day, these are all companies that need to be making money. It’s not just people from a science background, you can learn on the spot.”

Although the group is technically not a Student Activities Office (SAO)-approved club until next semester, BiotechND held their first-ever meeting, “Introduction to Biotech,” on Nov. 29 in Duncan 512. Murdock said it was a long time coming.

“Starting a club at Notre Dame was a really tedious, bureaucratic process that takes an entire semester, and [SAO] turns down probably two-thirds of the clubs that try,” she said. “You need to have a whole team and all these prospective members. You have to write a 10-page club constitution, make an event list for your first year and for future years, make a budget for your first year and for future years, have an officer list and have a mentor.”

Murdock admitted that the lack of SAO approval is “frustrating.” The club has yet to receive access to crucial perks including a bank account, a real email address and easy access reserving event space on campus. In the interim, BiotechND hasn’t wasted any time, counting on creative solutions like partnering with the Center for Career Development to get the ball rolling.

“We have a joke that we’re the prospective biotech club of Notre Dame,” Murdock said. “Chris Washko is the [representative] at the Career Center working with Biotech. He has a lot of contacts and he’ll be working with us closely. He was super excited for us to do the first meeting, and he reserved that big room for us, which was great.”

One of the club’s goals is to facilitate networking between undergrads in different colleges with alumni and industry representatives in the biotech field. BiotechND already has plans for a networking trip to Chicago in 2023.

Murdock dispelled the myth that biotech only exists in places like Silicon Valley.

“We went to the dean of the College of Science to request money for a career trip to Chicago next fall. We’ll do a day trip where we visit three biotech companies, and students can network and see what it would be like to work there,” she said. “There’s a ton going on in Chicago now. We have too many good options to choose from.”

Notre Dame junior Emily Chudy, a neuroscience major, joined the BiotechND leadership this fall as secretary. She has enjoyed getting to know her fellow officers and feeling more involved.

“Up until this year, I worked on leadership for a different club. We had one big event a year, but other than that I felt like we weren’t really doing that much,” Chudy said. “[BiotechND] feels more hands-on. We get along well as a team, which is pretty awesome … The little things like that make a difference.”

Chudy started off as pre-med but decided that she’d rather not go to grad school immediately after Notre Dame, hoping to work for a few years before earning another degree.

“I’m still a little burnt out from studying to be completely honest,” she said. “As a STEM major not wanting to go to graduate school, [Notre Dame] doesn’t give you any options and they don’t really give you any resources. If you look at the neuroscience newsletter, it’s all about, ‘Here are these post-grad opportunities for research,’ or it’s like, ‘How can we help you for grad school?’”

Through her BiotechND leadership position, Chudy will educate underclassmen about biotech industry positions open to students such as investor relations, fundraising and equity research. Chudy interned as a biotech equity researcher last summer.

“Many people hate equity research because it’s researching about gas and oil, but I was working for a group that specifically focused on central nervous system drugs,” she said. “I’m interested in the business side because that’s a little bit more of a social role.”

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen2@nd.edu.