PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Luke Johnson (Hosted by the Penn Center for Innovation – Ventures)

In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Luke Johnson, a PhD candidate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, was placed as a Fellow with the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) – Ventures. Read about Luke’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

I was in contact with Mike Dishowitz at the PCIV. We had an initial meeting to discuss my short-term goals and how I’d use the fellowship to help navigate a possible career trajectory. I attended weekly meetings with the PCIV, where we discussed programming and new technologies in the commercialization pipeline.

What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

I mainly learned that there are many moving pieces to technology commercialization –product development, executive leadership, intellectual property, and financial capabilities are all factors to consider when expanding a university technology outside of an incubator.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

I had the chance to learn more about roles in the PCIV and within PCI like licensing agents, directors, scientific liaisons, and others involved in decision making throughout the tech transfer process.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

PCIV allowed CEF fellows to attend the weekly meetings, where I did most of my learning in the program. In discussing one of the technologies, I was invited to review the patent in examining another potential use of a material.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

It can be challenging navigating careers while at Penn, even with the vast amount of student-led organization. CEF is all-inclusive with little time commitment -allowing the chance to interact with hosts to get a better understanding of one’s path, workshops for helping your progress beyond the CEF, meeting new students outside of your school/department, having the chance to set goals, reflect on your progress, and to set forward with an improved outlook on post-doctoral avenues -are all great reasons to apply to the CEF.

By Helen Pho
Helen Pho Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs