Graduate School Spaulding-Smith Fellows Selected for Scientist Mentoring and Diversity Program
Doctoral students Azaria Anderson and Yahaira Bermudez have been selected for the 2023-24 Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program (SMDP), a one-year career mentoring program that pairs ethnically diverse students and early career researchers with industry mentors in the medical technology, biotechnology and consumer healthcare industries.
Organized by the nonprofit International Center for Professional Development, the program includes a five-day SMDP conference, career development coaching, one year of personalized career mentoring and guidance from an industry leader, networking opportunities and financial support to attend a major industry conference.
Anderson and Bermudez began their SMDP biotech experience with a five-day summer conference designed to demystify the biopharma industry, showcase career possibilities and connect students with industry mentors. Anderson and Bermudez then attended the BIO International Convention in Boston, where they networked and attended discussion panels with industry professionals and leaders. Throughout this academic year, Anderson and Bermudez will continue to engage with their SMDP mentors and career coaches in support of their career goals.
Both students are recipients of the UMass Amherst Graduate School’s competitive Spaulding-Smith Fellowship, awarded to outstanding doctoral students from historically underrepresented groups in STEM. Fellowships are administered through the Office of Inclusion and Engagement.
Anderson, a neuroscience and behavior doctoral student, says of applying, “I hoped to gain not only insights about the biotech industry, but also about the ways that my current science and skills can be applied to real life science.”
She appreciates the opportunities to connect with SMDP mentors from companies such as Amgen, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Genentech, Merck and Pfizer. She looks forward to working with her mentor, a senior director at Merck who, she said, “pushes me to think outside the box and explore aspects of science I never knew existed.”
Bermudez, who is pursing her doctorate in microbiology, was energized by the BIO International Convention. “With more than 4,000 companies and 14,000 attendees, this was a fantastic opportunity to learn about pressing topics, current challenges and potential trends on the horizon,” she says.
Bermudez said she is “considering the trends in biotech and where investments are being made is helping me think strategically about my skills and where I can best leverage them in the biotech industry.”
“The SMDP Program has been a wonderful experience for our graduate students,” said Shana Passonno, former biotech professional and current director of the Graduate School Office of Professional Development (OPD). “While there are many great things about SMDP, what motivates me to recommend our students is the powerful combination of mentorship and insider perspective.”
Passonno began nominating students to the program three years ago, and UMass Amherst graduate students have been accepted every year. The 2024 SMDP application deadline is in early April, but students are encouraged to apply early.