Three Spaulding-Smith Fellows Selected for Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program

Three doctoral students were selected for the Scientist Mentoring & Diversity Program (SMDP), a 1 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 International Center for Professional Development, this comprehensive program includes a 5 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.

NEWS Ana P. Torres-Ocampo, Michael Lu-Díaz and Wayne Barnaby
Left to right: Ana P. Torres-Ocampo, Michael Lu-Díaz and Wayne Barnaby

Wayne Barnaby, neuroscience and behavior, has long been interested in the impact that biopharma has on patients in need. Unfamiliar with the program, he was a bit skeptical to join SMDP Biotech at first. “As soon as the program started, I was immersed in a wealth of knowledge about how to navigate the biotech industry - something hard to learn from the outside! The most valuable aspect has been the network. I have been surprised and inspired by the SMDP community’s willingness to connect and help each other out.” Leveraging training and connections achieved through SMDP, Wayne will head to Genentech this summer for an internship with the Oncology Biomarker team, where he will work to improve existing cancer treatments. 

Michael Lu-Díaz, chemistry, chose to join the SMDP MedTech cohort to learn more about careers at the intersection of science and business. Michael created a mentoring plan with his mentor, a Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs, and the pair met monthly to discuss his progress. From Michael’s perspective, “SMDP is a well-structured program that aims to develop rising industry leaders through professional development, networking, and one-on-one mentoring. Now that I have a clear picture of the industry landscape, I have decided to pursue a career in intellectual property at the intersection of science, business and law.” This summer, Michael will complete a Technology Specialist internship with Wolf Greenfield & Sacks, a firm that specializes in patent law.

Ana P. Torres-Ocampo, molecular and cellular biology, joined the SMDP Biotech cohort, eager to explore a wide array of careers and expand her professional network. During their monthly meetings, Ana’s mentor, a leader at a top pharmaceutical company, offered valuable perspective about the industry hiring process and helped Ana improve her job documents and interview skills. Ana has also benefitted from the virtual panels organized by SMPD. “In addition to helping me build my network, they connected me with recruiting managers who could provide insights about the workplace environment and culture of each company, important factors as I consider the right career fit for me.” Last fall, Ana completed her Ph.D. and accepted a postdoctoral research associate position at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she continues to participate in the year-long SMDP activities.

These students were nominated for SMDP by Shana Passonno, director of the Graduate School Office of Professional Development (OPD). Having worked in the biopharma industry for a decade herself, Passonno is excited about opportunities that teach students how companies are structured, how the research enterprise operates, and how one’s disciplinary expertise can be applied to a wide array of organizational units and roles. “While there are many great things about SMDP, what motivated me to recommend our students was the powerful combination of mentorship and insider perspective. I am proud of what our students have accomplished during (and after) the program and plan to nominate UMass graduate students to SMDP for years to come.”

It is noteworthy that all three 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. These fellowships are administered through the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, which, in addition to financial support, engages fellows in a variety of programs, including informal monthly gatherings, peer mentoring and professional development opportunities offered in collaboration with OPD.