Michael Aflakpui, Healthcare Entrepreneur
I have always been passionate about science and technology. From building simple robots and cars with the engineering kit my aunt got me when I was 9 years old, to assessing optimal soccer striking techniques for my 8th-grade science fair project; the scientific method has always been a framework I’ve used to rationalize the world around me to make informed decisions and achieve my goals. Initially, I wanted to become a surgeon & started on that path as a premed Biology/Neuroscience major at UMass Amherst. As I approached the end of my undergraduate education, I lost the desire to continue the path of becoming a surgeon. I wanted to apply my education in a way that satisfied my desire to help improve human health outcomes. A career in the life sciences was a perfect fit.
What was your ‘front door’ to the industry and how did your education decisions put you on a career path to where you are right now?
My education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst played a crucial role in preparing me for a career in life science. The rigorous course load, access to world-class faculty and facilities, and a dedicated career services department were my recipe for success. I attended a campus networking event where I had a 15-minute conversation with a manager from AbbVie. That conversation led to an interview and a job offer upon graduating. I wouldn’t have had access to such companies or the confidence to execute on the job if it wasn’t for the great education I got from UMass.
As a career rather than simply a job, what opportunities do you see for the next steps on your path?
The opportunities that excite and empower me to perform at my best as I continue my career are outside the lab. I have been fortunate to work on cutting-edge research, developing technologies with the brightest minds in the industry; although these experiences have been rewarding, I am now looking to leverage my technical background in business and entrepreneurial functions. I see myself becoming a business strategist who helps grow companies that have a positive impact on the lives of millions of people and create economic opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Becoming an entrepreneur in life science will allow me to scale myself and use science to improve the lives of more people while amplifying the impact I can have as an activist.
What career and education advice would you like to give to someone considering a career in the life sciences?
Stay curious, be diligent in your studies, and pursue relevant scientific internships. There are many opportunities in the Boston area for people who want to pursue a life science career. You don’t need a degree from Harvard or MIT to work on cutting-edge science. With a foundational understanding of biology, chemistry, and engineering principles important to your topic of interest and internships providing relevant work experience, you will meet the minimum requirements to start a scientific career and be able to live a comfortable middle-class life. Most professors are happy to take on students who show interest in their research and have the drive to complete projects. Be a pleasure to work with. Be coachable and find mentors you can have a genuine connection with. Put in the effort to continue sharpening your skills. People will respect you and try their best to help you if they see you are doing everything in your power to achieve your goals. The workforce training center being launched by MassBio presents a wonderful opportunity for high school graduates in the community to gain the skills required to be part of the #1 biotech hub in the world and share in the prosperity that comes with delivering groundbreaking products to improve human health.