The Business Side of Science
Julia L. Greenstein ’78 began her career in the lab as a postdoctoral fellow at the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute before joining the faculty at Harvard Medical School. She then joined the high-tech firms leading Boston’s biotechnology boom, holding titles such as chief executive officer, chief scientific officer, and senior vice president of research. Greenstein now serves as a consultant to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in the area of research planning and new project acquisition while devoting a portion of her time to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“While my formal training is in the science lab, after I left academia and became a hands-on manager in the biotech field, I found that I enjoyed the business side of science,” said Greenstein, noting that her current projects draw on leadership skills such as communication and strategy as well as laboratory skills like scientific analysis. In 2001, Mass High Tech named Greenstein among 17 high-tech all-stars. Greenstein was recognized for leading the study of xenotransplantation, or the transplantation of cells, tissues or organs from one species to another. It is hoped that xenotransplantation will one day address the shortage of donated organs for people awaiting transplants.
Greenstein—who holds a master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Rochester Medical School—credits Russell Sage with giving her the confidence and science background to compete with the best students in a respected graduate program. As a science professional whose expertise has carried her from the laboratory to the classroom to the boardroom, Greenstein applauds Sage’s commitment to making the gamut of opportunities in science available to all students.
“When I entered Sage I wanted to go to medical school, because I thought that was the only thing you could do with a science major,” she said. “I think that Sage’s effort to integrate industry right next to Mueller Science Hall is an incredible example of promoting the spectrum of opportunities in the sciences, for both science and non-science majors,” said Greenstein, referring to the Incubator for Nanotechnology Ventures, Emerging Sciences and Technologies, known as INVEST. “Exposure to the sciences is an obligation of a college education.”
“As the blue-eyed daughter of brown-eyed parents, I’ve always been interested in genetics,” said Meredith Patik ’02, referring to the Punnett square that schoolchildren use to determine eye-color probability in elementary science classes. “But I thought all geneticists spend their day behind a microscope and I wanted something more interactive.”
So she entered Sage as a physical therapy major, but took a genetics class as an elective. That class sold her on the other opportunities for geneticists, like genetic counseling.
Patik—who completed a master’s degree in Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in 2005—now works at Pediatrix Screening, Inc. in Pittsburgh, Pa., screening newborns for life-threatening genetic disorders that are easily treatable with early diagnosis.
Pediatrix receives about 1,100 tissue samples a day, from newborns all over the U.S. and the world. The samples are tested in the laboratory for 55 genetic disorders. Because the disorders Pediatrix screens for are so rare, pediatricians may not have had any firsthand experience with them. Patik is one of three genetic associates who interpret the lab results for the pediatricians and families, describing the condition and
follow up care.
About 1 in 700 samples are “urgently positive,” requiring immediate follow up with physicians and parents. Slightly more samples are less urgent, yet still require prompt attention, said Patik, who along with the other genetic associates, is on call 24 hours a day.
“Sage prepared me to become a self-starter, which is necessary in graduate school and in my career, where I have to be prepared to learn on the job and on my own,” said Patik who gives back to Sage as a member of the RSC Alumnae Association Board of Directors.
Her position at Pediatrix is her first since finishing graduate school. When asked about her long term goals, she said she knows there is a demand for people with a science or medical background in the administration of corporations like Pediatrix, and a position combining science and business may be in her—distant—future. “One of the things that I really love about my job right now is that I have to be an expert in so many areas, since we screen for so many different disorders,” she said. “Every day brings something new.”