MentLife opens doors to research departments at companies

”Not everyone can become a professor, and then it’s good to know how to get a job within the industry”.
So says Sandra Capellera Garcia, doctoral student in stem cell biology and member of the network MentLife that promotes close relationships between industry and science.

Sandra Capellera Garcia o Michael Wilsterman

Sandra Capellera Garcia and Michael Wilsterman.

The network focuses on students interested in a career outside academia. It was established in 2013 by, among others, Lars Erik Edholm – analytical chemist with a background at both the Faculty of Engineering (LTH) and the company Astra, where he spent many years while simultaneously working as an adjunct professor at Lund University. He got the idea for MentLife after having been part of the LTH mentorship programme PLUME.

‟I think it’s such a good idea to help talented students into the business world, and I have many contacts and colleagues in the industry”, Lars Erik Edholm says.

One of his colleagues is Michael Wilsterman – organic chemist who studied at LTH, with a broad background in the pharmaceutical industry and who is now the Director of Clinical Chemistry at Region Skåne. He is part of the MentLife network, and is Sandra Capellera Garcia’s mentor.

‟I had no idea what the industry was like when I studied, and find it meaningful to get to open doors for these doctoral students into the research departments at companies”, Michael Wilsterman says.

Sandra Capellera Garcia is grateful for this. Sandra is from Barcelona and is conducting research in biomedicine in Lund, where she has been for three years. Her partner lives in Denmark and so does she, but as her main field of interest is in stem cell biology, Lund University is the place to be, she says:

‟I get along great with the stem cell group here. But I felt I lacked knowledge about how research is conducted in the industry. MentLife has given me an alternative to a postdoc, a different network with new contacts, and teaches me how the industry works and how to apply for jobs.”

Since MentLife started a little more than two years ago, the mentor-mentee pairs have gone from 12 to 14, meeting at least once a month. Three times a year the entire network gets together to follow up on the work and to network. Medicon Village offers up its premises and facilities for these activities, and this is also where the MentLife board convenes once a month.

‟For safety reasons, we can’t be too many people at the same time when visiting different companies. However, we would like a lot of people to attend our seminars, where there is also time and place for mingling”, says Lars Erik Edholm.

So far, the topics of the seminars have included research and trends in the pharmaceutical industry, and how to apply for jobs and write CVs.

Lars Erik Edholm

Lars Erik Edholm.

Lars Erik Edholm sees his and his fellow mentors’ efforts as philanthropic – even though it to some extent also involves hunting for talents for primarily the Swedish industry of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical technology.

‟But this is certainly not all it is”, he says and continues: ‟We are not just an industry network, but also a scientific network”.

MentLife receives certain financial support from the Swedish Pharmaceutical Society and Vinnova via the IVA project Mentor4Research.

‟We are also keen to receive support from the faculties, and so we do from the faculties of science, medicine and engineering”, says Lars Erik Edholm, and says that last year they conducted an evaluation among the network members and received a satisfaction rate of 99 per cent.

Text: Maria Lindh

Photo: Gunnar Menander

FOOTNOTE: Applications for becoming a mentee in the MentLife programme 2016–2017 will be accepted between 15 April and 1 June. For more information, visit www.mentlife.se