Fords on Friday: Promoting Change through Pharmaceuticals with Emily Chen ’05

Posted on: November 20, 2015

By Sabrina Emms ’18

Last Friday, Emily Chen, class of ’05, came to campus and spoke about her post-graduate science experiences in both academia and industry. From her original aspirations to become a doctor, to her eventual career in pharmaceuticals, Emily talked about a drive to help, to make the world better, which seems central to Haverford’s message. Chen came to Haverford, as so many do, as a prospective pre-med student. She talked about the experience so many students are lucky to have, being brought into a lab and getting to do real research, early in their undergraduate careers.

emily chen

Chen explained how her view of medicine and science changed while she was at Haverford. Driven by a desire to effect real and positive change, she came to the conclusion that medicine was no longer for her. She stressed the importance of talking to professionals and observing their work. When she realized that she wouldn’t be happy purely as a doctor, she looked into MD/PhD programs, but realized, in most cases they seemed to lack balance, wither all doctor with research on the side or all research and limited patient interaction. Finally, pursuing her love of research, cultivated at Haverford, she went on to first work at, and then attend, the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a PhD in immunology.

After Penn, Chen went into industry. After grad school, she explained, people go one of two ways: into industry or off to post docs and hopefully their own labs. Still motivated by a desire to help, she chose industry.

Pharma, it seems, was the right choice, as Chen seems to love her work with Janssen, the Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Company. She started as a contractor but is now a full time researcher, “Do well in whatever you do, people will notice and your path will grow. Be open-minded” she told the fords in attendance. She emphasized the difference between her time at Penn, when research was “her life,” and now, at Janssen, where work/life balance is encouraged, and a strong sense of team and community is cultivated.

Pharmaceutical research isn’t driven purely by the desire to know or understand, as academic research sometimes is. Pharmaceutical research is driven by the need to come up with biological or chemical solutions to immediate problems facing real patients. Instead of having one, vague end goal, a project is broken down into smaller steps, with the goal of working faster. Not only that, but in research labs, projects are typically directed by the vision of one head scientist, coming up with ideas that are implemented by others. However, in pharma, Chen explained, anyone can propose an idea or project. If it’s a good idea, it could be picked up and implemented, regardless of where it came from.  At least in her company, scientists are encouraged to pursue further education, either in science, or branching off into management or business.

In picking a grad school, Chen encouraged students to look at not just the lab personnel, but also the lab and culture as a whole. The people can change, but the fundamental culture and mission are likely to be more fixed. She considers a good program to be one where the faculty are good mentors and are clearly involved with their lab.

Haverford’s testing, she explained, is a lot like grad school testing;  you’re asked to interpret data, propose experiments, and then analyze your results. Superlab is good preparation, in that it’s highly goal oriented. Once you’re in grad school, Chen explained, grades matter less. It’s if you can do the science and really get to the heart of what’s going on that matters.

While she was, at one point, skeptical about pharma and industry, terms that are sometimes used to convey a big, soulless monolith, she seemed incredibly happy with her work. “Pharma isn’t profit driven,” she explained, but driven both by the necessity of getting good products on the market, and being held responsible to investors, not squandering resources, be they time or money.

For Chen personally, the effects of cancer on several of those close to her, highlighted the need for speedy, efficient science, giving a very real face to the work she’s been doing.

Sophomore Success Series: Session 4

Posted on: November 17, 2015

By Karina Wiener

The Fall 2015 Sophomore Success Series had its fourth and final session a few weeks ago. This blog post is packed full of information so I apologize in advance for the length, but feel free to scroll through to find the information you’re interested in. We discussed the interview process, following up after an interview and your online LinkedIn persona. The session was therefore focused on the “Interviewing & Follow Up” step of the job search process.

3S summary diagram

We first gave students a re-cap of different ways to find job and internship opportunities, including (but not limited to):

  • HC Recruiting Events (On-Campus Recruiting in the TriCo, Philadelphia Career Connections Event, SLAC Recruiting Days, STEM Recruiting Event)
  • College Sponsored Internships
  • Haverford-Specific General Internship Listings (CareerConnect, LACN, Nationwide Internships Consortium)
  • General Internship Listings (,
  • Industry or Region Specific Listings (GoingGlobal, Policy Jobs, Idealist, etc.)
  • Organization websites
  • Reaching out directly and asking if they have opportunities
  • Contacts (Family, Friends, Alumni, etc.)

Then, we jumped right into a discussion about interview skills. In an interview, your job is to demonstrate to the employer why you’re the candidate they should hire. Employers want to know about your aptitude (do you have the skills and knowledge to succeed in this position? what distinguishes you from other applicants?), interests (why do you want to work for the organization? why are you interested in the position?), and fit (will you fit in with the office’s culture? what kind of colleague will you be?) for the position.

We broke the interview process down into three parts: Before, During, and Closing/After the interview.

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Fords on Friday: The Cover Letter – It’s Not About Standing Out – It’s About Fitting In

Posted on: November 12, 2015

By Andew Saunders HC ‘93


After 15 years of different positions on Wall Street, I recently started my own firm. We help alternative asset managers – e.g. hedge funds, private equity, venture capital etc –  craft, structure and implement their marketing strategies and raise capital. It is fascinating and demanding work. We’re growing which is cool, so I posted a position with the Haverford CCPA. There were a specific set of expectations and criteria, as well as a link to the website. Unfortunately, the responses I received from students were all off the mark – ranging from wildly off to mildly off.

As I had no idea about “business” when I was 21, I suspect it is unfair to expect today’s 21-year-olds to be any different. But as a potential employer, I am less forgiving of my former self – who was entirely clueless on the process. And as neither of my parents were involved in the “business” world,  I knew very little of the motivations and methodologies of the “private sector.”

You are likely to have many jobs over the course of your working lives. I don’t believe in careers, rather it is a mosaic comprised of different tiles that constitute different work experiences. The objective that all candidates should consider is that one should learn as much as possible with the ultimate goal to do your own thing at some point. The idea that someone wants long-term career potential is simply ridiculous in this day and age on Wall Street and finance….so you should not position yourself that way. Approach your job search like a business transaction.

What follows are a few strategies and tactics to craft a cover letter to get to the next round. At times the brutal honesty may come across as direct, but this is advice that my former self would have benefited greatly from hearing.

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Sophomore Success Series: Session 3

Posted on: November 10, 2015

By Karina Wiener

We began our third session of the Sophomore Success Series by discussing our “alumni conversation” homework. Students attended various events on campus with alumni present, shadowed professionals in their workplace, or had a casual conversation with a family friend in an industry of interest. There are endless opportunities to ask professionals about their work–everybody loves to talk about themselves, right? If you’re thinking about a certain field and don’t know anyone in it, sign up for the externship program offered by the CCPA, in which you can sign up to shadow professionals in their workplace! The winter break deadline has passed but keep your eyes out for the spring break extern application. A similar program called Roadtrips to the Real World provides shadowing opportunities on the east coast over winter break, and the application is open until December 4th! Check out the blog post I wrote about it for details.

The rest of this session was focused on the “Applying” step of the job search process.

3S summary diagram

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Fords on Friday: Ben Sprecher ’99 on Start-Ups and People-Skills

Posted on: November 6, 2015

By Karina Wiener

Ben Sprecher Google headshot 2013-04-14 cropped

Back in the 70s, Ben’s father invented an electronic check printer but, because he was trained in computer science and not business, his company wouldn’t let him bring it to market. In order to avoid this ever happening to him, Ben decided to take as many computer science classes as he could fit into his schedule, but to major in economics. He wanted to avoid becoming a “techie,” as he was naturally inclined to become, and instead strove to become (or, I should say, succeeded in becoming) one of the few who can speak both engineer AND human.

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Road Trips to the Real World

Posted on: November 3, 2015

By Karina Wiener

Looking for something to do over winter break? How about a Road Trip!


Haverford students have been invited to participate in the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers’ Road Trips to the Real World program.

Similar to the CCPA’s extern program, Road Trips to the Real World are site visits in which students have the opportunity to learn about a career field, network with employees, and explore internship and job opportunities. This is a great way to explore careers of interest and ask questions to professionals in the field! It’s never too early or late to explore your options.

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Fords on Friday: Thomas Littrell ’15 on The Importance of Clarity

Posted on: October 30, 2015

By Thomas Littrell

The beginning of October is recruiting season at EY’s Quantitative Economics and Statistics (QUEST) practice, and it gave me the chance to talk to a number of applicants. Besides the usual questions about what the group does, a number of them asked about the challenges of transitioning from college to the business world. Though I had been working for only three months, the weeks had already blurred together and the end of my senior year felt like a lifetime ago. I had a hard time answering at first, but eventually I realized that my answer was the same that I gave as a UCA to freshmen transitioning to Haverford: new expectations for the quality of work. Continue reading

College Funded Internship Fair

Posted on:

By Karina Wiener

Hey Fords, how will you be spending your summer? Summer is a great time to catch up on sleep and hang out with friends and family, but there’s also time to start exploring industries that interest you and building up that resume!

Haverford provides funding for many different types of summer opportunities. Whether you want to be abroad, at home, or at Haverford; whether you are interested in social justice, science, business, or something else; whether you want to design your own program or join a pre-existing one, there are opportunities for you!

Talk to students about their college funded summer experiences to help you decide which one would be best for you, TODAY, from 11:30am-1:30pm in the DC Sunken Lounge. See you there!

(Click here for details and deadlines for each individual funding opportunity.)


The Graduate School Decision Making Process…

Posted on: October 27, 2015

By Randall Perez (Graduate Assistant)

It is graduate school application season again. For undergraduate seniors planning to attend graduate school right after graduation, that means you are probably already working on your admission letters, asking faculty for letters of recommendation and organizing spread sheets with program deadlines, application costs and so forth. Sophomores and juniors are likely still mulling over the decision-making process. Asking the question many who came before them did, including myself, is graduate school right for me? It is not a decision to be taken lightly.

UntitledRandall Perez recently earned his MA in Sociology from the University of California, Irvine. He recently left a doctoral program in sociology at UCI to pursue a professional track in higher education. He is currently working towards his MSEd in Higher Education from the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education and working as a graduate assistant in the Office of Academic Resources at Haverford College. He can be reached at

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