How did you decide to come to Drexel Materials for a Ph.D.?
I learned about Drexel’s Materials program through my personal network. My co-advisor at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia recommended the Drexel Materials department to me. Her former mentee, Dr. Miladin Radovic, was a full time graduate student at Drexel MSE at the time when I was exploring my options for graduate studies in the USA. We heard about the Drexel Materials program through him. I made my decision after learning more about Drexel and life in the Philadelphia metro area from Miladin. Obviously, students can be excellent school advocates as they have the first-hand experience that connects closely to prospective students.
First Job Post-Graduation and Brief Description of Duties
My first job after graduate school at Drexel was the position of Scientist at the Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, OH. Our microscopy lab was a part of the Analytical Discovery department and we had a mixed portfolio of projects and assignments, ranging from the development of upstream technologies to technology capability building, analytical problem solving, and providing scientific evidence for intellectual property, product claims, and demos.
How did you find your first job?
I saw a job advertisement on one of the job search engines, I believe it was Monster.com. Although I was looking for an academic position at that time, the P&G position seemed to be a good match with my training background and it looked promising as far as personal growth and leadership opportunities. I decided to give it a try. Later, I discovered that the corporate career path was the right choice for me.
What have you been doing since?
In March of 2011 I joined BASF as Manager of Open Innovation and Science Relations for BASF North America. My group leads an approach to innovation through collaborative activities with external innovation partners, such as: universities, startups, industry, and research institutes. BASF Research & Development is a quite impressive collaborative and interdisciplinary organization and network. It is hard to imagine an industry that is not using BASF chemistry and materials solutions. There is not a single day that passes without me learning something new about our products, new markets, and new innovation strategies.
How do you feel your Ph.D. research and education have contributed to your job?
I would never be where I am now if it was not for school and the experience that goes with it.
Do you have any advice for students looking for a Ph.D. program or for current students?
Yes, here are few of my key learning tenets:
(a) Education is a great eye, heart, and mind opener and if you are on this quest, enjoy it and make the most out of it. Ph.D. programs offer a great place to expand your knowledge, but there is so much more about it than acquiring formal education and increasing your employability. We live in a historic moment when knowledge is open and “the world is flat.” Knowledge alone is not a sufficient differentiator and a competitive advantage anymore. All information can be nowadays easily retrieved through the internet and, with the aid of expert systems and social networks, it is possible to quickly find a practical solution for a large number of technical problems. Nowadays, robust innovation processes are routinely managed using an open source mass collaboration approach. The pace of innovation is faster every day. So, perhaps the most important skill that one can get through a PhD program is actually an opportunity to practice building collaborative networks and partnerships. Highly specialized technical skills will make you an expert in the field, but the ability to engage and excite a team of people towards the successful accomplishment of a goal and a mission will make you a star. Use your time in your Ph.D. program to practice this very important skill as much as possible.
(b) Take time to learn about yourself, your personal values, traits, and motivation. Observe your tears and fears. They have a purpose in a person’s life. They are our individual lighthouse that takes us to our best self. Integrity has always been highly appreciated in any society, and it is still is considered a foundation to building productive and healthy relationships in business and in life. Acting with integrity is almost impossible without taking time to explore, discover, and get to know who you are, and what you stand for. Seek out growth opportunities that will challenge you to develop your own blueprint, establish your own guidelines, and healthy boundaries. Making decisions and choices later on in life will be far easier.
(c) Celebrate diversity. Diversity makes this world a beautiful place to be. Diversity is one of the driving forces in nature and an enrichment that we’ll get to appreciate even more the older we get.
(d) Go beyond expected. Seek for extracurricular and extraordinary learning. Check out Drexel’s Creating Excellent Organizations program - it will help you prepare for life after school whether you decide to go to academia, to a corporation, or if you decide to start your own business. Help your junior fellow students whenever you get the chance. Find and get to know a new person every day. Reach out to fellow professionals from local industries, students, and professors at other local universities or people who share completely different areas of interest. This will help you practice and nurture a spirit of creativity.
(e) Enjoy the process and have fun. Learn not to be too hard on yourself. Self-nurture is a first step towards creating a nurturing environment. Learn how to find flow in what you do at school or at home. Surround yourself with people who think positively. Learn how to move forward through difficult times. Never lose faith that you can do it. If something strains you too much, check how much it is really important to you. Enjoy your youth. Sing, laugh, and dance as much as you get a chance. Have a blast and always leave some room for surprises. Don’t let high expectations put you down or sabotage you by keeping you confined within a single opportunity space. You will be fine. Your family, friends, and parents will love you no matter what. Congratulations for considering or choosing Drexel Materials for your Ph.D. program and I hope you’ll enjoy it at least as much as I did.