Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate student Bradley DeMay is the first student to be accepted into the PhD/MBA Program, although the program—which allows graduate students to obtain an MBA from the Tuck School of Business after completion of their PhD—has been open to applicants since August 2009.
DeMay was one of the doctoral students who helped initiate the PhD/MBA Program along with faculty and staff from Graduate Studies and the Tuck School of Business. The Graduate Forum had the opportunity to talk to DeMay, who plans to start his MBA later this August, about his experience as a science student being accepted into the program.
TGF: Brad, have you had prior experience in business?
BD: Actually, no. I came to Dartmouth in the fall of 2005 after I finished my bachelor’s in biochemistry and biophysics. I didn’t have any experience doing research in the private biotech and pharma sector, or any formal training in economics, finance or management.
TGF: Why have you decided to go to business school after doing bench work for more than five years then?
BD: It’s been cooking in my head for a while. During my second year, I tried to get a little more perspective of what was going on at Dartmouth outside of MCB.
Tuck has a fantastic reputation, and as I started exploring more, consulting really struck me as a career option because it fit my interest of problem solving—it’s similar to the problem structuring that one does when attacking a science research question. During my third and fourth years, I was fortunate enough to confirm my interests more thoroughly by getting involved with the Consulting Club and then for a year with the Health Care Consulting Club.
TGF: What parts of your education do you consider the most important and how did the MCB graduate program prepare you for a career in business?
BD: What I hope to do going forward revolves around defining a problem, structuring a solution to it, and executing the necessary research to come up with the best solution to that problem. Those are the same attributes that you require in research, but I suspect I will find myself applying them in a very different context. My graduate education has prepared me by honing my abilities to extract information from data and ask substantive questions. It’s helped me develop a critical mindset.
TGF: Coming from a PhD background, what do you think has been the most beneficial in terms of participating in student clubs and being involved on campus? How did you demonstrate leadership experience, one of the criteria Tuck requires for admission?
BD: Most of my experience with Tuck was through the clubs and working with professors Brian Pogue and Bob Hansen to set up the PhD/MBA Program. In the Tuck clubs, the material and topics of discussion were interesting and made sense to me, helping me to seriously consider consulting as an option. The Graduate Studies Office has a lot of great handbooks that I referred to, and I was able to apply the concepts I learned to the cases we were working on in the Consulting Club. I was coming up with similar solutions as many other students in the club, which helped me appreciate that consulting was not something beyond my reach and it fostered my interest in business even though I wasn’t formally trained.
From a leadership experience point of view, it’s important to get involved in student groups or organizations and take on a role with responsibility. In my third year, I was involved with the MCB committee, which was a great experience. I was responsible for reviewing the applications of prospective students and organizing and coordinating recruitment weekends. I was also one of a few members (at the time) of the Graduate Student Council and I wrote the bylaws for the transparent public voting system we have now. I was president of the GSC the following year, when the GSC began the initiative to create the PhD/MBA Program, among other projects. In the GSC, we work very closely with our executive board members, so I was able to gain some experience in conflict resolution.
Everyone’s experience and background are going to be different. If you aren’t satisfied with the extracurricular options currently around, don’t be afraid to take a chance and create them!
TGF: How was your experience in the student clubs at Tuck?
BD: I enjoyed my brief time participating in the clubs, but there are still some kinks that need to be straightened out regarding graduate student involvement. There were times when I was left out of mailing lists, for example, but it is completely understandable given that Tuck students are busy and this program is nascent. Interesting questions to consider now are: Should Tuck clubs be open to any interested graduate student, since the PhD/MBA Program is now official? Or, should clubs stay somewhat exclusive to students enrolled at Tuck? It is a difficult situation; I realize why the groups might want to stay exclusive, as Tuck students may not gain as much from an open environment as graduate students will.
TGF: How do you feel about shifting gears from research on Ashbya gossypii to pursuing a career in consulting, two vastly different fields?
BD: I am anxious but definitely looking forward to it. I think it is going to be very different and more social as I would interact with more students from varied backgrounds.
I am looking forward to the first year coursework, and the interest groups, in which I’ll have the opportunity to address a wide range of problems and discuss different topics – it will be very different from working on my thesis.
At this point, I am concerned about learning the jargon of the field and getting as much exposure as possible early on. I am planning on taking the mathematics review class Tuck offers in August, which I hope will help me become more comfortable and understand better the context of how mathematics is being applied.
TGF: What edge would the MBA give you and what would you gain beyond just doing a PhD?
BD: I hope it will be a number of things – I am looking forward to gaining basic business knowledge and skills, which will hopefully make my transition to consulting easier. Tuck is a renowned institution and being a part of the Tuck family would give me better access to their alumni network, which I hope will help me in my post-graduate career.
TGF: What advice would you give to students who are potentially interested in the PhD/MBA dual degree but do not have prior work experience or business exposure?
BD: Tuck offers small courses such as “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” to people interested in the program. The Tuck Business Bridge Program is a four-week immersion program you can take during the summer. I would encourage potential students to attend seminars and introduce themselves to people at Tuck, and start making connections. Get involved with student groups or clubs that you’re interested in.
TGF: Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
BD: This is interesting since my perspective of things has evolved so much over the last few years. It would be very closed-minded of me to just say I would end up in consulting since I am of course open to additional possibilities and accumulating different experiences. It would be more realistic to say that I hope to work in consulting for a few years and then reevaluate to determine if I want to continue along the same track. I could speculate that it would be exciting to be involved in small biotech and get back into science from that end. We’ll just have to see how it all works out!
by Yash Patankar
photo by Kerry Landers
PhD/MBA Info Session
Tuesday, April 26@ 12 noon
Light lunch provided
Tuck Executive Dining Room
Attendees should walk through the Byrne dining hall, and the EDR is located on the back wall of the dining hall.
Are you interested in combining science with business, but lack the business knowledge? Come attend an info session with Associate Dean of Tuck Business School, Bob Hansen and Dean of Graduate Studies, Brian Pogue as they discuss how Dartmouth doctoral candidates can attend Tuck. In addition, Amy Mitson, Associate Director of Admissions will share her perspective on what the Admissions committee looks for in candidates.