Michelle Podlipsky is a junior pursuing a simultaneous degree in Molecular & Cellular Biology and Business Administration through UC Berkeley’s inaugural Biology+Business Program. Passionate about the intersection between biology and business, Michelle has internship experience working with research laboratories, biotechnology startups, and biopharma companies. In addition to recently starting a new branch of her STEM-oriented nonprofit organization, Pathways Education, Michelle plans to pursue healthcare investment banking at Morgan Stanley next summer. On campus, she is involved in HBSA as the Director of Biology+Business, as well as being in several clubs and is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. In her free time, Michelle enjoys hiking, surfing, and walking along the beach.
- What is something you are passionate about and why?
I started a nonprofit organization called Pathways Education with my friends in high school, and it has carried on into college. It is primarily a STEM-oriented nonprofit, but I am passionate about spreading the knowledge of business to kids earlier on in their lives as I was not really exposed to the subject growing up and had only realized my interest in business later on in my career. So, our nonprofit team started a financial literacy curriculum recently and have been hosting a lot of career workshops. Our nonprofit is also more geared towards lower-income children living in lower-income communities, as a lot of them do not really have information on how to manage their own finances, how to start a savings account, and how to manage their money in general. We thought it was important to reach those children first and expose them to everyday money management before diving into actual financial literacy. The idea fit with the theme of our nonprofit and aligned with my interests too, so it made perfect sense.
- As the Biology+Business Program just launched this year, when did you know that you wanted to be a part of Haas, and what drew you to the Biology+Business Program specifically?
I knew I wanted to be part of Haas ever since I got into my first club, Healthcare Consulting Group. I realized through my classes that the value of a Haas degree is not only the technical knowledge but also the people and the network you gain from it. I thought that was really important: how the Haas people I met were encouraging me to be the best possible version of myself and driving me to apply to certain internships that I never would have thought to apply for before. The Biology+Business Program really completes the Haas experience for me. The Program is a very specialized closed-knit cohort of about 12 people that are fascinated with the same industries, yet there still is so much diversity within—there are people going into healthcare consulting, investment banking, operations, entrepreneurship, and research—so it is nice having such a driven specialized cohort but still having that sense of diversity within.
- What advice would you give to students applying to the Biology+Business Program?
A lot of people come into the Program as pre-med, so pursuing biology as the main subject and business on the side comes naturally to students. I think it is really important to be equally committed to both subjects and see how they can blend into your career. However, that is where a lot of people struggle when writing their essays, because honestly, they do not even know why they are applying to the Program—they need to emphasize how to blend the subjects and how this combination will benefit them in their future careers. So, I think what differentiated me was that I had that story down very clearly, and I wanted biology equally as much as I wanted business.
- You are interested in biology but are pursuing a career in investment banking: Is there a reason why you want to start in a business-sided role first?
I do not really have strictly biology-related opportunities in mind down the road anymore; I do not think I have the type of personality for a research position. This transition started when I interned at a biotech startup that had this amazing cardiac medical technology, but they were unable to commercialize the product and make it available to consumers. This was because they did not know how to clear regulatory hurdles and attain proper financing, so I realized from this experience that business was the technical bridge necessary to make products actually accessible to the world. I realized I was more enchanted with the idea of helping people and making a positive impact on the world through the commercialization of these life-saving therapies and medical devices than I was actually interested in the molecular biology aspect itself. Thereafter I attended a biotech seminar in which I heard a lot of speakers from different areas like investment banking, consulting, research, and more: this helped clarify more of what I wanted to do. I actually really vibed with the investment banker speaker, and after attending the seminar and interning at the biotech startup, that was when I knew that these biotech companies are the companies I wanted to help. This solidified that healthcare investment banking was something I wanted to pursue, and I am excited to start my career there.
- Do you have any long term career goals planned out?
I want to do investment banking for at least the first two years of my working life because it will give me the technical skillset and the network that I can leverage later in my career. I think it will also provide me with the experiences and tool kit that I am going to need to go almost anywhere within or outside of business. After that, I probably want to get an MBA, and the rest is uncertain! But what I do know is that I always want to stay close to the healthcare industry.
- What building on campus would you say you are?
- What’s your go-to order at Cafe Think?
- Black Iced Coffee—I hate creamer
- Early bird or night owl?
- Both, don’t sleep a lot
- Favorite study space at Berkeley?
- Moffit, I love Moffit (5th floor)
- Favorite place on campus?
- The Glade
- Favorite dining hall?
- Clark Kerr, all the way.
- Favorite place to eat, non-dining hall?
- Berkeley Thai House—so good.
- Favorite class?
- Biology 1A
- Favorite genre of music?
- Country. I know that’s weird—people here don’t like country.
- Worst experience during dead week/college in general?
- I have a really bad coffee addiction—I can’t go a day without 3 cups of coffee (or yerba). So during dead week, that’s all I drank—it wasn’t very healthy.
- What was a “total freshman move” you had when you began college?
- Freshman year dead week when I first saw the naked run and had no idea what it was—I’m forever scarred.