UMBC Students Meet FITCI Startups

UMBC Students Connect with FITCI Startups to Explore Internship Opportunities 

FITCI CEO Kathie Callahan Brady welcomes the group

Frederick, Maryland – In many ways, students and startup companies are a lot alike. They are both at the beginning of a grand adventure, full of hope for a bright future and ready to change the world.  

That mutually exuberant energy created a palpable buzz at a recent meet and greet at the Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc.’s (FITCI) technology hub, ROOT, in downtown Frederick. The event brought together UMBC students, mostly juniors, from the University’s Bachelor of Science in Translational Life Science Technology (TLST) program and some of the emerging biotech and life science companies housed at FITCI. 

As a business incubator/accelerator, FITCI is dedicated to building a healthy, vibrant community through economic development, including cooperative association with educational and workforce development leaders. Programs like this connect tomorrow’s professionals and budding entrepreneurs with opportunities to get the experience they need to be successful while enabling fledgling startups to find the “human capital” they need to thrive. 

The University program combines the theory of a traditional life science degree with hands-on, real-world applications of the process for turning scientific discoveries into real life-saving solutions, so the group found plenty of common ground for connection. 

Business leader panelists included: 

•             Event MC John Nowell, CEO, Human Venture Group/CarrTech 

•             Sosthene Essono, CEO, Medical Biotechnology Engineering 

•             Sam Glickstein, Business Manager, Biosolution Designs 

•             Alison Demarest, CEO and Co-Founder, Meridian BioGroup 

•             Michael Mesa, CEO and President, Mesa Science Associates/Mesa Green Pharma 

•             XiaoNao Liu, Founder and CEO, NanoBioFAB 

FITCI CEO Kathie Callahan Brady welcomed the group, encouraging them to embrace exploration and continuous learning as a way to find life’s passion. She says, “I love internships because I had an amazing experience as an intern. The CEO made sure I got to work in every department. He talked to me about what I learned each week and showed me how that applied to the big picture, so I left with well-rounded knowledge that went beyond a resume.” 

About 15 TLST students attended and were joined by professor Annica Wayman, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Shady Grove Affairs; Bruce DeShong, Founder of STEP Fusion Solutions; and Teresa Mena, Regional Business Solutions Consultant for the Maryland Department of Labor, who shared information about the Maryland apprenticeship program for job seekers and employers. 

The evening started with some business networking role-play to warm up the group, followed by an informal discussion about each business leader’s career path, their company, and their seasoned advice for getting the most out of internships, apprenticeships, and educational opportunities. 

Panelist Mike Mesa talks with student Lloyd Jones (Xiaonao Liu in background)

Afterward, students were able to connect with panelists for one-to-one networking, with conversational highlights ranging from identifying crucial skills to salary expectations, changing technologies and personal inspiration. Many students came prepared to hand out their own resumes. 

Student Tim Allen wants a career where he can help people, maybe as a medical researcher or botanist. He sees internships as a good way to translate academic skills into real life experience. “If you don’t immerse yourself in the career you want, you can second-guess yourself. If you wait until you graduate to get the lab work, you might find that you don’t like it. With an internship, you have a better understanding of what you really want. It makes a difference.” 

Allen is flanked by classmates Michael Cole Moran and Brandon Lamotte who nod in agreement. All three participated in previous internships or have work experience in their desired field, as does Anastasiya Golikova. She’s a fellow TLST student and current president of the school’s Biotech Club.  

She says, “I love to learn new skills, even if I’m not working on a specific project…All of our professors are very involved with students and making sure that we have internships set up.” 

Professor Wayman beams as she observes the clusters of UMBC students and FITCI business leaders deep in conversation.  She says her first internship inspired her to focus on biomedical engineering and pursue a PhD. “That created my North Star where societal impact is a factor in every job I have had since. It’s a first-hand example of how important internships are for students. Sometimes just getting out there and meeting the right people is what you need to get to the next step.”

Professor Annica Wayman (center) with students Shrey Khadka and Evelyn Antezana

Explore UMBC’s TLST program at https://biotech.umbc.edu/.